The only time i feel claustrophobic is when I’m driving down the narrow highway edged in between a containing wall and an 18 wheeler. Our main route to school is such a tremendous heap of construction right now. It’s lanes are narrow, rocky, and unkept. The shoulders are under repair and blocked with containing walls. Our morning commute subsists in two lanes wedged between two containing walls. The lanes twist and shift. We try to peacefully coexist in a whirlwind of traffic between these two walls. Numerous construction vehicles, flashing lights, eighteen wheelers racing full speed through twist and turns. Sometimes I wonder if I have held my breath the entire way. Restraining myself as I restrain the car in a narrow lane of obscurity and absurdity.
Though I like to be hidden. I like to tuck myself into whatever ball will make me invisible to the world. I like to hide beneath mounds of blankets and covers and stick my mouth and nose from underneath in order to breathe. Many times I have made myself at home in a small corner of the room, tucked away between the bed and the wall. If I can make myself small, maybe I can hide from the enormity of the world.
I prefer my home small. I like to crunch in between my two children and my husband. I don’t like us to be spread throughout our home conducting our own business. Alone but supposed to be a family. Co-existing but not interacting.
I think of the bumper sticker that says co-exist. Is this really our aim and our goal? As humanity is our magnum opus to peacefully arrange our lives together in order that they don’t touch. To stay in our own lane, so to speak. The eighteen wheeler, it’s back tires tread over into my lane and I panic. Somehow what was a narrow lane is large enough that I can make sure he doesn’t touch me. I use up every ounce of space in that lane, but I am rigid, tense. I know if he comes crashing into me, I have little that I can do. A wall or a big truck, which will crush but not destroy. I am stuck.
Again I realize that co-existing is a tense, insipid existence. I imagine an expansive highway. I imagine a large field. There are less wide open spaces. I don’t think I’ve really experienced one except upon a hike in the mountains or the canyons. We can’t build our homes here. There are no business communities or downtowns. The elevations prohibit us here.
But what of a field with no elevation. I stand on it alone. I am in the very center of that field. Nothing surrounds. Do I have agoriphobia here – the fear of wide open spaces. Do I long for cover? Could I even stand quietly in one spot and feel unafraid? Openness does not embrace. Job, when God spoke to him from the storm, must have felt the way I do now. Nothing surrounds me, nothing protects me, I am vulnerable. The power of God, the power of nature, it overwhelms me. I am nothing compared to its massiveness. I would cower should God speak to me here. If He blew in with the storm, I cannot help but be afraid. There is no where to seek refuge from the storm. I am seen by God and He sees through my defenses. I cannot hide myself from him.
In this expanse, there are no lanes. All of humanity stands in this field with me and God sees them and knows them. They cannot hide from Him. He does not sort them into lanes and ask them not to touch one another. Instead as the storm approaches, they gather together as if some, not one would offer more protection. And some does. Now we are not alone in the wide expanse of the world. We don’t co-exist and stay in our lane. We co-mingle. There are no walls or blankets. There is no furniture to hide behind. We only have one another.
How we block out one another with lanes, with walls, with doors, with homes, with housing communities and HOA’s and labels…In the large expanse of the air, I look down and see boxes, squares, fortresses constructed for safety and identity and culture. If these all came falling down and we found ourselves in a field, I would just see people huddled together, vulnerable but intimate.
I wonder if God sees us that way, in wide open spaces, and wonders why we stay separated, alone, co-existing when a whole field of humanity shares the same vulnerabilities and exposure to the same elements. To see us as one, yet individuals, crowded into aloneness when wide open spaces are calling our names.