The sign could not have been any clearer with extra-large letters, all capitalized in dark print, and on a large yellow piece of plastic that has been the color for caution all my life. It was in plain view, not too high or too low and I had my glasses on, although I do need an eye exam. None the less there was no excuse for my missing the step and fumbling around, grabbing for something in midair while trying to keep my balance and composure. And of course, what is the first thing you do once such an embarrassing moment occurs but look around and see if anyone saw what just happened. While I might have seen the “Caution: Watch your step” sign, I certainly was not paying attention to where my feet were going. And since no one did see me, why even write about it, since no one would ever be the wiser. Because, this little misstep reminded me of a verse in the longest Psalm in the scriptures. Psalm 119:133 reads, “Keep my steps steady according to your promise, and never let iniquity have dominion over me.”(NRSV)
Watching our steps is something we have and will be doing for a while in this season of social distancing. We watch our steps in the supermarket to make sure we are going down the aisle that has been marked with footprints showing us which direction to go. We watch our steps standing in line, making sure we are not getting too close to the person in front of us. We will be watching our steps going back to church and what doors to use, what pew (not the one you like) to walk up to and take a seat. We will be watching our steps at the beach, on the boardwalk, having a picnic with friends, or walking across the street to see a neighbor.
Yet, I don’t think that is what is meant by “keep my steps steady according to your promise and never let iniquity have dominion over me.” It is a prayer of asking God to keep us balanced and focused on this life journey where many of the paths can be filled with ups and downs, unforeseen obstacles and uneven surfaces that too often cause us to stumble and fall.
What do I mean? If we are not careful, we can step right into a path of complaining. All we do is walk along in the negativity of those around us and begin to find our steps are hard and cumbersome. We can step onto a path of judgmental attitudes, bitterness and unresolved anger that leads us down a walkway of unforgiveness.
We can step onto a path of political hot buttons and get into debates and trash talk that does not edify our Lord let alone our brothers or sisters. We can step onto a path of rhetoric that starts pitting “us” against “them” without ever understanding the long hard path any of us may have had to travel in life. In other words, we need God to guide our steps or before you know it, the iniquity the Psalmist spoke of will play havoc in our hearts as well as our minds.
Jesus put it this way when he said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Jesus wasn’t being pessimistic but reminding us that we need to watch our step.
So, the hope we have is in a Savior, who not only dwells among us, but has walked where we walk and knows how to take the next step. Therefore, take a moment to ask Christ to help you in the next step you take in life. And before you walk away from the computer or out the door: Caution, watch your step and should you trip up, let Christ pick you back up and get you on the right path again.