Back Road Bliss

One thing that stinks about moving to a new town is that you are not familiar with the back roads. Matt and I have lived in the panhandle of WV now for going on eight years, and we are still learning some cool new ways to get to where we are going. Frederick, MD, the town I am from, has awesome back roads. Some of them I know the names, but mainly I navigate by landmarks such as houses, trees, and cool rocks. When I give directions it’s more like, “Turn left at the high school, go straight until you see the cupcake bakery on the corner and make a slight right. When you see the rock that looks like a cow, you’re almost there.”

If you’ve never lived in Frederick, you may look at it as more of a commuter city for D.C., Arlington, and Virginia. You may have some respect for it’s civil war history, agriculture, and artistic community. Downtown Frederick has established a great reputation for it’s local restaurants and shopping. But if you were to visit, you’d most likely travel Interstate 270 to 70, and straight to Market Street. You wouldn’t be familiar with Rocky Springs Road, where I ran my first car into a ditch, or the roller-coaster-like hills on Hamburg and Left Hand Fork Road that my dad loves to challenge us with on a bike ride (a.k.a. the ride from hell). When you really live in a town and love it, the back roads are a particular delight. The stories you know from them add luster to the beauty they convey.

When I was a little kid, I thought Barbara Fritchie was just a cool restaurant on Rt. 40 with an awesome candy cane statue out front. That’s where I would go for sugared fastnachts and hot chocolate. Later, I learned that she was a fascinating woman who stood against slavery. John Greenleaf Whittier was an abolitionist poet who wrote a famous poem about her courageous stance against the Confederate forces as they marched through town. Churchill recited that poem to FDR while they were driving through Frederick. Now, my kids probably think Whittier is just the neighborhood where their Pa-Pa lives, and Greenleaf is just the name of the pool they swim in. Some names we put the meaning behind due to our own experiences, like Left Hand Fork Road, and some we discover the meaningfulness of the name itself.

Another thing I realized in growing up was that I read my Bible like someone who was visiting a town. Sure, I knew the main highways--key verses on certain doctrines. I knew the Romans road for when I needed a quick evangelism refresher course. I could turn to Phil. 1:6 for assurance of salvation.  I nailed some important passages for the basic questions. But I wasn’t opening my eyes to the Kingdom it proclaimed. I didn’t know the real landmarks of covenant and gospel. It’s books seemed separated to me, and I wasn’t aware of the back roads that connected them all together as God’s covenant treaty to his people. I thought I loved God’s Word, but really I was more like a visitor or new resident. I didn’t see how its historical characters related to gospel.

It is so easy to look at the pages of Scripture as a guidebook for moral living. If we look at God’s Word as directions on how to live better, we will end up in despair when we attempt to fulfill its requirements. We will find that we are more lost than we ever thought we were. But if we realize that we are reading God’s gospel message, we discover that this holy God is more loving than we ever could have dreamed. We learn that Jesus is so much more than someone who’s there to help us get through our problems. As we learn the meaning behind such signs as effectual calling, justification, and propitiation, we begin to love the One who perfectly fulfilled God’s law on our behalf. Instead of bringing us to despair, the law will guide us to reciprocate that love to our neighbor.

I am filled with gratitude toward my Lord and Savior for giving me a desire for his Word as I grew. Now, I know my way around. I enjoy taking a Sunday drive on the back roads of Scripture, admiring the resplendency of each passage. I can do this with confidence because I know where they all lead—to Christ. He is the message on every sign. Because of this, I can also endure the passages that feel more like Left Hand Fork Road. As I am convicted of sin, for a moment I may think I’ve ran myself into a ditch that I cannot get myself out of. But I am not stranded. Christ is in those passages as well. I can cling onto Him in every Word.


Wonderful article! Very well

Wonderful article! Very well written to explain what important characters of Christ we are missing when we don't explore all areas of His Word. I think I'll read this in our bible study this evening!

Not in moderation any longer!

Not in moderation any longer!

Aimee, the only difference

Aimee, the only difference I'd have with your directions is that I'd say "go straight until you see the cupcake bakery on the corner, then pull over, go inside and eat a cupcake." Yeah, people may not always get where they're going with my directions but they do eat well.

The idea of God's word as guidebook was brought up yesterday at church, but inadvertently I think. The speaker (who is not the senior pastor) was teaching on Song Of Songs and said it was like a handbook for men in understanding the heart of a woman, as if the book were prescriptive and not descriptive. It's not the first time I've heard it use this way either. Long ago I read a book on marriage that relied on SoS as a manual too, even going so far as to cite 2:6 and 8:3 for the proposition that God's word is a type of sex manual that tells husbands where to put their hands while holding their wives in bed.

Thanks for pointing us back to the truth that God's word has a purpose, and that purpose is the overarching Gospel of Christ. This is such a well-written and powerful article, Aimee, and it has spoken to me deeply.


P.S. Thanks for the kind comment on my article at The Radical Journey today too, Aimee. I left a reply to you there, but for some reason it's awaiting moderation.

Great "bliss" connection,

Great "bliss" connection, Carol. I'm sure the Ligonier conference was wonderful!

Heard about MTD, Ian, at last

Heard about MTD, Ian, at last week's Ligonier Conference.

Here is a quote by Robert Godfrey from that conference about bliss:
"Ignorance is not bliss. Knowing Jesus Christ is bliss. Live not to build a name for ourselves in this world." I aspire to know the LORD better. Last year when I went through the Bible I typed highlights. This year I am highlighting on my Nook Bible. How rich we are to have His Word.

Love this analogy, Aimee. I have lived in the country since 2000 and its history and story are so interesting to me. At one time our land and home were part of a larger track--once a farm and once a rodeo. Before 2000 I lived in big cities.

Thanks, Ian. That study by

Thanks, Ian. That study by Christian Smith and Co. was eye opening, as well as extremely helpful in validating the frustration I experience when trying to talk with other "Christians" about my faith.

Makes me want to get out on

Makes me want to get out on the back roads on my bike! But as to the spiritual dimension - great point about people using the Bible for MTD (Moral Therapeutic Deism) rather than revelation about it's principle character.

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