Only yesterday did I realize that I have a disabling condition, though I’ve worked to correct it for years. I’ve labeled it merge anxiety. When I am driving, I cannot, without great effort, simply stay in the lane that merges. No, I am afraid I’ll be squeezed out like the car in this picture.
Instead, I will drive over those slanted lines to get quickly into the lane I’ll need to be in miles down the road. I do know how to merge properly when there are cars in the lane I’m merging into; I can sedately ease into place. But when no cars are coming, I leap over into the lane without tapering in. It works for me.
When I am going to exit, I get in the correct lane a few miles ahead of time. Occasionally this causes some angst from other drivers, I can tell, but that’s their problem. I am where I need to be.
The same thing is true in a social situation. Most people enter a room full of people and slowly start merging into the crowd. Not me. I immediately head for some individual—friend or stranger—and strike up a conversation. Why do I do that? My guess is that I formed this habit as a teenager when I was afraid no one would possibly come to speak to me and I’d preclude that possibility by being the first to speak.
That technique has always worked well for me. I either enjoy my friends or meet new people who might have been too shy to introduce themselves to me. It’s a win-win.
So how can I apply my merge anxiety to my spiritual life? I know sometimes I jump in too strongly with new people who visit at church.
“Would you like to come to our Life Group?”
“Would you like to study the Bible with us? We can come to your house.”
“We can sit together. Let’s sit up here!”
Sometimes that works well; sometimes not. I feel like they have some spiritual interest or they wouldn’t be there. On the other hand, I’m afraid I have merge avoidance with other friends or acquaintances. Just as I knew a woman who would not drive on the Interstate because she couldn’t merge, I avoid bringing up spiritual conversations when I don’t know the person’s background or interests. I know I’m to be one of those who brings glad tidings—the gospel—to the world, but I get shy about that, fearing rejection. That’s where I need to pump myself up with prayer and study, to be more overt about sharing my faith with others.
I need to figure out how to use my merge anxiety to relieve the anxiety of others about their lives. Just being aware of the need is a start.