Well, the rain we were hoping and expecting to fall yesterday didn’t disappoint us. We were expecting, from the forecast, about .2” but when I awoke this morning, we were just shy of half an inch. Once again, you could hear the ground sucking the water in, and the plants around the house and yard holding their little water cups out to receive the blessing. It was a nice fall rain, to be sure.
But, whoo-baby – it’s foggy outside this morning! Of course, we all know, from our 6th grade science class, that fog appears when there is 100% humidity and falling temperatures – sort of like this morning, which my weather center reports as having 99% humidity (close enough), and 53 degrees outside. “Thick as pea soup,” they say, and it brought visibility down to way below ½ mile. What I didn’t know is that more than drunk driving or texting or any kind of thunderstorms or ice storms, the number one cause of traffic accidents – is fog. I guess when you can’t see, many people don’t believe in slowing down, and so just drive helter-skelter until they rear-end another car, or miss a red light. Pretty much wrecks your day.
I’ve lived in a number of places around the world, and especially in the US, and so I am acquainted with fog. Those southern states like Texas and South Carolina and Tennessee are real experts at sending the visibility to near zero. Take that, combined with curving roads, and people who just like to drive like they are in a NASCAR race, and it’s pretty tough on these mornings. I remember one trip I had to take to a seminary in Kentucky for a visit, and rented a car and stayed in a hotel about 20 miles away. Kentucky roads are historically dangerous, with little or no shoulder, and a curve about every 100 feet. As I drove out to the seminary that morning, during Kentucky rush hour, I realized why they put a seminary where they did – driving in that fog gives you an incredible spiritual experience, where your prayer life focuses precisely on asking God to spare your life from the fog, the road, and the maniac drivers. I somehow ended up in front of a delivery truck, who apparently was late (or that’s just how he drove), and so at 50mph, I couldn’t see his headlights behind me. Being a northern plains kind of fellow, I can say I didn’t appreciate it one bit…
You see, I have mentioned before that “up here,” the terrain and the roads create an entirely different kind of travel condition. First of all – it’s flat. We live in what was the bottom of prehistoric Lake Agassiz, which produces great crops from all the decomposed fish and stuff from ages ago, but also what makes for a near zero rise in altitude. In fact, you have to go out to the western part of North Dakota to see the highest peak in the state. White Butte is 3507 feet. Not that impressive, and when you consider that the Red River of the North at Pembina near the Canadian border sits at 750 feet above sea level, that’s pretty flat. I’m sure I’ve told you that one time a fellow’s dog ran away from home – he watched it for three days. Or the fact that if you stand on a coffee can in North Dakota and look west hard enough, you can see your own rear end. That’s flat.
Now the flatness doesn’t mean it’s never foggy but it does mean that most roads and arteries are built like you would farmland. The roads are straight north/south, or east/west, so on those rare occasions when it does decide to fog up, once you get on the road, there is an absence of need to turn your steering wheel hardly at all – for hundreds of miles.
Now, this is a good time of the year to have fog if you have to at all, because in about three months, when fog comes, it’s in the form of freezing fog, which manages to place an invisible sheet of ice on the interstate or side roads. That’s fun. I remember once as I was driving four hours through South Dakota to get to a meeting that was to start at 9am, that near Summit, South Dakota (if you have been there, you are now nodding your head), the fog dropped in like a heavy cloak. I was careful, but the traffic was light, and I just kept moving along at the speed limit – 80mph. As I approached an overpass, I began to notice a large number of vehicles in the ditch, some with their engines still running, and people sitting in the cars, like they were waiting or the drive-in movie to start. Something told me that the road conditions perhaps had changed, and so I gently tapped my brakes, and discovered that all-wheel drive means you can slide on all four wheels! I kept it from spinning out, and slowly dropped my speed to about 30mph, and crept along, past car after car in the ditch – it looked like Stalingrad after a major battle. Two hours later (forget being on time!), the fog had lifted and I made my trip the rest of the way. Did I mention that, now that I am retired, I do not miss early morning, or late evening countryside driving?
One thing we can count on, however, unless you live in London, is that eventually the fog “lifts.” The temperature normally rises, a little, and the humidity drops, and then it is possible to see more clearly where you want to go, and the obstacles and dangers become far more observable. I think that’s a great metaphor for our lives. There are periods of time when we are just moving through a fog. We didn’t notice it starting to fog up, or maybe we just woke to the darkness and unclear world around us. Now, if you have absolutely nowhere to go, fog’s not such a bad thing. The trouble is, we usually have somewhere to go, and so the fog turns from benign to menacing, and life gets a bit dangerous. It’s possible to lose track of the right direction to take, or sometimes, even where we are or where we have been. That’s a helpless feeling, especially when we sense something like a truck on our rear bumper, not letting us have the time to sort things out.
Sometimes, then, the very best thing to do, is slow down. Even on a clear day, there will sometimes be someone pushing me to drive faster. I just remark that no one will pay my speeding ticket for me, and let them pass, if they must. Sometimes, you even need to find a place to pull over safely, and reconsider what you next have to do. Our greatest accidents in life occur when we can’t see clearly, and we just move ahead blindly, not even certain we are on the right path.
Fog doesn’t last forever. Like Annie sings, “The Sun’ll Come out Tomorrow.” Normally, our need to hurry in dangerous situations comes out of our own need, and not what the world places on us. In the intentional path of living, we can avoid those rash, unclear and unreliable choices, and instead, live with confidence that indeed we are going the right direction, and our path can be clearer and safer. It’s never without risk, but the foolish risk dissipates when we take the time to live in a thoughtful and responsible manner.
God bless you in the fog in your own life. May God bless you with the common sense to slow down when you need to, and to realize that sometimes, fog happens, but we can adjust our plans, change our speed, and choose abundant life instead.
Word for the day: suborn. Pronounced sub-ORN. If you have watched any cop shows at all, you will have heard of persons charged with “suborning.” What it really means is that somebody has caused someone to do an unlawful thing, like not tell the truth, or some other unjust maneuver in a courtroom. It comes from the Latin, subornare, which is defined as “to secretly furnish or equip.” Breaking it down further, we know that sub means “under, or below.” Ornare sounds like “ornament,” and means “to furnish,” so subornare is to do something in an underhanded or sneaky fashion. We also get the word, “subordination,” which we use when someone acts to undermine the authority of someone in control. It’s always sneaky, and never justified…
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.