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A Risky Ballet

Whoever digs a pit may fall into it; and whoever breaks through a wall might be bitten by a snake.

Ecclesiastes 10:8

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:31-33 

Californians are widely disparaged for their habits of traffic. It is commonly held, in other parts of the country, that if you want to see the most dystopian nightmare, vis-à-vis the automobile, you have only to look toward the west coast where cars are either parked on some ironically termed freeway during rush hour, or careening around like leptons in a particle accelerator. Having lived here now for a year, I scoff at these unsubstantiated assessments. Things are so much worse than anyone in Duluth could possibly imagine. There have been hours when I contemplated shutting off my engine, leaving the car, and walking to my destination; and others where I fervently prayed for a five point harness and a crash helmet.

In all the places I have lived (including Boston or Chicago), I have never felt so much as though I were taking my life in my hands as I zipped up an on ramp to sling shot my way into the stream of speeding vehicles. People zoom in and out of lanes in blissful ignorance of modern inventions like the turning signal or the brake light. Cars cut off other cars with alacrity. The high speed flying wedge maneuver is entirely too popular, and on any given day the only thing that stands between getting to work and total chaos is the strength of my brake cables. But I’ve noticed something fairly recently that may not be immediately apparent to an outside observer. It all just kind of works.

Now, sure, there are accidents, and irate drivers (you can site a thousand examples in contravention of my experience), but nowhere near what one might logically expect given the unmitigated high risk driving. What I’ve begun to notice is the orchestrated, communal, ballet nature of it all. What I don’t often experience here, but have in many other places, is the horn honking, road rage fueled, fury with which drivers often respond to being cut off, or pressed by surrounding drivers. Everyone appears to understand the great danger and risk of trying to get home, and because of this a kind of creative and supple community seems to develop.

In many ways, I think, there can be few better metaphors for a thriving Church. Operating in an somewhat liminal and high risk space, trying to accomplish something significant for the sake of the world and the gospel, the thriving Church has to develop the instincts and timing that will keep it from crashing, while indulging in the flexibility necessary to maneuver as a community. It can be a wild and uncertain ride, one that depends fully as much on others as on oneself, but a thriving Church is a church that has learned to take risks and accept consequences, all the while holding faith in the process and the purpose.


“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

Helen Keller

“A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is not what it is built for.”
Albert Einstein

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