At the Intersection: Psalm 131

Dec 5, 2018 by

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There are people who take to driving as naturally as walking.

For me as a wide-eyed 14-year-old with a newly minted learner’s permit, it seemed a feat akin to flying. I simply couldn’t understand how anyone accomplished it.

Intersections were particularly anxiety-inducing. In some I’d encountered, more than 20 lanes met, angling in six separate directions. There were lines and markings scattered across the pavement, signs on both sides, lights overhead blinking and changing, triple-layered overpasses arching overhead. My mind would race, trying to decode the patterns: What order did all of the signals change in? How long did each change last? How did the dozens of arching and straight-dotted lanes interact so that thousands of cars could cross each other without crashing? And how on earth did the rest of these drivers unravel this so fast to figure out exactly what to do?

The breakthrough in driving came when it finally occurred to me for the first time that all these other drivers were not in fact analyzing and dissecting the entire highway system. They were keeping their eyes on the signal in front of them. They were staying in their lane. And they were trusting that someone had designed the intersection such that if everyone else did the same, they would all arrive safely at their destinations.

Periodically I still have that same sensation that used to plague me at intersections. I had it recently staring down at my voting ballot. I have it often in my work as the pastor. Even seemingly small choices suddenly seem totally overwhelming. This is democracy we’re talking about here. This is the church of Jesus Christ. These are infinitely complex systems. There are a million separate pieces moving a thousand miles an hour in different directions.

I find myself lying awake at night in a knot of anxiety, shifting pieces around in my head. What if people lose their confidence in the judiciary? What if they lose confidence in the Bible? What if I made this choice? What if I made that one? If I said these particular words, what would they say back? What is the strategy by which the country can be rescued? What is the thousand-step sequence of actions by which the church can be saved from itself?

Until meditating on Psalm 131 recently, it never occurred to me that there might be a link between anxiety and pride. So much of the anxiety many of us experience every day is the result of our attempt to swallow the whole intersection.

We try to wrap our minds around every moving piece of life and the world. After all, what we can understand, we can have some hope of controlling. When the complexity of the problem exceeds our ability to process, we find ourselves paralyzed in the middle of the intersection, afraid to even move for risk of making something worse.

But humility begins with an honest recognition that we are humus, soil. The sky-view is God’s, not ours. There are limits to our ability to see and take in the whole. Particularly for those of us who think of ourselves as “big picture people,” there is a crucial spiritual practice of at least occasionally quieting ourselves on a green patch of grassy humus and remembering we are small.

God is the designer of this complex intersection, this array of interchanges. As overwhelming as it might feel to us at this particular moment, we can trust there is a way for all of us to make it safely across and to the final destination that God has mind.

But maybe getting there doesn’t require us to grasp every part of the whole. Maybe God isn’t asking us to mastermind the intersection or to try to steer the wheel of every other person on the road. Maybe right now our task is to stay in our lane, keep our eyes on the light in front of us, and just keep moving forward.

A prayer worth repeating:

Lord, my heart isn’t proud; my eyes aren’t conceited. I don’t get involved in things too great or wonderful for me. No. But I have calmed and quieted myself like a weaned child on its mother; I’m like the weaned child that is with me. [Insert your name here], wait for the Lord — from now until forever from now!

Meghan Larissa Good is teaching pastor at Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale, Ariz., and author of The Bible Unwrapped: Making Sense of Scripture Today, published this month by Herald Press. She blogs at mudpiegod.com, where this blog originally appeared.


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