Sudden Left Turns
In a country where we drive on the right-hand side of the road, a left turn involves a willingness to turn into oncoming traffic. If you want to go to the left, then you have to negotiate/wait/risk dealing with the people coming from the other direction. It is the essence of conflict. You want to go one way, and see the path ahead and your goal is to "get there." Someone else is on their way, and the path you envision crosses and interferes with theirs.
What to do?
I live (and love living) in New Jersey, and here there is a tradition of the "Jersey Left." When you are at a stop light with a turn lane that does not have a designated turn signal, then it is the local custom that the first person in the line can, if they are quick about it, take the left turn when the light turns green. Of course, the oncoming cars also reserve the right to begin their transit of the intersection at the same time. When the "Jersey Left" works, then the front car gets through and the oncoming traffic is able to pass. That assumes everyone's timing is perfect, but what is perfect in this world? I have seen this ideal shatter time and again. Someone does not realize they are the front car with that option, and everyone hesitates to a resultant chorus of honking horns. Someone is too quick off the mark and nearly collides with the turning car...more honking. Someone is too slow, but is moving with intention into the space other cars want to occupy...more honking. It takes a lot of practice, intention and chutzpah to pull this maneuver off in a goodly fashion. And yet, we as human beings-even knowing the ideal-fall short...
...and the horns start honking. It is a cacophony that best describes the struggles we face/embrace as we seek to accept today's readings.
SO much is happening in the Gospels, it's hard to pick one thread and follow it to a considerate end. Narrative threads cross and tangle throughout the first days of Jesus' earthly ministry as he proclaims the Kingdom of God. People are hearing him preach and teach as one with authority. Something in Jesus' invitation to "come, follow" is enough to get four career fishermen to leave their nets where they lay so that they can learn how to "fish for people." Many are healed. Some as a result of confrontation with Jesus (the possessed man and the man with the skin disease), some because they are brought to him by their family and friends, one simply because he is a guest in her son-in-law's home. All this happens while the traffic increases around Jesus, and the honking starts.
As well, in the waning verses of Micah, the prophet laments all the lost timing, the meager harvests, the rampant injustice and the overarching and penetrating conflicts add up to a gridlock of unrealized hopes and rampant profligacy of sinfulness and injustice. You can't hear anything over the honking and the hollering. Good times are coming, someday, but the tangled mess of life today occludes our vision...and our hope.
The gift of reading the Bible Challenge today is that we are right now in the midst of Advent. It is a time to slow down, quiet down, settle down and wait on God. Time to dial down the anxiety that provokes us to embrace temerity over forbearance, impulse over discernment. Time to take our hand off the horn, the thing that lets other people know that they are in the way, that we have no time for them, that we are frustrated and angry at life in general.
Time to dial it back and let God guide us into and through the left turns in life, rather than letting our own impulsive lurchings dictate our pathways.