The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? One thing I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in God’s temple. For God will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble… Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! “Come,” my heart says, “seek God’s face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek. From Psalm 27
When the weather is nice enough, I like to jog on a local paved trail. The path begins and ends at a railroad crossing near the recreation center, and it’s necessary to go about 50 yards or so on the road between the center’s parking lot and the trail at both ends of my run. I can’t remember if I have ever jogged across that last 50 yards without stopping to pick up a nail. And I’ve never been able to figure out why there are so many nails in that particular stretch. Maybe they jostle off pickups as they bounce over the tracks. They’re not all the same type, either, ranging from roofing nails to drywall screws to tacks, to 16 penny nails, and just about everything else you can imagine.
A couple of weeks ago I was running on the trail and found all these in one 20-foot section, the most I ever gathered on one day.
I pick up the nails because I worry about someone (me?) getting one in a tire, unaware until hours later. I hate the thought of having a flat in a parking lot or on the road. It always happens at a bad time (could there be a good time?), and can pretty much ruin the day.
So I got to thinking about this: if there are that many driving hazards in one short piece of road, how many must there be between my house and the office, or on highway 33, or the interstate? It’s not as though you can see and avoid a nail in the road. All these nails just waiting to jump into my tires. I want to reduce my carbon footprint anyway; maybe I should just stay home.
Okay, that isn’t an option. Or at least it’s not a healthy option. Fear and the attempt to avoid any kind of trouble can be paralyzing. And avoidance, even if appealing, isn’t effective because trouble can follow you wherever you happen to be trying to avoid it.
The psalmist doesn’t pretend that trouble will never come our way, but tells us from his own experience that there is refuge in God. God shelters us, not from trouble, but from fear. In the darkness God is our light. In danger, God is our stronghold. Our hope is not in staying home, or in the attempt to escape trouble. Our hope is in trusting that God is there. Simply there.
This hope gives us the freedom to live fully. Nails and all.