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How do we know when it’s safe to cross?

photo-001I was driving in DC this week. I don’t recommend it. Big cities and cars don’t mix well; take the mass transport. Anyway, I was amused at the looks on the faces of pedestrians as I approached the intersections. They stared at me with their feet firmly planted on the sidewalk several feet from the asphalt. Safe. Secure. Waiting for the light to turn. Even then the wise pedestrian checks both ways and says a prayer. You never know what might happen when you venture into the intersection. It’s every man for himself out there. Cross at your own risk.

That is, unless you’re in Charlottesville. In UVA-land, college town USA, you don’t catch the eye of the oncoming driver to see if it’s safe to cross. You don’t even bother looking right or left, you don’t even pause before stepping out into the intersection. You just step. Because the drivers in Charlottesville stop for pedestrians waiting to cross. It’s just what they do. Everyone knows it…except for out-of-towners.

Now I, having learned to drive in DC and the surrounding suburbs, admit that there was a significant squealing of wheels and screeching of tires, not to mention angry glower from the pedestrian, the first time I failed to notice his intention to cross and then step out RIGHT IN FRONT of my car.

Isn’t it odd? I was always taught to yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk. But I was also taught to look both ways. Because intersections are dangerous places. There is nothing preventing injury once I step out into traffic. My safety is not assured, neither by law nor by practice. I must decide when it seems safe to cross and then trust that the driver sees me, sees the red light or decides to yield to me. It may be a life or death decision.

In DC, they don’t risk it.

In Charlottesville, they presume it.

In life, we do it all day long. Come to a hundred intersections and weigh the odds that we can get across safely. Some of us are cautious, waiting for the green and several others to begin to cross before we venture forth. Some of us are bold, crossing even before the light changes, hurrying to what won’t wait on the other side. Some of us, perhaps most of us, look both ways and wait for the signal it’s safe to cross.

Dear Ian, you saw the safe sign yesterday at 2:38pm. You crossed from this side to the other. I expect you didn’t walk but rather danced and sang all the way into the Loving arms that received you. Had I better hearing I am sure I would have heard the heavenly accompaniment.

No more pain. No more suffering. No more intersections. Just Peace.

What is it about night time?

Ian, a dear young man fights for his life in the ICU all day long. Things look promising. His “numbers” improve. Everyone is hopeful. And then the night comes…and all bets are off. Tomorrow, they do this all over again.

What is it about the night fall? When darkness settles over the land. Things quiet and still.

Oh, in the ICU, nothing stops. Nurses rush in and out. Buzzers beep and indicators signal. Lights are on, though they may be dimmed, because in a split second things must spring to life. Rescuers are poised to respond.

No, there is no rest in the ICU. But somehow night is still there. A young man, fighting a courageous battle, barely knows who comes and goes, but his body knows it. He knows the night and his family prays against its coming.

Why did God make the night?

We’re told in Genesis,

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

But why? Why make the sun to shine on a rotating earth? Why couldn’t we be flat and always illuminated like a grow lamp on a garden? Everything sunny and delightful. Everyone happy and content.

Why is there darkness? Sorrow? Pain? Suffering? Why do we have dark nights of the soul? Depression in our depths? Why do Ian’s numbers plummet at night?

I don’t know. But somehow God has made the night necessary.

In human terms, even plant terms, we need the night time. To grow. To change. To re-orient. To shift. Not even just to rest. Rather, we need the night for night’s sake. Yes, night leaves us vulnerable, robs us of our accustomed visual senses. We grow restless. Fear may come. But we are not “turned off.” Just like the ICU, there is just a different level of processing, a shift in responding, a gearing down but not off. But God created the night and the day; God called the darkness night. Somehow I find that comforting.

For Ian and his family. For all others who walk through the night with a sick child or friend or family member. Even those who walk through times of darkness in relationships, including their relationship with God. I think God is powerfully at work at night. Healing. Holding. Repairing. This may be the hardest work “we” ever have to do. It takes every resource available. Exhausts all our resources. Perhaps that’s why the night comes and why it sets us back.

God promises the new will come in the morning.

This morning I smiled and celebrated a hint of light in the morning skies as my daughter dashed to the high school bus. (That was my only reason for smiling as I had just dragged her out of bed 10 minutes before and did not bring a sunny disposition to the scene.) But, the morning light teased me. It caught me by surprise.

“Look here,” it said. “It’s no longer night time, but day is dawning.”

Ah, the light comes. The springtime beckons. Hallelujah! Everything looks new and promising in the light of the morn. New possibilities. Sparkling and refreshed. God has been working this miracle for me, for us, all winter long.

So to Ian and his family, especially, I pray a beautiful morning sunrise and many, many more. May God work mightily in His healing and the night become the day.

Ian Peterson

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