The stop sign was not invented to take all the fun out of driving! It was out of concern for safety. Though never a driver himself, William Phelps Eno, dubbed “the father of traffic safety,” witnessed so much chaos in horse-and-buggy traffic while growing up in New York City in the mid to late 1800s that in 1900 he suggested stop signs for intersections. And so today, thanks to him and many others, traffic has a regulated set of rules with the intent of keeping us all safe.
I’ve found this helpful to think about when it comes to the Ten Commandments in the Bible (see Exodus 20:3-17). Like the stop sign, when obeyed they keep us safe. But there’s much more to these commandments than restrictive “thou shalt not” rules. They point to God’s great love for us, encompassing our safety, health, and joy.
This love was once glimpsed by a young woman I knew many years ago. During her teenage years she had become addicted to cigarettes, alcohol, and recreational drugs. She had barely graduated from high school, but poor choices and poor decisions found her traveling alone in Europe two weeks before Christmas. And then, much like the presence of a stop sign would bring a speeding car to a halt, the all-power of God that the First Commandment declares began to arrest her current lifestyle.
In this time of extreme desolation, lines of a couple of hymns she’d learned as a child started coming to her thought. The lyrics are by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor. One starts: “Shepherd, show me how to go”; the other begins: “O gentle presence, peace and joy and power” (see “Christian Science Hymnal,” Nos. 304 and 207). The hymn lines kept repeating over and over in her thought, reminding her of God’s infinite love for her.
Shortly thereafter, she returned to the United States, and within eight months, she was completely free from the use of tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drugs, and enrolled in a good university. As the First Commandment says, she was beginning to look to none other than God, divine Love, for her happiness, satisfaction, and guidance.
What makes someone stop and pay attention to divine Love, which is always truly present for anyone? Many have come to know it as the Christ, the presence and power of God, that reassures, awakens, and guides us to safety. Opening one’s heart to this healing presence can bring needed reform to anyone’s life.
When asked, “Which is the great commandment in the law?,” Christ Jesus began his response: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (see Matthew 22:35-38). Rather than limiting or restricting us, striving to do this helps us see and experience the love and care God has for us at every moment.
This article was adapted from an article in the April 10, 2017, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.