“Did you just wake up?” my daughter asked after I’d croaked a late-morning “hello” into my phone.
“I’ve been awake since six-thirty this morning” I said in a scratchy voice. I cleared my throat several times and tried again. “I just haven’t talked to anyone today, except the dog.”
After I hung up, I realized I’d been hearing the same question from other people who called during the day. Or sometimes they’d ask if I’m sick. And I guess I couldn’t blame them for wondering. After all, my normal daily routine consisted of waking up at 6:30 a.m., praying, reading my Bible, eating breakfast, writing, having lunch, then more writing until it was time to make dinner. I didn’t need my voice to do any of those things, and often the first time I’d talk was when someone called or my husband came home from work.
Unless, of course, you count the dog.
So when our school district began seeking a crossing guard for the elementary and middle-school students who walk to school, I jumped at the chance. Not only would I have the opportunity to serve children by helping them across busy intersections, but I’d interact with them too. Plus, the hours were perfect—one early morning and one afternoon shift each day. During the six-hour gap, I could continue writing.
I now spend my mornings and afternoons chatting with delightful children, parents, joggers, walkers, bus drivers, high schoolers. I don a bright-orange reflective vest and wield a red-flashing stop sign. Not sure what the middle schoolers think about the sign, but the elementary kids think it’s super cool.
The job is a lot of fun, but it’s serious business too, especially in the mornings when students are walking to school in the dark. Therefore, when I’m crossing children, the first rule is this:
I go before they go.
While the child stands a few feet behind the curb, I raise my super-cool, red-flashing stop sign and enter the street just in front of the crosswalk line closest to the intersection. I hold up my free hand to the drivers on my left, and with my palm facing them in a “stop” position, I make eye contact with them until they stop. I then face the intersection, walk half-way across the road, stop in the center, and make eye contact with oncoming drivers, including those turning into the intersection.
After I’m certain that all drivers see me and remain stopped, I turn my head toward the children and tell them it’s safe to cross. Again, I make sure I remain before them. When they step into the street, I remind them to walk behind me, not in front of me, so I can continue scanning traffic and protect them. Only when the children step onto the opposite sidewalk, safe and sound, do I return back to the curb.
God has used my new job to give me fresh insight into the meaning of Deuteronomy 31:8.
“…The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (NIV)
In other words, God is my crossing guard.
When I’m facing problems or fears or uncertainty—life intersections filled with heavy, confusing, overwhelming traffic obscured by darkness—he promises that he will go before me into the fray.
After God tells me it’s safe to cross, I don’t need to be afraid to step off the curb or discouraged by the obstacles I see. He assures me that he will protect me, guide me, keep me from harm not only when my foot touches the street but as I travel the entire journey through that crosswalk. And when I reach the other side, grateful for his everlasting presence, I’ll feel his eyes upon me while I continue my walk toward home.
And when I encounter the next intersection, I can trust that he’ll be waiting.
Ready to go before me again.