Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Jersey Left: a Reprise

A couple of months ago, I posted a commentary on the prophet Micah in relation to the Bible Challenge posts of 2013. The citation for that post is HERE. What I find myself wondering over today is that the idea of making a left turn in a world where most everyone else is driving on the right side of the road, seeking to go straight ahead, is perhaps one of the greatest risks we take when we step out of our houses and get behind the wheel of an automobile.

I am back pondering this metaphor on a number of levels today. It was spurred by an experience I had on the road to our local Clericus meeting in a nearby city. I had made my way up to the edge of the city limit, which by happenstance is also the outer edge of the local university campus. Heading straight through the intersection at which a red light was holding us in check, I was two or three cars back when the then turned green. The driver in the oncoming lane signaled the famed "Jersey Left" and began to make her way into traffic. There were, however, two complicating issues to her choice. The first was that she was on her cell phone, and holding it in her right hand, she was having a hard time judging the turn and where we were in the oncoming lane. The second was that this particular intersection was one in which two lanes of traffic merged, just beyond the light, into one. And so, we in the left lane also had people moving up to pass us on the right because we were taking too long at the green (where the oncoming driver was desiring a Jersey Left). Do you get the picture?

Distraction and impatience were about to add to an already risky moment. The result was a likely collision. The only thing that stopped it was a person on the right who decided to pause long enough to let the left-turning driver through.

Before you judge, realize that any one of us is, has been and likely will be in the role of any of these folk noted in the anecdote above.

What I am focused on is the risk we take when we try to change lanes, or make turns against the traffic when our path does not lie on an expected and accepted trajectory. The above can also be applied as a metaphor for most venues in our lives. As I serve in the Church, I can tell you that the consternation expressed when any one person signals for a metaphorical "Jersey Left" is just as alarming and unsettling. It happens when someone has a suggestion that might change a plan for an event that has "always been done THIS way." It can also happen when someone offers to volunteer for a task that someone has "always" done. Or, it can be more subtle and multileveled, in a change of attitude that turns an inwardly-directed community toward an outward-facing one (When the us/them divide begins to erode, and we begin to change).

Horns honk. Brakes squeal. Blood pressure and anxiety both increase. Adrenalin surges.

And yet it all comes down to one person wanting to turn left in a world where it is much safer to make three rights. Yes?

Sadly, that means more work for folks, thinking and working out routes that avoid left turns (physically or metaphorically). I once knew a senior member of a church I served, a man well into his 90s who was still driving, who had worked out driving routes all around town so that he could avoid making left turns. "Sure," he told me, "it takes me longer to get where I want to go; but I can tell you I hear fewer horns and have fewer worries since I gave up left turns. It might be a few more right turns than most plan on, but they get me where I am wanting to go with much less fuss."

That is one way to go...

Another? To realize that risk is just a part of growing, and of going out into the world to get to our planned destinations. As I ponder my ministry and my life, I realize that most of what God is asking of me wind up being left turns. Sometimes, it has meant risking a Jersey Left. Sometimes the traffic has been light enough that the left is no big thing at all....

...and sometimes, I wind up realizing that I probably should have taken three rights, instead. The challenge is discerning just when three rights, or a Jersey Left, is the better call to make.

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