Debbie and I recently returned from vacation in New England. This was the third time in the last four years that we have chosen to go there. There isn’t any one particular place we go; in fact, we have gone to different parts each year. There is just a quaint, small, isolated feeling about the whole area. As we were driving through Maine along Interstate 95, I was remarking about how much it felt like you were part of your surroundings… even on the interstate. It seemed like everywhere I looked there was scenery and wildlife. There were rocky coastlines, sprawling farms, and grand mountain vistas.
All of these things exist in the south, where I live. I live just a stone’s throw from the Great Smoky Mountains. I pass farms on a daily basis; and I am barely a half-day’s drive from the ocean. Yet, it doesn’t feel the same… I don’t notice these things, or appreciate them in the same way. As I struggled to put my finger on the difference, it hit me: there were no billboards along the road! Billboards have been banned in Maine for 30 years, now. The last ones were knocked down in 1984. On the other hand, on my daily commute I am inundated with opportunities to sue people who make bad medicine, go get some fast food (because my “fry gauge is almost empty”), choose the Chattanooga Airport for all my transportation needs, sleep at Hampton (or La Quinta or Holiday Inn Express), and to “eat mor chikin;”just to name a few.
The best I can determine, billboards serve two major purposes: they block our views of the natural beauty around us, and they distract us from the main purpose of our trip by inviting us to stop and do something entirely unrelated (i.e. grab a Frosty).
I have realized I have billboards in my personal life. They are distractions that produce the same undesired results in my own life: First, they block my view of the good things around me. Some of the billboards in my life scream out the things I don’t have: a new house or car, a better job, more money, the right mate (just an example… right honey?). The problem is, these perceived needs block out the view of all the things I do have – the natural beauty all around that God has placed in my life: the ocean of love, forgiveness, and grace He has given me; the sprawling farms of family and friends with which I am blessed; and the mountain peaks of joy and success that He has provided for me. I find myself unable to look past the billboards of what I don’t have to enjoy the scenery of what I do have.
The second thing these billboards do is they knock me off course. They lead me on rabbit trails that divert me from my main purpose. These are the billboards of the urgent… the things we think have to be handled right away. Some of these are good things (like a Dairy Queen Blizzard), but they rob us of the best. The urgent is often the enemy of the truly meaningful. True happiness in life is not plucked from the tree of instant gratification; it is grown in the soil of a life of purposeful living. We are most fulfilled when we invest ourselves in a truly significant cause. Billboards of urgent phone calls and demanding text messages scream out their message of “it must be done now” or, “your fry gauge is almost empty.” However, the things that truly matter whisper the words: “this is why you left home in the first place.” I think it is time to knock down some billboards… care to join me?