Monteagle Mountain is the name given to a steep mountain grade of highway on Interstate 24 near Monteagle, Tennessee in the Appalachain Mountains. It literally passes over the Cumberland Plateau. Because it is part of the Cumberland Plateau, it is not technically considered to be a mountain, but certainly does feel and appear that way to anyone driving on it. This stretch of road is part of the main route connecting Nashville, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia. It is referenced as one of the most treacherous stretches of interstate in the United States and most especially during inclement weather.
Yesterday as I was driving over Monteagle, I noticed that on both sides of it there are three lanes of highway provided for motorists. The far right lane was labeled for trucks who are not able to continue up the “mountain” at the maximum speed of 55 miles per hour. I saw several trucks in that lane whose emergency flashers were on and flashing brightly to warn other motorists that they were moving at a very slow speed carrying a heavy load. It was imperative for these trucks to pull all the way over, slow way down, and crawl up through the steep ascent.
After these trucks reach the summit of the ascent, there is a vertical descent of 1, 161 ft. over a distance of 4.1 miles. The grade for the eastbound is 6% for 4 1/2 miles. This eastbound descent has runaway truck ramps at both 1.9 miles and 3 miles from the summit. Both runaway truck ramps are located on the left side of the road. So trucks needing to use those runaway ramps must cross two eastbound lanes of traffic to do so.
I could not help but make some comparisons of that stretch of Interstate 24 to the lives of widows – especially during the first few years after the loss of their husbands. Whenever grief and shock first hits, a widow is forced to move way over in the far right lane. Her load of grief and pain is so heavy as she is trying to carry it up a very steep ascent. She becomes so overwhelmed that her speed of travel slows to a complete crawl only because she knows that she cannot completely stop. She must keep going. There are details and important issues that must be taken care of. Her emergency flashers come on making everyone around her aware that she’s had to pull onto a different part of the highway – the very slowest lane.
Other people keep moving at their same rate of speed easily passing her. Occasionally the widow looks up. It’s hard for her to understand how others’ lives could possibly move on past her so quickly when she’s had to slow down to the slowest speed possible.
Some widows, who are not intentional about dealing with all that grief hurls at them, speed on up the mountain ascent and find themselves hurtling down the mountain descent as fast as they can. It seems so much easier to speed through their pain and try to shut down to it. Their thought is that grief is something that can be quickly dealt with. They want stay out of that far right lane because slowing down might cause them to really feel the load that they are carrying.
At some point this widow will find herself careening so fast through her grief that she loses control and is unable to get her life slowed down quickly enough to make a safe descent. She must frantically move across two lanes of traffic to use the runaway ramp on the far left side of the road. Not only does that ramp slow her speed, but it completely stops her. This is what we call “hitting the wall”.
God finds the weakness of a widow attractive because this is the place over in that far right lane of life where He can really speak to us, comfort us, lead us, guide us, and direct us through all that we must face after the loss of our spouse. Are you a new widow, a widow still in that far right lane driving slowly with your red emergency flashers flashing, or a widow that has willed herself to shut down to her journey through grief and is careening as fast as she can down the grief mountain heading toward the runaway ramp?