Have you ever been to Vietnam? What a beautiful place… but one of my scariest moments was learning to cross the road in Hanoi! Every road was teeming with fast electric bikes, and there were no pedestrian crossings… I’m not even sure there were traffic lights! We asked someone local how on earth we were supposed to get to the other side of the road. They told us to just step out, and keep moving at a steady pace, so that the motorbikes could easily weave around you and predict your movements across the road. The thing was, he said, all the bikers kept their eyes ahead and didn’t look around or behind, and so as long as everyone was doing that, they would always see you coming and there wasn’t a problem. My first thought was…. “Yeah, right! Like that sounds safe!” But my cousin and I decided there was no other way but to give it a try. So, we stepped out… then we just kept moving steadily across the road, trying not to look around us but keep our eyes fixed on the other side. Bikes weaved around us steadily, everyone was calm, and it was all very orderly, despite looking like chaos from the side of the road! It worked!
I often think of this experience in light of the road we travel as Christ’s followers. I think of Peter wanting to walk on the water: everything was fine, until he started looking around. Those waves looked pretty scary, and that water didn’t look too solid! He panicked, lost faith and his confidence in Jesus’s words, and started to sink. I thought of all the things that could’ve happened as I crossed the roads in Hanoi. If I’d stopped, ran, panicked, or started flailing about and making those bikers nervous, there could’ve been accidents! I wouldn’t have got to my destination, and I could’ve caused injury to others. I also found many times in the Old Testament where God’s people were told not to turn aside to the right or the left from what God had already told them to do (in Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Samuel, Kings…).
Then I found this in Proverbs 4:25-27a
“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left…”
It seems to be a very important thing to God that we keep our eyes on Him and what He has already told us, and not look around at our circumstances or turn away from the path He has laid before us.
Sometimes I turn aside out of fear. Sometimes it’s because I over-analyze or rationalize things: “it’s not possible to walk on water! Maybe this isn’t what He asked me to do after all!” Sometimes it’s because I forget that it’s Him that gives me the strength, and all I can see are my feeble muscles. Sometimes it’s because, like Peter, I look around and feel overwhelmed by the danger or the circumstances. But then I hear that gentle voice saying, “just step out”, or, like He said to Peter when he wanted to walk on the water… just “Come”.
There’s something powerful about stepping out… I’ve found that as I take that first step of faith, there is suddenly more power, more confidence, more clarity. No one in Hanoi said “well hey, these foreigners are a little nervous, let’s carry them across the road ourselves, or build a bridge, or make some pedestrian crossings…” What they knew from experience was: once you take that first step, keep moving at a steady pace, keep your eyes ahead, don’t worry about what’s around you… you’ll find that you will make it to the other side of the road just fine.