Sunday, November 7, 2010

Be still, my heart! Be unclenched, white knuckles!

Road trip yesterday. 3 am departure time, with approximately 5 hours to destination. I drove.

There’s this thing I do when I encounter windy roads or low visibility or sheer drop-offs or even steep-slopey drop-offs. I sit straight up in my seat and clench that steering wheel like you wouldn’t believe. It’s quite possible that one day my hands will have to be surgically removed from the steering wheel they have become fused to due to my sheer strength springing from… fear.

And it’s all because I forget.

I forget I have all I need and that the road is still the road, no matter the surroundings.

There are 3 moments in time I can distinctly remember learning this lesson:

1) When my Dad was patiently coaching me from the passenger’s seat during my early driving days. We were on a mountainous stretch, and in his insightful Dad-way, he knew just what to say to put things into perspective. “Just imagine that you’re on a normal road—you still have the same amount of room in your lane, and there’s still the same amount of shoulder.” I can’t remember exactly where we were, but in my brain’s rolodex file, I’ve pasted on a picture of this horrid stretch of road in our mountains where there are 2 drop-offs, one on either side of the narrow and elevated road, and each dropping down, down, down into separate alpine lakes. Lovely. In both the “breathtaking if you’re the passenger” and “terrifying if you’re the driver” senses of the word. Anyhow, my dad’s words just made so much sense, which is typical of his words, by the way. Stop focusing on the terrible terrain, and just focus on the road.

2) On an early-morning drive through a local valley infamous for High winds, heavy fogs, and the highest speed limit around. I got caught in a thick fog on a Sunday morning. I love fog, and my heart thrilled when I saw it ahead on the road. …and then as it grew exponentially thicker, my excitement dwindled just as quickly, giving way to panic. I couldn’t stop, as I wanted to, because other cars wouldn’t be able to see me on the side of the road until they were inches away—too precarious. I couldn’t go faster in order to get it over with—reckless. I couldn’t go at the crippled snail’s pace I desired, because that would be dangerous for traffic coming from behind me as well. I took comfort and also worried there was apparently no one else on the road. My eyes would surely have just fallen out if it were possible, given the strain I was subjecting them to. And then God spoke to me, right there in my cloud-shrouded prison: if I could see even an inch ahead, I could see far enough to travel an inch. And then the next inch. And so forth.

3) OK, not really my experience, nor anyone REAL, for that matter, but sometimes you can learn great lessons from fiction. There’s this scene in A Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis, where Shasta, the main character, is travelling horseback on a lonely, unfamiliar and dark road in the middle of a dark, dark night. He is startled when he hears noises of a wild animal- a lion- alongside him. He’s faced with a dilemma not unlike my fog quandary- couldn’t stop, go back, slow down or speed up in a way that would evade the perceived threat. He could only carry on, albeit with a wildly beating heart and no doubt painfully sharp alertness. As the light begins to gently dawn at the end of the perilous night, he finds that the road he was travelling blindly followed a fatal and sudden drop-off into a ravine. The lion(Aslan) he had been fearing the entire night had been travelling between Shasta and the real danger in order to keep him on the road and safe.

Yesterday as I drove windy roads and found myself resuming panic posture, I was reminded of these things, and thankful. Thankful, too, that – like most lessons- the same concepts apply to life and my timid tendencies.

1. Lesson #1- When navigating territory well outside my comfort zone, places in life that are scary, I’m reminded- keep my eyes on my Savior. He’s laid the stretch of road, and I mustn’t lose sight of it while floundering in the fear of circumstances. God is still God, and God is still good.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.” –Helen H. Lemmel

Lesson #2- When I freeze during times of limited visibility on life’s roads, my savior gently coaxes me ahead, one step at a time. He shows me just what I need to know- which step to take next. I don’t need the whole itinerary, as much as I’d like it sometimes.
“It was like walking down a road after dark. If one could see to the edge of his lantern’s light, he could go on for miles.” –Lawana Blackwell, The Courtship of the Vicar’s Daughter

Lesson #3- When I think that I, in my all-knowing but little-seeing silly state, have rightfully understood a danger or injustice, don’t attack without taking the time to see the matter in the light of truth. The boundaries or presences I may balk at or fight against may have been carefully placed to keep me safe from the actual danger. Don’t misjudge my God and His plans.
“It’s a painful thing to be misjudged. But it’s no more than God puts up with every hour of the day. But He’s patient. So long as He knows He’s in the right, He lets folks think what they like- till He has time to make them know better. Lord, make my heart clean within me, and then I’ll care little for any judgement but yours!” The character of Malcom in George MacDonald’s The Marquis’ Secret

Oh. And this is what awaited us at the end of the darkness and windy roads:

By the by, this is a quick-grab-the-camera-and-take-the-picture-from-a-moving-car picture that my sister snapped – looking out across the driver’s seat from the passenger’s seat. Can you believe it?

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3


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