When the Sidewalk Ends

I vividly remember my first solo bicycle ride. It was a summer evening, and my dad had been doing the dad thing for who knows how long. You know, holding the back of the seat and running along beside me while I learned how to balance. I don’t recall how long it took me to figure it all out, but I do remember the day it all clicked—well, maybe not all of it, but the basics anyway. Dad got me started and then let me go. I was so excited as I cruised along the sidewalk by myself, the wind in my face, my hair streaming over my shoulders. Suddenly, however, I saw impending doom looming in front of me—the curb at the end of the sidewalk. Excitement turned to terror as I realized I had to do one of four things: put the brakes on and properly stop, turn right, intentionally tip over and crash, or run over the curb and out into the street. Now, I don’t know if Dad hadn’t taught me how to turn or stop—I can’t imagine that he would have left this important information out of my education—or, the more likely scenario, if my mind simply froze at the thought of doing anything but going straight down the sidewalk. Whatever the reason, I was afraid to attempt to properly stop, turn, or go out into the street. So I took the only option available—I rode up onto the last lawn of the block and deliberately crashed. I wasn’t hurt, so I picked up my bike and walked it home.curb

We all have times when we run out of sidewalk, when the circumstances of our lives change and we have to decide how we are going to cope with whatever we are facing. Of course, there is always the crash and burn option. However, unlike my bike riding incident, we usually can’t just pick ourselves up and walk back home. As much as we wish we could, there is just simply no way we can undo a cancer diagnosis, a death, a divorce, another’s destructive decision, or any of the innumerable difficult circumstances we confront in mortality that test our faith. Like all choices, the one to simply stop moving has consequences. In this case, we stop moving forward and, consequently, stop growing as a human being. Instead, we end up sitting like a lump on a stranger’s front lawn, allowing the difficulty to overwhelm us. Putting on the brakes and coming to a standing stop still leaves us at a standstill—it’s just a little more dignified.

Of course, we can always choose to turn, trying to avoid the difficult issue altogether. The danger with taking this path is that, although we might be moving, we still aren’t going forward. All we are doing is looking for a way around the unpleasantness. We might be busy, but that’s all it is—busyness. It is just another means of trying to avoid the growing pains that always accompany progression.

So we come to a third possible course of action when the sidewalk ends—going over the curb and into the street. Crossing the streets of life is a scary thing. While the sidewalk is, usually, smooth and free from obstacles, the asphalt of the road is rough. Additionally, there is always the possibility that you might hit some loose gravel and lose control, precipitating a royal wipe out with an accompanying road rash. And, of course, there is always the risk of traffic to consider.

So what’s a girl to do when her sidewalk ends? Fortunately there was one other option that didn’t occur to me at the time. First you have to stop, preferably ending up in a standing position, but intentionally crashing works if necessary. Then, you simply walk your bike across the road and get back on when you get to the sidewalk on the other side. The best part about this choice in an earthly experiential context? You don’t have to do it alone. Because our eternal salvation is God’s greatest desire, he will help us if we call on him. If we listen, he will be our crossing guard, telling us when it is safe to cross and protecting us from oncoming traffic until we get to the other side. Because of the atonement, wherein he endured every kind of suffering mankind might experience, he knows exactly how to direct us to safety.

But what about those times, you might ask, when no amount of imploring seems to penetrate the heavens? How do I safely cross the road before me when it seems the heavenly crossing guard has left his post? How do I know where to go when I’m surrounded by mists of darkness and can’t see my destination? Even when we are doing all he asks of us, there are times when we can’t seem to hear or feel the spirit. This can be discouraging at best and devastating at worst. Like Job we cry out, “Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy?” (Job 13:24) However, the Lord never leaves the seeker of truth alone. He always provides a way for us to travel the path that leads us back to his side.

When I was in high school, I went on a date with a boy to an awards dinner at a gun club to which he and his family belonged. The road to the venue was unlit and little-traveled. It just so happened that night that there was a fog so thick we literally could not see more than five feet in front of us. As his father drove the car (his parents were going to the dinner as well), his mother opened the door on the passenger side and watched for the yellow line that indicated the side of the rode. With his mother giving directions, we eventually made it to the dinner. (The fog must have cleared during dinner because I don’t remember the drive home being as harrowing.)

Crosswalk cropJust as the highway department paints lines that indicate the edge of a roadway, the Lord has given us guides we can follow when we are engulfed by the fogs of mortality. Unlike the road I traveled with my date, the Lord’s roads are always lit. Although we might not be able to see the sidewalk on the other side, there is always enough light to see the lines of the crosswalk we must adhere to in order to cross the street safely. If necessary, the Lord provides traffic lights to let us know when it is safe to cross. The Lord’s street lights, traffic signals, and crosswalks are found in the scriptures, in earnest prayer, and in sincere Sabbath worship. If we continue to utilize these guides, even when we do not see where they are leading us, the Lord is obligated to ensure our safe arrival at his throne.

Traveling in the mists of darkness is neither fun nor easy. Believe me, I know. Given my struggles with mental illness, I’ve become somewhat of an expert in this area. When this happens, I’ve found that the best thing I can do is just continue putting one foot in front of the other, making sure I stay within the spiritual crosswalk as I strive to reach my ultimate destination. Sometimes the fog-enshrouded road is so wide it seems endless, but experience assures me it isn’t. There is always a sidewalk on the far side. Sometimes those sidewalks last awhile, and sometimes they’re just a brief respite. Sometimes, though not often, I can feel the Lord giving me specific guidance. Most of the time, though, I have to walk by faith. The important thing is that I make sure I’m facing the right direction—and just keep walking.

Curb photo Copyright : Thatsaphon Saengnarongrat

Crosswalk sign Copyright : Susan Montgomery


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