For our first Christmas in our new community, my husband and I decided to get involved by volunteering to be marshals for the annual Parade of Lights. Our job, we were told during orientation, was to make sure everyone remained behind the orange safety cones that lined the street so no one would get run-over by the parade floats and fire engines or trampled by the marching bands. It was especially important to watch over the small children and keep them out of the road. Sound easy enough?
I thought so, too. What I didn’t realize was that the organizations sponsoring the floats would be tossing candy into the audience. And that dozens of foolish children would risk getting run over in order to get that candy. My simple job turned out to be not so simple.
I started by smiling sweetly and asking the dear little cherubs to please step back. “We wouldn’t want to get squished now, would we?” By the time the last float rolled past it took every ounce of willpower to keep from screaming, “GET OUT OF THE ROAD! Do you want to die for a lousy piece of candy?”
I confess that when my kids were small I was a helicopter mom, always hovering over them, worrying about all the terrible things that might happen if I didn’t remain vigilant. I realize now that it was because my writer’s imagination was always working overtime. I could easily visualize a multitude of plotlines for my children’s lives, and it was my job to make sure their stories ended happily-ever-after instead of in tragedy. It was exhausting. I envy mothers who lack this kind of imagination, never picturing their daughter’s prom date as a serial killer or their son’s class trip to the museum ending up on the evening news. My mothering—like my imagination—never went off-duty.
So here I was at the Parade of Lights, dressed in a glowing green safety vest, responsible for keeping the citizens of my town safe behind the orange cones—for an entire city block. In the dark. With candy showering down from heaven on the giddy, over-excited children. I’m sure the floats were beautiful. I didn’t see them. I’m sure the twinkling lights seemed magical. I was too busy trying to remember what I’d learned during orientation about emergencies. Because I could see potential emergencies everywhere!
Thankfully, none of the little darlings on “my” block got squished or trampled—although I may have come close to strangling one or two of them. Especially the kid who kept moving the safety cone into the street and insisting, “I am behind it!” But I was still imagining disasters as I lay in bed that night, trying to sleep, and I came to the conclusion that what I do for a living—writing novels—is a lot like being a safety marshal for the Parade of Lights. Here’s why.
There are things in life that are very beautiful—like the parade floats. And things that can harm us—like the parade floats. The trick is in knowing where to stand. As I used to tell my children, the safest place to be is in the will of God. Temptation, like candy, promises something sweet, but reaching for it may cost us our lives. It’s my hope, my prayer, that the stories I write will not only entertain readers, but will help them see that the choices we make have consequences. When we fail to stay behind the “orange safety cones” that God has given us in His Word—or when we foolishly try to move them—we are in danger. And to do so for something that won’t bring long-lasting satisfaction is foolish indeed. As I dream up characters and plotlines for my novels, what I’m really doing is showing readers where to stand, and what might happen if we yield to temptation. And also how blessed our lives can be when we choose to walk with Christ, the Light of the World.
As this New Year begins, please remember to stay behind the safety cones. “We wouldn’t want to get squished now, would we?” Don’t make me have to shout: “GET OUT OF THE ROAD! Do you want to die for a lousy piece of candy?” God has much better things planned for those who love Him. Enjoy the parade.