When I was a senior in college, living in Grand Forks while my family home had been settled in Fort Worth, TX, I became friends with another senior student from Bismarck named Bruce Ely. As it happens in many instances, Bruce and I came to hang out together, and we spent a lot of time doing what normal college guys do – we talked about and analyzed which of the pretty female students were deserving of our individual attentions. Bruce was pretty much a blonde-seeker; I enjoyed the company of blondes, brunettes, redheads, and any combination of the above. That’s what college guys do.
Anyway, it turned out that spring break was approaching, and Bruce came up with a great idea. One of his sisters lived in the Dallas area, and another one of his sisters had a car he could borrow. With my family in Fort Worth, we decided that we would make an epic road trip across the middle of the country, and with nine days of vacation, spend a good week in our respective family’s homes. We agreed that we would split the gas costs, and that instead of wasting money on hotel rooms, we would just drive straight through the nearly 1200 miles, with the then-speed limit of 55mph taking us a little over 22 hours, not counting in gas stops and McDonalds.
When I have to drive across the country nowadays, I get a good night’s sleep and leave very early in the morning, and give myself a couple of days. College brains are different, so of course, we left late on the Friday afternoon, and just headed south.
Darkness pretty quickly, but it didn’t matter, since it was going to be a marathon drive anyway. Bruce took the first shift of driving, which took us down the Red River Valley, and into South Dakota, where the interstate wasn’t quite finished, but by the time we were back on the four lane, it was really dark – and it was foggy. Why not? In those days as well, we had no concept of deer crossing the road at night, and so we just powered on. I do think God provides special care for idiot young men, because we never saw a deer on the way down, even going through what is a legendary deer alley.
Actually, pretty soon, we weren’t seeing anything. The fog was like a bad day in London. Fortunately we were about the only ones on the road, since whenever a set of headlights approached from the other side of the interstate, the combination of light and fog meant that we were completely blind. What a thrilling trip, although it left me at least feeling a bit uneasy since I was sure that the first time we would actually see something ahead would be the moment we were about to hit it.
So we cruised on – the fog seemed to be getting even worse, if that were possible. It was really dark, and really thick. Suddenly at some point, Bruce yelled out a rather strong expletive, which was not in his normal repertoire – I felt the car nearly slam to a stop, and I wondered if he saw something in the road. Asking him what was going on, he shrugged his shoulders, and told me that with all the fog and unable to see and such, instead of driving slower, he accidentally ended up driving faster. Much faster. He said, “I just hit 100mph. If the car blows up, my sister is going to kill me!” Now, I found it intriguing that that idea was the first one on his mind, instead of, “At 100mph in the fog, if we were to come in contact with anything, we would simply dis-integrate…”
He slowed way back to the normal 55mph, which at that point felt as though we were creeping along the road, but that would be our penance. I took to asking him about every few minutes how fast he was going, until it seemed he had discovered the right speed to drive.
We made it to Texas the next day, and I had a great spring break. On the way home, it had snowed and iced, so that was a fine adventure as well. However, for my entire life, I don’t think I will ever forget flying blindly through South Dakota at night, going nearly double the speed limit, in deep fog. Can you guess why I always tell my sons to be very careful when they are driving anywhere?
It’s foggy this morning in Fargo. Pretty thick fog, too, with right at the perfect temperature for freezing drizzle. Fortunately, I really don’t have to go anywhere today, although I wouldn’t doubt that Cheri will find some compelling reason to head into the mess. Of course, the fog always reminds me of the trip with Bruce, both how indeed God does protect us, and also how significantly dumb we can be as we live our lives.
In a deeper sense, we are living in a foggy period in our history. Disease, quarantines, deaths, riots, political messes and more make the world around us incredibly unclear, and sometimes even feeling like pea soup. I know what I am doing today, but there seems to be no clear path forward. When that happens, two reactions are completely expected: one is that we end up doing nothing. We tread water, try to just get by, set aside most all our dreams and wishes, and feel like we are sitting in a huge bus terminal, and they keep announcing delays, and we are running out of both time and money. It’s a fairly rotten reaction, because it suck life out, and invites to begin to despair, because nothing seems to ever change, at least over the past ten months, and who knows how much longer this will last.
The second reaction is a bit scarier: we end up, like good ol’ Bruce, unable to see what’s up ahead, but without perspective, we push the pedal down, and end up flying through whatever the future is at breakneck speed. It is by nature completely careless, and begs for an accident to happen. This of course occurs because indeed we have chosen the accidental path. Now, maybe you will be able by the course of things to avoid crashing, but you know it’s just a matter of time before everything lines up, and a real mess results.
Do I need to remind you (and me) of what is my fundamental belief for the living of each day? Certainly, I trust in God’s care and protective arms to walk us through the fog each day, especially these days, but I also believe that God wants us to use our heads. God wants us to be present and thinking and thoughtful about what is ahead. God wants us to neither sit still in despair, not race like fools into places where we are not clear about what is coming. Instead, God wants us to live intentionally – I’m so sure about that. To live giving thought about tomorrow and today, and to take charge in living reasonable responsible lives is our calling as the children of God. Some of us it seems exist always in chaos, but the trouble with that is that our personal chaos doesn’t stay with us. If Bruce had crashed at 100 mph, it wouldn’t have affected only his side of the car. We have a responsibility not only to live our lives appropriately, but to ensure that we save those around us from chaos or tragedy or just a real mess. That happens when, as much as possible, we find the intentional life.
I wish you blessings in the fog of your life right now, and I hope and pray that we all will find the sunshine soon.
Saying of the day. I have decided to juggle things up a bit, and beyond just sharing unusual or important words with you, we would now and then find a common saying and discover its roots and its true meaning. So, today, our saying is, You can’t have your cake and eat it too. It’s most likely from the 1530s, but when you think about it, it doesn’t make sense. Fact is, you can have your cake and then eat it. In fact, the only way you can eat cake is by first either taking it or having it given to you, so the whole saying which presumes to express that “you can’t have it both ways,” doesn’t really become something thoughtful.
Instead, early on the same 16th century, a better phrase, in my opinion was You can’t eat your cake and have it too. When you read that, doesn’t it make so much more sense? If you eat up your slice of cake, you no longer have it, do you? That truly does mean you can’t have both, because once you have taken the first path, it changes what the second reality will be. So, from now on, if you hear that first statement made, feel free to be a smarty-pants and correct the saying, offering a small lecture at the same time. Everyone will certainly be pleased with that…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.