A visit to any crowded theme park will prove this to be true: Don’t follow humans too closely. You will run into them when they stop suddenly or turn sharply. My husband and I just returned from such a trip (yes, even as empty nesters, we love visiting a theme park every few years). Casual observation showed that people who walk from here to there are prone to wander and will not walk in a straight line.
Some will walk to the right while looking to the left. It’s best to just stop and wait for them to realize someone is in their path, because you don’t know if jumping to the right or the left is best. You can’t depend on where their next step will take them, and often you can’t get out of their way.
Some people will stop suddenly to change their course. I ran into several people that way last week. Maybe they needed to look at the map or check out a sign. Maybe they were frustrated by someone else in their party and decided to have it out, right there, in the middle of a crowd. Perhaps their child just dumped ice cream all over or had a meltdown because he desperately needed a nap. Whatever–those folks need wide berth, so we tried not to follow anyone too closely as we walked in the sweltering heat.
What has all this to do with biblical worldview? The correlation amazes me. Just as I cannot rely on the steady progress of individuals ambling down the walkway at a theme park, so I cannot closely rely on other human beings in my daily life.
A quick listen to the daily news can confirm that. The guy–or gal–you voted for last year: how’s he doing? Has he let you down? I’m sure voters in New York, or at least some of them, were disgusted by their US Representative, Anthony Weiner, who got caught in a nasty, vulgar scandal. But it’s important to remember that he is a human being, not a god, and he fell prey to what attacks us too: pride, temptation, desire, ego, lust. His failure was very public. Yours may not be quite as public, but you too have major lapses in judgment. (We call those “sins.”)
He climbed a pedestal, or someone put him there, and perhaps he began to believe he was beyond the moral guidelines of mere humans, those little people who put him in office. But guess what? That happens to many, many people in positions of importance, and it is not limited to a political party, rank, gender, ethnicity, country of origin, or religious persuasion. Guess what? It happens to humans, who (remember?) are subject to sudden stops, turns, or failings.
The moment we put our entire faith in someone, we begin down the path of disappointment and disillusionment. I fail my husband. I have failed my children, my family, my friends. It’s because I am human. And I’ll bet you can think of ways you have disappointed someone, or been bitterly failed by someone close to you.
Jeremiah 17:5-10 tells us just how wrong we have our perspective:
This is what the Lord says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit. The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” (NLT, emphasis mine)
Human beings are fallible, unreliable creatures. Yet the unique thing about us is that we were created to seek someone on whom we can rely. We are so needy, searching and aching for someone who will not let us down, and all we do is mourn when we are disappointed time and time again. We are sad, dry, parched, withering on the vine when we get so bitterly disappointed.
Read that passage again, though. Blessed are those who put their hope in, who rely on, God. Instead of withering, we flourish and grow and rejoice–and we produce fruit! Why is that? Because God is unchanging, never subject to sudden fits and starts. He is solid, unmovable, reliable, the ultimate end of our lonely search.
It’s a funny thing, to walk down the pathways of a theme park and watch humans on parade, so to speak. When we can remember that they are fallible, prone to wander, stopping and starting without warning–when we remember that those people we put on pedestals will fall off every time–we can relax.
God promises his rest–his relaxation–when we realize that the only reliable one on whom we can depend is him. No one can save us from our own poison, our own fallibility, but him.
So walking along at a theme park–or just looking around the home, the school, the office, the church–it should not surprise us that human beings are subject to sudden stops, starts, turns, or outbursts. It’s how we deal with that, and put it into perspective, that matters. Be disappointed and devastated, or remember that once again you put your hope in the wrong place.