When we first begin to drive, how careful we are! At every intersection we cautiously look each way, intently focusing on every oncoming car. We take to the streets as if they were made of glass, and drive as if we might fly off of them at any moment. We are quite unsure of our hold upon the road, of our ability to handle any situation that might occur. We hold the wheel tightly, with both hands, and look straight ahead, gritting our teeth with every curve we negotiate.
Gradually, we become used to driving. We begin to look around us as we drive. We become more interested on our surroundings and take the road in front of us for granted. We drive with one hand and eat our lunch with the other. Our cell phone rings and we answer it; our conversation far removed from the trucks and cars that surround us. We daydream as we drive, pondering the faces in our past or our plans for the future. We relax, wonder, dream and travel on.
Suddenly, it happens. From some vague place off to our left or right, a shadow approaches, grows larger, looming in our vision; flying at our face! Steel and death hurtling at fantastic speed to destroy our lives! Our heart races; we swerve and slam on the brake as the apparition flashes by. We are left, stopped on the road, barely breathing, our heart racing, thanking God for our escape from destruction, pain and death.
So it is in our walk with God. We start so slowly and carefully. We focus on every word our pastors speak. We read the Word with excitement and expectation, carefully obeying each revelation that we receive. We ignore the scoffers that surround us. We are so careful to speak life and faith, and not to lie about the least matter. We give heed only to the Word and to the Spirit; we seek righteousness, peace and joy and take no thought for the future. Trusting God, we dwell in safety and peace as we move along the path that Christ has set before us.
But soon we begin to relax. We become interested in the liberties of those about us. Our minds wander as the word is preached, and we neglect to read the Scriptures. We listen to the whispering of the World and begin to wonder how our needs are going to be met. We pray intermittently and without expectation. We begin to be motivated by self-interest and not by love. We zoom through life without repentance or self-examination. We talk glibly of God’s love and ignore the sacrifices that allow us to participate in that love. Worst of all, we begin to think quite well of ourselves, and are certain that all is well. We believe that, unlike others, we have found God’s favor and look and sound as much like Him as we need to.
Suddenly, it happens. From somewhere we least expect, temptation comes. In a flash, a twinkling of the eye, in an unguarded moment we cross the line and a dark shadow comes rushing upon us, swiftly closing in to crush our soul in sin and shame. It seeks to leave us broken, empty and alone. Sin, ready to destroy us and those whom we love, is about to engulf our heart. We cry out to Jesus! We swerve to get back on track, to reach the center. We seek the reality of God’s love and truth. We cry out for forgiveness and seek the Word. As we find solid ground, the dark specter rushes past. We have felt it closer than a lover, attaching itself to the deepest part of our soul, and then it is gone. We sit in the presence of God, shaken by our close encounter with sin. After a while, we begin anew, slowly and carefully. As it was in the beginning, when we first learned to walk with God, we are intent, watchful and careful with our words, our motivations and our actions. We have learned to stay well within the center of the road.