I stand at an intersection waiting for the light to cycle so I can cross a major thoroughfare. To my left, oncoming traffic in the right lane heads directly for me, my safety resting entirely in the drivers’ compliance with the road’s gentle bend. I am flippantly contemplating the precarious nature of human life when something crunches under foot: a shard of translucent, red plastic. Now I notice glass, metal, and other plastic debris, along with the dent in the pole next to me, indicating at least one driver’s recent non-compliance. Flippancy evaporated, I take a few steps back from the exposed sidewalk until it’s my turn to cross.
At every intersection, uncounted multitudes have been before: at every grand transition of our lives and our loved ones, and in each routine moment. Familiarity with the path assures us successful crossings are common. A troubling hodgepodge of rumors, accounts, or memories assures us failures, though less familiar, are real. Solomon describes our intersection: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has been already in the ages before us” (Ecclesiastes 1). It is as true that no one has taken every step on our path as it is that someone has taken each step on it. Each person’s life is as unique as the pieces of that life are not.
There is wisdom in the resolve to remember the Creator before traffic arrives, before the difficult days come (Ecclesiastes 12); to know that we never stand where he has not seen countless others, or where he himself has not been. There is also wisdom in stepping back to admit our vulnerability, the need for someone to hold our hand. “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
May each week remind us that our Creator knows the bend of every intersection, and has already offered to strengthen, help, or uphold us as we take our next steps (Isaiah 41:10).