A Disaster Waiting to Happen

This morning, fog cloaks the neighborhood. I pull out of my driveway and cannot even see the house next door.

Every instinct I have makes the situation worse:  High beams?  No! Their light reflects off the fog and blinds me.  Brake and swerve?  No!  Sudden movements mean cars pile up behind me or I hit the thing beside me.  Drive up close to the car in front?  No!  No, no, no!

I read later about a “visibility expert” at Virginia Tech (Ron Gibbons) who devotes his life to the study of how to ensure visibility in fog, snow, or rain.  Most every instinct we have when we experience low visibility endangers us.  Instead, we must use low beams, tap our breaks as we ease off the accelerator, make no sudden movements, and pull over if we need to. 

And, perhaps most importantly, choose not to drive at all.

All day, I think about things in my future I cannot yet discern.  With that horrible visibility, I’m tempted to trust my instincts and react on impulse.  I’m tempted to engineer my circumstances (swerving, braking) and stay in charge of my life.  Really, I’m just a disaster waiting to happen.

What if I slowed down, pulled over, left the car and trusted a Visibility Expert?  When God obscures my path, I need not worry.  I just trust something deeper than instinct, deeper than my own control.

I pull over.  I rest.  I resist my frantic instincts.    

(photo by National Weather Service: Jackson, KY)

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Journal:  What can’t I see that I need to trust God for?

PS:  A woman in the English Department commented today that this bad weather wasn’t gloomy, rainy, or foggy.  “I like to say that it’s just juicy outside,” she says and smiles.  I love that!

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Visualize This

Just now, we return from attending our first college gymnastics meet.  At the uneven parallel bars, the gymnasts perform extraordinary movements that, when seen live and up close, actually terrify me.  I squeeze the arm of the neighbor sitting next to me with every rotation and every dismount.  I’m certain these gymnasts will crash-land into the floor. 

As I watch, I notice the coach (suit and tie, arms crossed firmly) at the sidelines.  As soon as one of his gymnasts begins a difficult and dangerous sequence, the coach plants himself directly under his gymnast, holds both hands out as if to catch her, and waits for her to complete her performance.  And how that coach cheers!

Within one routine, he darts in and out from underneath the bars many times, ready to assist and catch in the exact moment of possible danger or difficulty.

What I would risk if I knew I wouldn’t fall!  What things might I attempt if I knew someone stood beneath me, arms ready to catch or cheer?

This uneven life, running parallel to spiritual realities, offers chances I cannot possibly attempt (out of fear, out of danger).  But with One beneath me?  I swing out into new directions, and I visualize the firm stance and wide arms of a God who will not let me fall. 

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Journal:  What would I try if I knew I’d not fall?

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Not Even for a Second

I’m driving home from a depressing budget meeting where I learn that the English Department can no longer afford to keep many of its most wonderful instructors.  Courses might be cut, faculty might lose work, and entire departments could be reconfigured.  Times are tough, and my teaching future seems uncertain.

I’m moving along the road at exactly 2 mph because a blizzard swells about us.  With little visibility and no traction, I follow the line of cars for a 30 minute commute that should take 4 minutes.  Finally, the traffic breaks as I turn right onto a main road.  More traveled, this road seems clear and open.  I accelerate ahead, my mind replaying the budget meeting.

Suddenly I’m swerving and sliding in my lane.  You just can’t lose focus and drive in a blizzard, no matter how clear the roads appear.  My mind snaps back to the present moment like I’ve changed channels on a television.  And the picture in view astounds me:  a winter wonderland stretches out for miles, pure white, with fluffy flakes like miniature coconut cupcakes falling all around.

I continue on, and I force my mind’s full attention on the road before me.  I can’t let it wander–not even for a second–in these driving conditions.

Besides, it’s beautiful out here.

A danger threatens when I’m dwelling on that past meeting or fretting about a future that’s not even here.  I keep my hands on the wheel, look straight ahead, and marvel at the freshly fallen snow.

It’s the only way I’ll get home safely. 

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Journal:  How do I let my worries about the future rob me of joy?

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Texted: What Should I Do with My Life?

A high school student in my town had a problem.  She didn’t know what she wanted to do for a career. 

So she polled everyone.  She texted all her friends and family–the ones who knew her the best–and asked them for their opinion on the matter.  She even inquired of her teachers.  She asked people what they could imagine her doing because she figured that those who know her best might have noticed some of her strengths and talents she couldn’t necessarily see. 

A high percentage of texts came back suggesting she pursue a career she had never imagined for herself.  Her friends and family saw a direction that she couldn’t see: a teacher.  Text after text explained to her why she would be a perfect teacher.  The texts even came back with a specific grade in mind with clear reasoning why.  This overwhelming response made her deeply consider a new direction and think through what she had forgotten: a childhood passion for teaching others. 

This is career planning with flair.

It takes a brave person to send out the question: “What should I do with my life?”  At that moment of humble confusion and uncertainty, an entire network answers the call to help.  In this student’s case, the community arrived at a quick consensus.  All of those loving and insightful texts remind me that career planning (or any future planning) doesn’t have to happen alone. We can poll our friends and teachers, gather wise opinions, and move forward with new insight. 

The subtext of those texts?   We love you, we care about your future, and you are not alone.  

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