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The Big I

by Tim O'Hearn

The big thing in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the past year, and for a year yet to come, has been the reconstruction of the “Big I,” the Intersection (with a big I) of Interstate Highway 40 and Interstate Highway 25. Before the construction started, approximately 260,000 vehicles passed through the intersection each day. Needless to say, construction has caused problems, with traffic slowing for up to a mile and a half going into the construction area each direction. When construction ends next year it will make the daily commute a lot easier, but for now the Big I is a problem.

In truth, though, the “Big I” is causing problems around the world. No, not the highway Big I in Albuquerque. The Big I in each of us. The one that says, like William Earnest Henley wrote (and as quoted by Timothy McVeigh before his execution), “I am the master of my fate:/ I am the captain of my soul.”

The Big I, me, causes problems because I am limited in knowledge. Can I read other people’s thoughts? Can I see what is to be tomorrow, or ten days or ten years from now? Without that knowledge, I can not make reasonable decisions on my own. That is what God seems to be saying to Job in the chapters 38-41. Questions like the following are designed to deflate the Big I. “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?" (38:1) "Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place?” (38:12) “Who provideth for the raven his food?” (38:41) “Hast thou given the horse strength?” (39:19) “Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?” (40:9) If we can not answer these questions about creation, how can we pretend to control our own lives?

Jeremiah proclaimed, “It is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” (Jer 10:23) We can walk, but without one to direct us, we walk aimlessly. When we count on ourselves, or others, for direction we are like the blind led by the blind. Jesus said both would end up in the ditch. (Lk 6:39)

Perhaps the best example in scripture of the Big I is found in Luke 12:16-21, often called the parable of the rich fool. A rich man is blessed by God with an abundant crop. His reaction reeks of the Big I.

And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

You can count the times he says “I” (and don’t miss the two “you’s” that are really hidden Big “I’s”. (The total is 8.) Jesus calls him covetous and a “fool.” All because of the Big I.

If you are driving through Albuquerque before June of 2002, slow down and be cautious of the “Big I.” But even if you aren’t going to be in Albuquerque, be especially careful. The other Big I is even more dangerous. We should avoid it altogether.