Are You In A Fog?

Not too long ago, my family and I were traveling back home at night. It had been a cold, rainy evening already and turned dark. As we navigated up Black Mountain on I40 West, the fog settled in. Unbearably thick. Frightening. Soaking up the headlights scary. I slowed way down. I had too. My visibility only extended about 10 or 15 feet, at best, in front of the car.

We wound up that mountain at a near crawl. As we cut through that choking blanket of hazy moisture, my mind darted to a verse I had been meditating upon in the days prior.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105

Throughout Psalm 119, David emphasizes over and over how God’s word has been given to us to shape how we live and act. Verse after verse, David praises God for the gift of the Old Testament Scriptures he had grown to love because they methodically guided his actions toward God and others. In this short verse here, David imagines a nighttime walk, perhaps from his shepherding days, where like a small lamp, God’s instructions for him had shaped what he was to do and how he was to act one step at a time.

Like a cascading waterfall, the truths of that short verse burst afresh upon me that night in the midst of that gray foreboding fog. The actual, physical fog hearkened my mind back to a few years prior. My wife and I were driving the exact same stretch of road seeking clarity in that season of life about God’s direction for a specific issue before us. I’ll never forget the word she used to describe it–she called it “the fog.”

The fog spiritually does quite exactly the same thing that real fog did as we drove through it. Fog clouds vision. It disorients direction. It slows progress. It hinders action. We would have been motionless and helpless had it not been for the car’s headlights. Light pierces the fog. At night, light is the only way to make your way, even slowly, through its dense restraints. Like car headlights, we need a way to see our way through the fog. Enter Psalm 119:105.

It’s here we need to see a crucial truth about how God’s word most often works. Rarely will you open the Bible to find circumstantial direction about your foggy situations. We need to be careful holding his word to a standard where we expect to thumb through its pages to find a specific answer about much of the stuff we face.

Do I change jobs?

Who should I marry?

Which car should I buy?

What college should I attend?

Which one should I direct my child toward?

If you are looking for specific answers for questions like these, I fear you may end up disappointed. But, if you and I seek out his word for wisdom on how to make these decisions, we may begin to see the step in front of us. The lamplight of his word shines ahead of our steps more like these questions below.

Which job gives me the greatest opportunity to serve God? Does one take me away from Christian fellowship? Will one weaken my commitment to my family?

Is this young man I’m dating following God? Is he valuing my purity? Will he help me honor God with my life? Will he lead our family to Jesus?

Which vehicle lets us steward God’s resources he’s trusting us with the best?

Will my top options for college help me find the shape or call of God for my life? Will the friends I make press me closer to God and his standards? Can I help my son seek God’s wise guidance in the college options he has before him? How does his word help shape my conversations with him so that I help him rather than push him away?

The difference between those two sets of questions is night and day.

As my mind jolted back into the car creeping along the curvy interstate, we crested the top of the mountain. The fog began to lift. The lights pierced further. Our route became safer. At the same time, the connection between Psalm 119:105, the actual fog we were coming through, and the spiritual fog we had experienced years prior became crystal clear. God has given us a spiritual foglight. The words of his book pierce the hazy, engulfing fog that clouds around us. They show us, incrementally, how to put one foot in front of the other to find our way. Years before, God did exactly that. Through his word, he helped us navigate that spiritual fogginess. He showed us how to obey him, day by day, even moment by moment, until his unfolding plan became clear on the other side of the fog.

More than once since, other spiritual fogs have settled back upon us. I never like it. But, I believe I’m starting to understand God’s purpose in them.

Slow down.

Look right in front of you.

Heighten your attentiveness.

Let my word guide your conduct.

Pay careful attention ahead.

Are you in a fog? If so, it may be just where God wants you. His word, like a visible guiding light, can give you direction, wisdom, and clarity for each step ahead. Slow down. Take a look. At his word. Right in front of you. And as you do, see if he doesn’t light your way.

