Life In Line

*Posted by Kirk Spencer

Life In Line

While standing in those absurdly long lines at the amusement parks, I can’t help but think (and there is a lot of time to think) that this inactive activity is a lot like life—snaking back and forth, side to side, to and fro, from place to place, over hill and dale, from pavilion to pavilion, passing the same faces with every turn, some in conversation, but most just staring, avoiding eye contact, passively waiting, actively pulled in jerks, in the pulse of life toward something exciting (hopefully), wondering if it will be worth the wait and the cost, all the while smelling like sunscreen and pond water.  When I was young, the line was out in the sun.  Now they have shady pavilions with fans and TVs and even vending machines as you pass your time (and your life).  However, I’ve noticed most recently everyone carries their own entertainment with them in the palm of their hand.  So there’s no worrying about avoiding eye contact.  Your eyes are on your “I-stuff.”  I don’t have an “I-thing,” however, so I just spend my time in line philosophizing—and enjoying the feel of those glassy smooth wooden rails polished by generations of hands waiting away life in line. 

Last Thanksgiving I was standing outside of “Toys-R-Us” at midnight admiring the long line of shoppers.  The line snaked around the building twice.  And then it went into the store, it continued back and forth, up and down each aisle all the way to the registers.   The end of the line was where you “checked out.”   All your shopping was done as you passed through the store while waiting in line.  The store was packed with people.  The aisles were full.  When I was just a child, I remember the wide uncluttered aisles that went from wall to wall.  I could look down each aisle and see from one side of the store to the other.  When I wanted to find my dad, I would just walk past each “end cap” looking down each aisle until I found him.  My kids do the same looking for me.  We can find each other when we know the layout and can see far enough.  Most stores are still the same today.  However, recently, I’ve noticed that the aisles in the Superstores are changing.  Some of the aisles are diverted this-way-and-that into more intimate personal spaces.  You can’t see very far.  The safe rows have become a maze.   Looking down each aisle, there are often walls of shelves that block the path.  Each space is different without any clear intuitive structure.  When we go to the store now, my kids can’t find me.  There is just too much stuff in the way.  I find I’ve lost my children (and myself) in an incommodious maze of commodities.   Thank goodness for cell phones.  When I can’t find my kids, I can call them… and they can call me from anywhere in the confusing maze—we can connect (if we have our “cells” charged and turned on).

I don’t know why they rearranged the store shelves.  It doesn’t make any sense to me.  I’m sure it was not to illustrate some philosophical dialectic.  I’ll bet it has to do with getting more stuff into the store and getting more people to buy it.  But what in the world could “being lost” have to do with “finding more stuff?”   Maybe it’s just me, but when I get lost, I do find more stuff.  When I just take the same old route, day-to-day, I only see what I have always seen and even then I don’t notice it because I have seen it so many times before.  But when I take a wrong turn and find myself lost in unfamiliar territory, as I frantically try to find my way back to something familiar—in those times—I’m always saying things like “Oh so that’s where that is” or “I didn’t know we had one of those” or “so this is where that street goes.”   Finding my way home, when I have gone astray, shows me the world and how I can live better in it.   Such is life.  Thank goodness God has given us a “cell phone.”  And we can call upon Him whenever we are in trouble and He will answer (Psalm 86:7).

I’ve got to make a call…

“Heavenly Father:  It’s good to know that no matter how lost I get, you not only can get me home, but can actually use my mistakes to make me better.  Help me to keep my phone charged and always on.  Lead me in paths of righteousness for Your name sake and don’t let me get distracted by all the stuff in the way.”

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