Air lines are the lifeblood of the truck. Without air, the truck will simply stop working, then and there. No amount of coaxing or cajoling, cursing or collaborating will incite the truck to move until the air that powers it is restored. Even the small snakelike remains of tires have the capacity to completely shut down a truck. So, truckers are attentive to those obstacles – those ‘gators.’ And, when they see even a slinking slice of one on the road, they will change lanes in order to avoid it.
One afternoon as I was trying to skirt around a ‘gator,’ I realized that life itself is littered with ‘gators.’ The ‘gators’ of life are obstacles that can pose real danger to my soul, if I am not attentive and aware of their presence. Because they are usually not as starkly visible to me as the pieces of rubber on the road, I can find myself right on top of one without even knowing it. It’s only after I feel some part of my lifeblood slipping away, some measure of the Spirit being squelched, some emptiness overcoming me that I come to my senses and figure out that I’ve bumped into one of these gator obstacles and had better get free of it as soon as I can.
It’s not usually that I’m just being willful and looking to spice up life by dancing with a gator. Rather, I’ve become sleepy or nonchalant about keeping my eyes open and my soul primed to notice them when they appear. Sometimes the lifeblood seeps out slowly and subtly so I am tricked into thinking nothing is really wrong. “Just going through a bad patch in life,” I might tell myself and continue on in my dance with the gator not really aware that I may be dancing with a sleazy partner. This is true on a truck as well. Gators can be easily detected in daylight, but in the darkness they are like thieves in the night. Since they are the same color as the black highway, a trucker can realize, only too late, that they have bashed right into one. So, here are a few tips I’ve discovered for dealing with the obstacles of life that threaten to stop my soul from moving forward into union with the Divine.
Pay attention to the pavement. For the trucker this is literal and means staying focused on what is foundational for a safe journey. In the field of my soul, this means paying regular and consistent attention to my foundation – God. If I go for days, or weeks, or months, or years without watching that relationship, I will find that I have been bitten by a ‘gator’ that crossed my path while I was scanning the horizon for something more exciting than my relationship with the Holy One.
Know what a ‘gator’ looks like. ‘Gators’ are easily identifiable on the road. There’s not a trucker, or automobile driver for that matter, who does not know what a piece of retread litter looks like. When it comes to the soul, however, it helps to do some inner sleuthing to see what the personal ‘gators’ are in life – because they are different for each of us. This was certainly true for our ancient fathers and mothers in Scripture. A ‘gator’ for Thomas was the need for proof before he would believe. A ‘gator’ for Judas Iscariot was greed. A ‘gator’ for Moses was lack of personal confidence and trust in God’s power. A ‘gator’ for Sarah was scoffing at the possibility of miracles. A ‘gator’ for Jonah was racism. I have my own ‘gators,’ and I suspect you have yours. When I do the inner work of knowing what they look like, what they feel like, what they act like, I have a better chance of avoiding them and completing my soul’s journey safely.
Trust that there’s life after a ‘gator’ bite. Even when a truck is injured by the nefarious work of a chunk of rubber, the truck can be taken to the shop to be repaired. There may be costs involved, or time lost in being shut down, but the problem can be fixed. It’s no different with my soul. I am never bitten so badly by an obstacle that threatens the health of my soul that God cannot repair the damage that has occurred. It only requires that I take myself back to the shop of God where, with love and mercy, I will be healed.
‘Gators’ on the road show up in varied sizes or configurations, but they are still black and rubber. If I keep alert, I can easily spare myself the trouble of actually getting too close to one. ‘Gators’ for the soul also come in all shapes and sizes. They can be dangerous or merely annoying. And, while I may not always be able to avoid them, they certainly have the power to lead me back to God.