So I Break Bowls

Apparently, I break bowls. And other things that are, I guess, breakable. I’m not entirely sure when this breaking of the things began. Maybe it started all the way back about nine when I threw a football through my uncle’s glass window. From inside the living room. It seemed like a good idea at the time to play football inside their house. My angered parents and relatives helped me understand extremely quickly that it was in fact actually a very bad idea. Or perhaps it began with the glass, apple-shaped candy dish that didn’t survive the horsing around at age eleven. Come to think of it, the raised baseball bat taking out the glass light fixture in my room at twelve could have been the starting point.

Anyways. The breakage all started (again) when out of the goodness of my heart, I was putting away a glass bowl with leftovers into the refrigerator. Instead of cooperating appropriately as I carried it to the shelf, that cold, shiny enemy decided to slip out of my hand and land with a loud shatter on the kitchen floor. Out with the leftovers and out with the bowl.

We all know glass breaks. So sometimes, it’s bound to happen. But for me, bowl one turned out to be only the beginning. That first bowl started a domino effect of breakage that has carried us through an entire bowl set and into another. In the course of the next few weeks, it seemed every other day a bowl would jump from my hands to quickly scatter in pieces all over the floor. Big serving dishes. Blue decorative salad bowls. Smallish ones. White cereal bowls. It didn’t matter.

But it wasn’t just bowls. My breaking ways carried us right into the Christmas season when I inadvertently took down an entire ceramic nativity set. The decorative display of wise men, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, animals and of course baby Jesus sat in peaceful serenity on our back shelf until I happened. Hovering above, a display case of tea cups looked down. This shelf had atop old, heavy medicine bottles for decoration. As I closed our back door one evening, these bottles, at the shake of the door closing, became glass missiles aimed at the nativity set below. Little survived.

You’d think I would learn my lesson and deal only with plastic. You’d think I would leave all the glass work to my wife. Not hardly. Stubborn me kept plowing through. And I was sensing a respite. It had been quiet for a few weeks. Too quiet.

As I put one of our new glass bowls into the refrigerator, it fell. This time though, it didn’t break. I picked it up, escaping the inevitable only for a brief moment. I placed it back on the shelf, and when I took my hand away, it followed me right back out and onto the floor with a crack.

My wife and son? Laughing uncontrollably in the living room at my latest broken bowl.

Me? I’m done. Glass is no more. I revoke my privileges from here on out to deal with any glass. Of any kind. At any time. That is, until my manly pride leads me back to prove victory over these fragile enemies of my sanity.

At least the bowls aren’t too valuable. Like the light globe, candy bowl, or window of my childhood days, glass can be replaced. Some other stuff doesn’t replace nearly as easily. Break a bowl? Clean it up with a broom and dustpan. Break your child’s heart with a forgotten promise? That wound may take months or even years to heal. Destroy a window? A repairman, replacement window, and some extra cash fixes it quickly. Break trust with your wife? You may never recover all the scattered pieces. Shatter a nativity set? See the broom and dustpan again. Shatter your relationship with God’s people with missiles of bitterness, hatred, or dishonesty? You may never put back together those invaluable confidences.

When we break the trust of people, we have only one place to turn. Jesus. For mercy. In the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector, Jesus teaches us that God will forgive the thieving, destructive path of tax collectors and other such trust breakers, if they will honestly and decidedly plead for mercy.

13 “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:13-14

How? He owned his breakage. He confessed it. He pleaded mercy from the only one who could fix it. Interestingly enough, one chapter over in Luke’s gospel, Jesus introduces us to another tax collector much like the one from the parable (see Luke 19:1-10). Zacchaeus, the thieving defrauder and breaker of trust confessed his destructiveness, and by the power of Jesus’ life-changing salvation, promised to make right his wrongs.

8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Luke 19:8-10

Don’t be like me. Avoid the bowls!

Don’t be like Zacchaeus. Guard the trust of others. But if you do find yourself breaking others’ trust in you, find Jesus. He forgives (and fixes) trust breakers. And thankfully, bowl breakers too.