Are We Not More Than Lemmings?
I live in a nice mid-size rural community. While not as small as some of the surrounding villages and towns, it has still retained aspects of a simpler time: a quaint old downtown with eclectic shops and wide sidewalks, familiar faces that greet you with a smile, annual events that bring together the residents to catch up on old times and make new memories. Despite the significant growth that has taken place over the past several years, there are still pockets that feel comfortable amongst the faster pace and numerous options for shopping and eating.
The community offerings have grown primarily in response to increased residency. Our little city is not a destination for commerce or tourism; it’s where we live and play. It’s the place where residents have purposed to put down roots, educate their children, enjoy the surrounding lakes and countryside, and seek some small solace from their demanding work schedules.
As such, I spend a good amount of time driving. From my home, it is roughly 37.5 miles, one direction, to my place of employment in a large suburb of a very large city. Try as I might, there’s nothing that can change the windshield time from a minimum 45 minutes with virtually zero traffic, no road construction and pristine weather conditions. The one-way commute is regularly 60 minutes and inclement weather can produce drive times of 1.5-2 hours. And at any given time within the plus/minus window surrounding the standard start and stop times of a business sector driven by the automotive industry (pun intended), the roadways on which I traverse are simply packed with tens of thousands of other commuters.
It is with regularity that the lyrics of “Synchronicity II” (from the Police’s paramount 1983 album “Synchronicity”) come to mind in the midst of yet another traffic jam:
Another working day has ended
Only the rush hour hell to face
Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes
Contestants in a suicidal race
A lemming is a small rodent closely related to voles and muskrats. There is a popular myth that they dive off high cliffs end masse, blindly following the group to certain demise. While that perception has been proven to be false, it serves as a vivid illustration generally accepted as apropos to describe any mass of humanity blindly marching forward with a singular purpose, regardless of how destructive it may be. It’s a fairly accurate description of my time spent on the interstate.
On my typical route, there is a sign like this one:
There are a few such signs along the way of my daily commute and several more in the general vicinity. As each new calendar year progresses and the statistics start to accumulate, this particular sign switches from estimated times of arrival to various locations and construction alerts to proclaiming the latest annual count of traffic deaths.
This sign has had a profound impact on me over the past couple years. Really. A sign. On the side of the road.
Every weekday morning, I embark on a journey. I depart from my God-filled, loving, safe, wonderful home. I traverse the highways and byways in an effort to arrive at my place of employment. I spend too many hours of each day working away at tasks that may or may not add value to a company that ultimately exists solely for the capitalistic enrichment of its ownership group, management team (of whom I am a member) and associates. And when finished for the day, I repeat that morning’s journey in reverse order. For the better part of roughly 480 hours per year, I join with all the other lemmings as we pack into our shiny metal boxes and compete in our suicidal race.
I stopped seeking fulfillment in my secular career some years ago. It now holds its appropriate position within the context of my life: it is a blessing from God to provide for my family and allows me to support ministries and bless others. In addition, as He has drawn me closer to Him, doors have been opened to share His truth with co-workers, both in example through conduct and directly in discussion.
So about that commute…
Over the past couple years, as I’ve passed that sign on a daily basis and watched the tally increase at a steady pace, I began to ponder my fellow lemmings. Each has their individual story: dreams, aspirations, values, convictions, struggles, fears, responsibilities, burdens, etc. But most importantly, do they know Jesus as their Lord and Savior? As each new digit was added to the tally on the sign, I’d find myself wondering where the latest fallen lemming will be spending eternity.
11 And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. 12 I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. 14 Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. 15 And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. -Revelation 20:11-15
Wow. Sobering. At first, in relation to my fellow lemmings. And then, for me. How many of us are figuratively driving straight to hell? Of the incremental counter shown on the sign mounted by the roadside, how many represent someone whose name will not be found recorded in the Book of Life? And finally, when I am judged according to what I have done, according to my deeds, will there be any accounting where God used me to impact that counter for Him?
And then, the punch in the gut. We are neither created nor called to be lemmings. We are God’s masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10). Even though we often act like lemmings and deserve nothing more than a quick trip off the side of a cliff, God rescues us through the finished work of His Son on the cross (Romans 5:6-8).
My daily drive has changed. My fellow commuters and I are still packed into our vehicles, struggling to survive whatever the roadways throw at us on any given day. But we’re not lemmings. All of us are God’s creation, a product of His masterful handiwork, knit together in our mother’s womb by Him. Some of us already know Him and are called His children (John 1:12). Others are still lost. I pray for them, that God will send someone into their individual worlds who is willing to be used by Him to impact their lives for Him.
It’s highly unlikely that I’ll be that someone for any of my daily driving partners. But God has blessed me with relationships, connections and friendships in a wide ranging scope of humanity. I pray for myself, that I be humbly submitted to Him and that He use me, in the lives of those around me, to change the counter for Him.
What’s your story? If you claim Christ, does your personal perception tell you that you are you surrounded by lemmings or God’s masterpieces? What’s your prayer? Are you burdened for those who don’t know Him? Are you fully surrendered and asking for opportunities to share His love and grace?
If you don’t know Jesus, please know this: you don’t have to be a lemming.