If you have ever tripped over what seemed like "nothing but air", you have probably felt pretty silly! If you would have tripped over a known hazard, such as an uneven crack in a sidewalk, a cord in your path, or even your own shoelace, you'd have felt half as silly. I used to laugh each time I saw the introduction to the Dick Van Dyke show, when he'd enter the living room, run into the ottoman and roll head-over-heals as he connected with it. The illusion presented was of him not knowing it was there, but the lack of "reality" of ALWAYS landing on his feet each and every time he did this was absolutely unbelievable! I am sure it took him a little practice to manage this maneuver. No matter how good our reflexes might be, we cannot escape a "fall" once in a while! We might escape the fall the first time, or the second, but eventually our senses become dulled to the constant "tripping hazard" and we will eventually "submit" to the fall. This is why it is so important for us to actually "watch our steps" - for in this one "precautionary" move, we often can avoid at least the "obvious" hazards.
So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul. (Hebrews 3:12-13 MSG)
I know this may seem a little "elementary", but if we stop long enough to actually explore what tripped us up, we might just find a pattern. Truth is, we rarely trip once - usually we trip again and again until we get the idea the "hazard" is there. Our brains "learn" the hazard is there, so much so that even if it were removed, we'd still respond with lifting our feet or maneuvering around the hazard! The first time we fall, we might just dismiss our trip as a fluke - the second or third time suggests a pattern we might just need to deal with in order to keep from tripping again.
Hazards are most "dangerous" when they are unrecognized. If we begin to take apart our passage above, we might just begin to get some insight into the "tripping hazards" and how to avoid them:
- We probably aren't watching our step. Nothing is avoided if we aren't aware of it. I saw a prank someone pulled on their wife the other day. The husband stretched clear plastic wrap right at eye level across a closed doorway, then called his wife into the room. It was instantaneous - what she could not see caught her directly in the face, causing her to stumble and fall. Now, some of you are laughing at that one, but others are wondering why the husband would think a prank like this was something he should pull on his wife. Perhaps he should beware of her returning the "favor" with something like plastic wrap stretched tight across the toilet the next time he goes to relieve himself! Whatever we do, we have to watch our step. We have no ability to alter course or avoid hazards when we are unaware of their existence.
- We have to know what might actually present a hazard. There are things I can have in my environment which are not a hazard for me, but for my nearly blind mom, hunched over in her old age and a little unsteady on her feet, those same things are bad news! So, in essence, one size does not fit all. In other words, what might not be an issue for me might present a huge issue for you or the next guy. The key is in understanding what is a hazard to each of us and then being sensitive to avoid those things. For example, if you cannot read a love story without getting all down on your present circumstance of being single, then love stories are really a "hazard" for you. Just because another person can read the same thing and not be pulled into the mully-grubs and wallowing in a pity party isn't the point - the point is what the story presents to YOU which may be a think causing you to trip up. The old adage "What's good for the goose is good for the gander" doesn't really apply - the gander's issues might be quite different!
- We need to know the power of the hazard. They actually "divert" us off-course. At first, we may just walk around them, or totally avoid going in their direction. Not a bad idea - at first. Yet, in reality, the hazard might be in the path we need to be taking - so avoiding it by diverting around it, or going a different direction really may not be the solution. The best thing to do is to deal with the hazard! Hazards which divert us off-course are really not hazards, they are detours! God doesn't want us detoured by "tripping hazards" - he wants to remove them for us so we don't have to deal with the distractions and diversions they cause.
- We need to recognize today as the time to deal with the hazards. If we have a tendency to think we can deal with it later, we are going to pay for that "avoidance strategy" down the road. Truthfully, there is no better time than the present to deal with it! It is in "today" that the hazard first affects us - so we need to learn to deal with it where it exists! It is good to know that a hazard exists, but it is better to realize that the revelation of that hazard was provided to us today so we could allow it to be dealt with right now in the present moment. Avoidance strategies don't fix the problems of today - they just magnify them in our tomorrows.
- We need each other to stay on our toes. As a kid, we used to play this little game of seeing who would "flinch" first when someone pretended to take a swing at them. We didn't make contact with each other, so don't get the idea we were beating up on each other! It was a game of reflexes - whoever would respond by flinching was considered to be a little bit of a "weak link". We'd celebrate the one who could see things coming his/her way and then not even flinch, bat an eye, or move at all. I think we sometimes think this way in our spiritual lives, as well. We have to develop an "unflinching" stance and somehow we will be celebrated or rewarded. In reality, God made our reflexes as a means of protection - if something looked like a hazard, we have the reflexive response to avoid it! Sometimes we put pressure on each other to be "unflinching", but in reality, we need each other to help us realize good reflexes which will help us to flinch when hazards are coming our way - not flinching could actually cause us harm!
- We need a good grip. Years ago I could bound up and down stairs two at a time and never use the handrails. Now, I grip tightly, as my step isn't as sure as it used to be and the bad knee isn't as reliable as it once was. In fact, it has buckled a few times and I have nearly fallen, but the "grip" I had on the rail made all the difference in helping me to stay upright. I am looking at having the knee replaced in the next couple of weeks, so as I sat speaking with my surgeon about my reluctance to using a walker (not something a 56 year old woman wants to do), he was quite patient as he explained how much more stability it would give until some of the healing had occurred. I asked if I could just use crutches, but he continued on to explain how "four-points" of contact which framed my body really provided me with much more opportunity to avoid weakening an already weak knee until it could mend fully. Yep, I need the walker. So, guess what? I made a bag for the front of it yesterday and am prepared to be "getting a grip" on that which will provide stability for my healing. I will eventually convert to the crutches and cane, but for now, my "good grip" will be on the walker. Some of us need to look at our tendency to want to hold onto only what we think others will see as "cool", when what we need is the "surrounded presence" of what will actually give us the best opportunity to avoid falling! Just sayin!