The phone jangled in my pocket signaling—well, I didn’t know what. That smartphone (much smarter than I—obviously) is always signaling one thing or another. Since I can’t always identify the different tones, I had to pull it out to see if I was missing something important.
The message was from one of my cycling buddies. “I am going to ride around 10:30.”
Even though it didn’t sound much like an invitation, it was. I like riding my bike. I like riding it with friends. I don’t even mind getting time away from my desk in the middle of the morning.
“Not today. I woke up with a stiff neck.”
I hear it already.
What a wimp!
Stiff neck? Is that all?
You call yourself a rider?
I will readily agree with the criticism. I am a wimp. I let too much interfere with my riding. My commitment is definitely not on a level with many of my friends.
This is different.
Besides the pain (a secondary consideration, to be sure), there is the problem with my vision. If I can’t see my surroundings clearly, I won’t be able…
My vision? Well, no my eyes aren’t affected.
It’s just that I can really only see what’s straight ahead of me if I can’t turn my head. You have to be able to view everything around you with a full range of vision when you’re riding. Otherwise, you’re just asking for disaster to strike.
I didn’t ride today. Sitting at my desk seemed a safer option.
No one ran into me at all while I was sitting here. It didn’t help my stiff neck any, but I was safe.
I didn’t get any exercise. Neither am I lying in a ditch.
Safety first. I suppose it’s a decent enough consideration. Still, I get the feeling I’m missing something.
Can we go back to the stiff neck for a minute? While I was sitting at my computer earlier, holding my neck with whichever hand was free, I began to wonder about that description of our malady.
I’ve known for a long time when someone calls you stiff-necked it means you’re stubborn.
There are other words we often use in place of stiff-necked. The red-headed lady who raised me—always with an old saw at the ready for any situation—simply said I was stubborn as an old mule. Except for when she described me as pigheaded.
But then, I always like to put things (at least my own actions) in a positive light. I think the word I would choose is focused.
Focused is good, isn’t it?
I have a goal in mind and I travel, unwavering in my single-minded attention to the objective.
I listen to the voices around me and I am encouraged.
Follow your own path.
Seek your true purpose.
Don’t let anyone or anything convince you to abandon your dream.
We love comfort, don’t we? We long for safety.
Like this humble cyclist, we shun any hint of imprudence. Avoiding danger at all cost, we seek old, well-worn paths already known to us.
Then, when our Creator gives us new directions to follow, new roads to travel, we are reluctant to turn aside. Our intransigence, our single-mindedness comes from our stiff necks.
We have a limited field of vision. And, we like it that way.
Is it any wonder He used the exact words—stiff-necked— to describe His own followers again and again?
God wants us to open our eyes and be aware of our surroundings. All of our surroundings. He wants us to see, not only the blessings He has for us, but also the difficulties and the tasks that await us.
When He has new things for us, we may have to shift our focus from what we’ve done previously to the new roads ahead.
I don’t know what those roads will be like. I’d like to think I’m past all the difficulties. I want to believe I’ve learned all the hard lessons.
We desire the pleasant, the comfortable. And, it’s possible that’s where He may lead us. David spoke of that path, of that lot in life:
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.
(Psalm 16:6, NKJV)
Somehow, I think it just as likely our road will take us through difficult and dangerous locales. It is where our God likes to make his new roads, the roads only people with open eyes and flexible necks will be able to follow:
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
(Isaiah 43:19, NIV)
The wilderness is new and strange. Wasteland seems uncomfortable, perhaps even dangerous.
Often, when I ride my bicycle, I ride familiar, well-traveled roads. They always take me to the same places I’ve been to before. Every time.
I’d like to try a new road or two before I’m done.
I’m going to do that.
When my neck is feeling better.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
(from The Fellowship of the Ring ~ J.R.R. Tolkien)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2019. All Rights Reserved.