It was near the end of our first day on the road for what would be a 1300-mile journey. Tired and hungry, we eagerly anticipated a comfortable motel room and hot meal, but before relaxing we faced one last stretch of canyon driving. This is a beautiful stretch of road on sunny days, but now rain-turning-to-snow began to fall and except for the glare from oncoming cars, the night was inky black. Years of driving experience served to alert me to the reality of what could easily become a dangerous situation.
I sat up straighter, positioned my hands correctly on the steering wheel and concentrated totally on the road ahead. In the darkness, only a few things were clear: the short distance ahead of the car, the precipitation glistening in my headlights and the road’s center line.
It was that center line that became my guide for the nerve wracking miles ahead. I couldn’t see the line 100 yards ahead, only those few feet as my headlights brought it into view. When I saw it begin to curve, I knew the wheels of the car needed to do the same. When it became a double line, I knew—or hoped!—no oncoming car would be passing into my lane. My mind concentrated fully on driving—no wandering creative thoughts allowed!—but later I reflected on spiritual applications from that night.
A new year faces us all. Parts of our journey in the months ahead will be like summer driving in that canyon. Trees from light green aspens to the almost black of forest pines. Gurgling streams that call us to walk their banks. Flowers peeping out alongside forest trails. We scarcely need a center line to guide us through those days.
But the new year will also bring challenges, some we’ve faced before (or are facing now), others will scream into our lives without warning, like attacking banshees. Where is the center line then? What is the center line then? How do we stay the course when hands-on-the-wheel—otherwise known as full control—is not only insufficient but impossible?
As I’ve asked these questions of myself, many thoughts surfaced. Community is essential. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community… Let him who is not in community beware of being alone… Each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls…” My experience has been that it is when the nights are dark, when the drenching rain of self-doubt seeks to drown the very life out of us that Christian community reaches its apex, becomes most like that provided by and experienced in Jesus.
Another essential for driving through life’s canyons is a belief in, a working knowledge, increasing understanding and practice of biblical principles. That’s a complicated sentence and one to be developed at another time, but once again, in my personal experience, it’s been the Spirit of God speaking through the Word of God that has sustained.
The single most important center line in my life when canyon walls seemed to imprison, when tears flowed with more intensity than pounding rain, was one unprovable, impossible and undeniable fact: God loves me. I couldn’t explain it. I certainly didn’t deserve it. I desperately clung to it. And it brought me to safety. Many times the storm rumbled on, but in its eye was the “peace that passes understanding.”
I sadly suspect that 2015 will continue as it has begun: terrorism, hunger, poverty, epidemics and earthquakes. In the middle of those canyons, the love of God will provide strength for His followers to move forward, not just for guidance along personal paths but perhaps more importantly, for the power to drive into those dark places with healing words and actions for others.
My center line? “I have loved you with an everlasting love… (Jeremiah 31:3)