I wasn’t sure how to feel this past Friday night, the twentieth of January, as I drove home from work. I’d made several stops along the way and it was dark by the time I got back to Fort Collins. With a full head and a heavy heart, I drove west on Harmony Road towards home, and suddenly, in the light of my headlights, I saw a small red sign staked into the grass on the side of the road. It said, simply, LOVE. A block later, another one. One mirrored it on the opposite side of the road. I drove past my turn and went on, curious to see how many there were; I counted at least three or four along that one stretch of Harmony Road between College and Taft Hill. Maybe there were more throughout the town.
After I got home, I grabbed my iPhone and left the house on foot. I walked along the road the half mile back to where I’d seen the sign. I had to get a photograph of it. I’m no professional photographer, but it’s become a big enough hobby lately that I put some thought into how I want the shot to look. And I’d decided I didn’t want to wait till daylight; I wanted that red sign illuminated in the headlights of the cars passing by, so it would be shining in a sudden light through the darkness that surrounded us. I took dozens, and finally got a good one.
The whole thing reminded me of a quote attributed to EL Doctorow about writing: “Writing is like driving at night. You can never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
That’s not just writing. Life is like that. I can only see the next immediate moments of my life as they appear in the headlights, a few at a time, never very far into the future. But I never know what will suddenly come into view, and sometimes, what appears surprises me.
Friday night, LOVE suddenly came into my headlights.
In the midst of the and anxiety and uncertainty and fear that I and so many of my friends and acquaintances have been feeling since the election and then through inauguration…in the midst of the helplessness of feeling I was too small to make any kind of real difference in my nation in the months ahead…I got a sudden, surprising reminder. Love. Just love.
Maybe that’s what Andrew and Simon Peter and James and John saw in Matthew 4:18-22. A sudden red sign reading LOVE that appeared in their headlights out of nowhere. And though they couldn’t see where the path would end, their next steps seemed clear. And so they went.
We’re all driving at night through this life we’re in. And some nights are darker than others. This new road we’re on…I don’t know where it will take us, and I can’t say I’m not afraid. But when I saw that sign the other night, I did suddenly know what my job was while I’m on this path.
It’s to heed the LOVE sign. To keep an eye out for the next right thing to do. And to trust that the few steps ahead that I can see will be enough. We can all do that much.
And if we have to, we can make the whole trip that way.
Christine M. Engelen