My uncle gave me a car, a ’51 Chevy. It was a pile of junk – I think he did it mostly to irritate my dad. Anyway, my buddy and I hopped on a bus, excited about 500 miles of open road and liberty. When you’re 16 you don’t care if the “free car” has four different sized tires and leaks oil.
On our drive home, my friend noticed that I routinely veered toward oncoming traffic. He suggested (it might have been more than a suggestion) I discontinue this somewhat disconcerting behavior (he might have used slightly more colorful language). We managed to complete the trip without hitting anything, but let’s just say my buddy wasn’t a fan of my driving skills.
He understood that there’s more to good driving than “not running into stuff”?
I’d developed this bad habit of staring at oncoming traffic. Makes sense, right? Oncoming traffic is the biggest danger, so why wouldn’t you watch it carefully? The problem, of course, is that you tend to steer in the direction you’re looking. Turns out the best strategy is to focus your attention in the direction you want to travel.
There’s more to good driving than “not hitting stuff.”
I think it’s a principle that goes beyond driving.
Doing life right is more than not doing it wrong.
When you concentrate on what you fear, what you want to avoid, you actually gravitate toward it.
Jesus talked a lot about light. He wanted us to steer toward the light instead of becoming preoccupied with avoiding darkness. He laid out a few principles for doing life right rather than a million rules about not doing it wrong.
If you focus on removing darkness, you’ll always fail. The only way to remove darkness is to introduce light.
When light shows up, darkness automatically retreats. That’s why it’s more productive to begin new habits than break old ones. It’s simply easier and more helpful to add positives to life than to spend enormous effort removing negatives.
I think the lesson, the principle, is that we ought to fill our lives with light and reflect that into the world as much as possible. And we ought to question those who continually try to re-focus our attention on darkness and fear. That’s not Jesus’ message.
I revisit these thoughts today in the midst of a struggle, prompted by – but nothing like – the heartbreaking stories of #WhyIDidntReport. Still, it’s a struggle, and it’s tempting to stare at the pain, like that long-ago oncoming traffic, because that’s where the immediate danger lies.
I need to shift my gaze, to step back and look big-picture and long-term, to believe God’s long arc bends toward justice even when I can’t see it. I need to focus on where I want to go. I need to focus on the light.
It ain’t that easy, sometimes.