One of the perks of our little suburban life is the ability to walk our kids to and from school every day. It’s only two blocks, we get some fresh air, and they learn important skills about things like crossing the street. Over the years we’ve grown from regular reminders of “You must be holding an adult’s hand!” to the “Look both ways!” stage and now all three of our girls are independent and capable street-crossers.
Well, mostly. One of our children, who shall remain nameless, is a lover of all things “rules”. Not only do rules make her feel safe but rules also give her the ability to rule and be in control (which she may have inherited from a parent who shall also remain nameless).
Even last year, at an *upper elementary* age, our safety-conscious girl would not cross the street alone. I remember telling her to “Go!” one day, but she refused to move and kept looking to the right, to the left, to the right, and to the left again. I was telling her this while standing in the middle of the street, so it was obviously safe, but she still wouldn’t cross!
Over the past several months, I’ve been reading through the book of Isaiah. This book is filled with God’s words to His chosen people about the corruption of their hearts and the misplaced focus of their eyes. As you read, you’ll notice that the people’s greatest sin was not their obsession with pleasure and self-fulfillment, but rather their constant search for security.
Isaiah details a cycle of God making His wisdom, power, and protection available to His people, but in their perceived vulnerability and need for control over their destiny, they repeatedly looked to other sources of security. They looked to the right toward armies, weapons, rulers, and fortresses. They looked to the left at wealth, land, counselors, and fortune-tellers. And they turned those things into (abstract and concrete) idols*.
Isaiah 30:15-16 summarizes it well:
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
But you were unwilling, and you said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”
Vulnerability gives rise to fear and when we assume control, fear leads to panic. When we see ourselves as the end all, we see no other option but to look to the right and to the left (and to the right and to the left, and to the right and to the left) for some assurance of safety.
But as the prophet points out in Isaiah 26:3:
“You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.”
Last week, Tim, Anna, and I were on our way home after dropping Amelia off. Since Amelia rode her scooter to school that day, Tim – yes, I said Tim – was riding it home (he lives for this stuff 😉) and Anna was following him, riding her bike.
One of the roads we use on our way home from school has much less traffic, so Anna is allowed to ride her bike in the street – as long as she pays attention to any cars that might be coming or pulling out of driveways.
At one point, after hearing the revving of a starting engine, she stopped and pulled over to the side. Tim, knowing the car was not going to pull out anytime soon, zoomed (well, as fast as you can “zoom” on a child’s scooter) past her. Without hesitation, Anna pulled right out and began to follow him down the street.
It’s easy to think you’re “trusting” God when a situation feels secure – when, with your own two eyes, you’ve looked right and left and found what you believe to be assurance. But trust is taking the step that’s in front of you, not because the situation is secure, but because your confidence in the One leading you is.
Just this morning I had to make a choice that put my overly-sensitive self in a potential danger zone. (Why do I write these words when I know I’m going to have to live them?!?) As I stood at the crossing, I started looking to the right and the left – I began sorting through my feelings, common sense, culture’s social etiquette, and the latest “self-help” advice for something secure. There were plenty of easy ways out, but when I realized what I was doing, I threw them down, looked ahead, and followed Jesus straight across the road.
There’s no guarantee that it’s going to end well. There’s no guarantee I’m not going to get (or at least feel) hurt. Every step I take to follow Jesus may only lead to more uncertainty and His protection may not look like what I want it to look like but “perfect peace” can’t be found in any other direction!
*See Isaiah 2:6-22