Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Walking in a straight line

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Psalm 5:8-9 ESV

Humans can't walk in a straight line when blindfolded. We may think we can, but 80 years of research has found otherwise. We need a reference point, such as a building, or the warmth of the sun on our face; without such aides, we walk in hopeless circles until we end up, in the best case scenario, back where we started.

Check out the National Public Radio story on this topic here.

Yup, without help, the best we can do is walk in circles. If you are still not sure this is true, ask someone who grew up a generation ago on a farm, to tell you about walking in fog or blizzard conditions. I remember driving to teach at my country school in the fog and while I did find my way, I felt most disoriented by not being able to see landmarks. I got to school only because the road got me there.

While you may grumble about the useless nature of some avenues of research, (no evidence that government money funded this research) you have to admit that as a Christian this strange tendency to veer to the right or left should not come as a surprise. If left to our own ability, our desires, misperceptions and sins lead us off of the straight path and onto a circular path that leads back to our starting point. We are hopeless without God's guidance; we are hopeless without God's correction; we are hopeless without God.

The image of me walking in circles, blindfolded, arms fruitlessly flailing around, is a strong and troublesome one. It describes so much of my faith life. It is the image that comes to mind when I think of the many times when I was sure that I was in control. I ignored God's guidance, or refused to trust that He knew best the path before me and struggled on in my own darkness.

Watch out for that tree!

Ouch, that's gotta hurt.

Let's think, instead, about taking the blindfold off and taking the hand of God. With God's guidance the distractions of our own desires, the misinformation in the world around us, the temptations, designed to lead us astray, become ineffective.

Anything is possible:

So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. Joshua 6:20 ESV

When we walk in God's wisdom and grace we walk straight. Here the soldiers walked around the city of Jericho. Every day, for a week, they walked in circles: a tireless, seemingly endless trek. They did so with their trust in God and He led them straight into a stunning victory.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, holding on until Friday, and then after the weekend we are back, again, to Monday it may seem like our life goes round in circles. Here it is Thanksgiving and Advent reminds us that Christmas is coming, soon. Didn't we just celebrate the Epiphany? Even my years go around in circles.

As long as those circles travel around my Savior and His Word, then they are circles I don't mind traveling. God's Word, His sacraments, His abiding love, lead me straight to Him.