This morning, I drove through the town of Marthasville, Missouri, as I always do when I take my daughter to a Catholic school that is located in a nearby community.
On the way, we passed through the public school cross walks. Children, especially the younger ones, ran enthusiastically. A crossing guard and a policeman in a patrol car were on duty to ensure the safety of over-zealous youth.
On my way home, I passed through the same area. The sidewalks were mostly empty now, for classes were in session.
But there was one man, at a corner, ready to enter the crosswalk. He was obviously out for his daily constitutional. He approached the whole street-crossing event, well, differently.
The young ones had total confidence in their physical ability to cross the road. Completely oblivious, they had dashed into the crosswalk without fear. They needed the help of another person to guide them safely to the other side of the street.
The elderly gentleman soberly looked at the crosswalk and paused. Cane in hand, he waited, almost as if he were doing an all-systems check. The physical exertion might be too much. Walking down the sidewalk was one thing. But this crossing-the-road moment required deliberate forethought. One could not get part-way across only to find that the legs couldn't finish the job.
Spiritually, there is a lesson here. When we convert, we are eager to take off running, and we often race ahead. We sometimes need to let the wise ones lead us through dangerous crossings. We need to listen for their voices of wisdom - and heed them. In our super-abundance of zeal, we can make mistakes. And some mistakes can be lethal - spiritually speaking.
As we age in the spiritual journey, and as we age physically, we realize that some phases of life are really daunting. They require much contemplation. One can never be too confident here. An all-systems check is called for.
It would be tragic to assume we can do this, just because we have done this kind of thing before.
Lest we run the spiritual race of life to be disqualified in the end. St. Paul got it.
And we must never think we have anything over on St. Paul. Even the best of them can fall at the very end. Even those who once served as crossing guards can become as frail and weak as the elderly man.
Some days, I feel like the children - and I need whatever wisdom I can gain from those who have gone before me. Some days I look at the task at hand, knowing I have done it many times before and found it difficult more often than I care to admit. And so, I pause, and pray, and wait upon the Lord.
And some days, I'm just driving the car through the community and taking mental notes. Like today.