Of Moose and Men…

 

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned about driving: your car will follow your eyes. That is, when you’re driving, you keep your eyes on the road ahead (while occasionally darting them from side to side in order to make sure you’re aware of potential hazards). Without having to necessarily think (consciously) about adjusting the wheel, keeping your eyes on the road will keep your car on the road – like magic. If, say, a moose steps out onto the lane, one of the worst things you can do is stare at the moose. You need to recognize the moose for what it is, but then turn your eyes to the way around the moose and drive past it. If you stare at the moose in front of you, odds are pretty good you’ll hit it. Further, if you just slam on the brakes, your odds of hitting the moose also increase: with the brakes locked you lose the ability to steer. The best thing you can do in a car when confronted with an obstacle in your path is to identify it, and then look in the direction you need your car to go, and focus on driving around it.

So, given that OIM is not known for its Motor Trend car driving and safety tips, why bother trotting out this little chestnut? So it is on the roadway of life. Many of us, when faced with an obstacle, spend all our time obsessing it. How can I overcome it? What is the risk it carries? When will it happen? In effect, we grip our steering wheel tightly and attempt to stare down a moose in our lane. We are then are shocked when we plow right into it.

Some of us, when faced with a obstacle, stop doing everything in our life because of it. How can I move on with my life when this obstacle is in my way? In essence, we slam on the brakes, and try to stop our life completely before we run into the moose. Even if we succeed in stopping short of the moose, we’re stranded in the middle of the roadway, moving nowhere.

What we need to do, however, when faced with an obstacle in life, is focus on the way around it. That means noticing it, of course. Acknowledging that yes, indeed, it is an obstacle, and a serious one. But then changing our trajectory to move around it. This means fixing our eyes, not on the obstacle, but on the way around it. If we spend all our time focusing on the obstacle (a lost job, an illness, a damaged or damaging relationship, etc) then the odds are good we’ll collide with it. If we focus on the way around it, we significantly improve our chances of keeping our car on the road.

Don’t stare at the moose.

However, this (at this point) rather extended metaphor has more than just application to you and me individuals. In community, most irritatingly, when we are passengers in someone else car, and they are the driver, and a moose steps into the lane, we shout “MOOOOOOSE! MOOOOOSE! DO YOU SEE THE MOOSE! THERE IS A MOOSE! RIGHT THERE! DON’T HIT IT! AAAAAARGH!!!” Obviously, after the initial, “Hey look, a moose” the driver knows about the moose. Spending all your time screaming about it doesn’t help them drive their car past it. Indeed, it’s so distracting that it may increase the odds of an accident.

 

I find this situation in play a lot when folks (including myself) take an interest in the life of one of our street friends. Say there is an obvious obstacle in someone’s life. Pick your favorite. It is so easy to just stare at that obstacle. The temptation is to make our whole relationship about that obstacle. We even have nicely spiritual rationalizations for doing so (“confronting sin” or “speaking truth” etc). But all we’re doing is staring at the moose. As passengers in their life, there may be a role for saying, “omigosh do you see that obstacle?” but really, most folks I know, know exactly-acutely-completely-and-much-better-than-me what their real obstacles are. If you’re a passenger in someone else’s car, the best you can do when they face an obstacle is quietly sit next to them while they drive around it, helping them keep their eyes on the way past it – not bellow on about how there’s an obstacle there.

Don’t stare at the moose.

Not your own, not others’. Focus on the way around that moose. The Way around that moose.

Jeff

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