Grand Avenue is the portion of Highway 80 that runs west and east through Marshall, Texas, but the name is somewhat misleading. Its west end is lined with sagging houses, and by the old Texas and Pacific Hospital that’s been boarded up longer than I’ve been alive, a taqueria next door to a fresh fish vendor, and the ever present dollar store. I pulled into town yesterday morning, immune to the threadbare surroundings, but couldn’t help but notice the barefoot man walking east on the right side of Grand. It may have been the absence of shoes in February that caught my eye, but it was his hoodie that held my gaze. In bold letters on his back I read, ‘No Rules No Master.’ He appeared homeless, so my knee-jerk thought was, “How’s that working out for you?” It was likely nothing more than warm clothing for the man, but who knows? If the bold declaration reflected intense self awareness, credit him at least with more than a little moxie.
Do I know myself? Note that I did not ask, “What do I think about myself?” A world of difference languishes between the two, awaiting the intrepid individual with courage enough for serious self-inventory. Some refuse introspection because they fear a result something like the opening lines to Dostoyevsky’s “Notes from Underground”: “I am a sick man….I am an angry man. I am an unattractive man….I’m sensitive and quick to take offense, like a hunchback or dwarf.” To the contrary, lives that matter most are the ones who dare to say “I am a sick man,” then quickly turn to the Physician.
Many of us whittle away our days stumbling over ourselves. Lacking clarity, we fail to see trees for the forests that loom nearby. Forests are unique to the individual, but each holds potential for revealing trees if we know where to look and are willing to search long and hard enough. We are all tempted to busy ourselves with forests of good things, but lose ourselves in the mix. How long has it been since you reflected on important questions like: “Who am I?” “What is wrong with me?” “What is right in me?” The only real difference between those who courageously navigate the narrow way and others who meander aimlessly down side roads is that the former are able to contain their fear long enough to filter from the chaos what is true about themselves and what God can do to make it right. Communing with God is a regular necessity, but there is also a great need for people to take communion with themselves.