This counsel was drilled into us at an early age: “Look both ways before you cross the street.” It’s wise, deep, versatile. It served me well for a whole lifetime. I failed to heed it just once, at age six. I just learned to ride a bike, and coming to my first intersection, I sailed straight through. I never looked either way.
I nearly became a hood ornament. The driver of a big bulky car caught me in its sweet spot. The impact folded my bike like newspaper and sent me tumbling across the car’s entire length, landing me in a heap at the tailgate. I ended up in the hospital, bruises everywhere, a mild concussion. The pudding, the coloring book and a day off from school made it almost worth the while.
Still, I learned in my bones the sagacity of that counsel. “Look both ways before you cross the road.” I never since done otherwise.
But does the counsel apply elsewhere? Is it also a metaphor for life? Should I, should you, always look both ways-to the past, to the future-before crossing the street, before stepping into a new place?
Memory is a gift. It makes maps of human terrain-our emotional and intellectual and spiritual and social worlds. It tells us where we are, and where we need to go to get someplace else. Philosopher George Santayana famously said, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” Much of the Holy Spirit’s work is to remind us of Jesus and His ways.
But memory is also a trap. It makes fetishes of some things, taboo of others. It woos and terrifies us too easily, dictating our future with an authority it’s rarely earned. I know scads of people whose hurts from the past foreclose the risks that they need to take to get to the other side. I know many people whose idealizing of the past has turned them bitter in the present and wary of the future.
They’re stuck. That is not memory’s best work. It’s memory gone rancid, memory turned maggoty.
Take a moment and be still before God. Ask Him to search you and know your heart. Ask Him to show you any area where your stuck-where, for fears of dangers on the road, you refuse to cross it, or where, missing something you once had, you long to go back. Ask Him to help you identify the memory (or memories) that controls that. Then interrogate that memory. Is it really telling you the truth? Does it wield a power greater than it should? Is it the last word?
I had a habit of aloofness that was hurting the people I love. I dug down to the memories that drove this-this experience of growing up in a town where stepping into another’s personal space meant a fight. It was never a gesture of friendship or intimacy. So I learned to keep my distance, avoid eye contact, give short answers.
It was keeping me from crossing the street. But once I hauled it into the witness stand those memories and cross-examined them, they proved contradictory, full of lies, trafficking in rumors.
So I rejected their testimony.
And now I hug a lot, and look people in the eye, and give long answers.
There’s a lot of room created from kicking one bad memory out. (pages 122-123)
This chapter of Spiritual Rhythm is on summer, where Mark Buchanan offers a striking similarity between physical summer and spiritual summer, where things are free spirited and light. Then you come across a little segment of spiritual summer (that has always been there) you want to keep hidden away. Maybe by willfully ignoring that aspect of your personality, something deeper or lighter (that person that you don’t like to see) that part of you that if you had let it see the light of day are scared that it will overtake you and change the mind of those that you influence for the bad. Most of us care what other people think, and you just want that piece of your personality to go away so you can enjoy the rest of summer. We all have this sinful trait in us since Adam and Eve devoured that delicious yet sinful fruit.
There is actually a catch 22 involved in this part of summer; it is called ignorance. Ignorance is good some of the time as I have claimed ignorance when there was situations in my life where I was “blissfully ignorant.” However, ignorance can be mosty bad, especially when you don’t want to see a flaw in your own personality. So you protect “it” whatever deep flaw you have in yourself.
I have a tendency to reflect on what I did especially after a major incident, and this was no exception. I came back after a walk I took to calm myself down and beginning to reflect, I stopped cold-turkey from watching wrestling. The fi
I thought I was “blissfully ignorant” when I began to watch wrestling in the early to mid 1980’s. It seemed innocent enough, and it didn’t have an effect on my personality, or so I thought. My watching of it had subtly grown through the years until one night, I got into a heated argument with three of my close friends. They even said that my watching of wrestling had grown to an unhealthy level. I couldn’t see where they were coming from until that night when I saw, for the first time, when I saw wrestling as not good for me.
Don’t let the involvement of free willed, largely care free, experience of your spiritual summer bite you with some flaw in your personality, thinking you’ve, by some happen chance, it’s not going to appear when all along you know it’s there- hidden in a corner until it rises once again. Throughout my life, I’ve found this useful, “Looking Both Ways Before You Cross.” I know that all of us who weren’t born in a Divine way struggle with this. Please do me a favor and like, comment, or do both on this particular post. 😇
Darren Beattie, The Soul Blogger