Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Changing Lanes

As 2014 closes, I join millions of people in reflecting on the past year, evaluating my choices over the past year, and making new ones where appropriate.

It's been quite the journey for me, and I've talked about it in previous posts. As I thought about the year, the image of driving a vehicle, especially navigating in unfamiliar territory (perhaps in a strange city) came to my mind - and since I had recently finished watching Season 10 of "Canada's Worst Driver" ... I fixated on lane changes - something that still makes me nervous - as a comparison to the Christian life. 

Like driving, life involves making one choice after another; each one will affect the direction or the speed. I believe that there are a few lessons about driving a vehicle that apply to the choices each of us makes in life, lessons that determine where we go, how fast we get there, and whether we will arrive in one piece. 

On a trip, often there are very few places where we can stop and just turn around. Frequently, we have to make a series of adjustments that involve a very specific skill: changing lanes. This is a very versatile skill. It helps us safely navigate off-ramps, merges, and turning lanes. 

So with that metaphor in mind, here are a few thoughts about changing lanes, which is the first step toward getting where we want to go:

Know where we've been, where we are and where we want to go. Sometimes when we've been travelling in one direction for quite some time, it's hard to be objective about what's been working ... and if our stated destination is really where we want to go. For example, if we've been of the opinion that we need to be at the church building every time the doors are open, attending every meeting, being involved in every ministry, we may not see the fact that we've been spreading ourselves too thinly and we are headed for burnout. We need to discover exactly what God has called us to do, and then do that. This might mean we'll have to give up some things we committed to doing because we thought we "should" ... or someone else thought we'd be good at ... or it was expected because of our job or our family connections. 

That will take some honest questions. It might take us some time; it might just require tuning into our spirits and asking for His guidance. However, it's worth the time it takes to refocus. The joy we may have been missing may be because we've been investing our time into areas to which we are not called. That can sap our energy and lead to a lot of frustration and even resentment.

Photo "Winding Road" by
pixbox77 at
There is a common misunderstanding in the body of Christ, and that is that if a person is "good at" something, then that is his or her "gift."  And therefore, that is the niche he or she should hold in the church. The problem with that is that God rarely if ever uses someone in the area he or she is best at. His strength is made perfect in weakness. He does this to make it more likely that the person will rely on Him. My point in saying this is that we need to be careful to NOT make assumptions, and to listen carefully to what God is saying. If we ask Him honestly, He will find a way to show us what He wants.

Look for an opening. When we ask God to direct us into what He wants us to do, He will show us by pointing out a spot or a space for us.  If we are already in the place where He wants us, He will find a way to confirm that to us. However, it may be that He wants us to focus our energies on something else. If He does, He'll show us and we need to be expecting Him to do that. If it requires a "lane change", there are certain steps we need to take to ensure that nobody gets hurt (including ourselves):

  • Use our mirrors to check the flow of traffic. We need to watch what the others are doing - not to challenge, criticize or copy them, but so as not to impede their progress in their own path. That way, there will be no collision, and the transition - if any - can take place smoothly.
  • Check our own blind spot. This is where we can most easily get broadsided. It's our vulnerable place, where our wills and those of others can collide, so it's important to make sure that we know for sure that we don't jump the gun and change lanes too quickly, even if it means that we have to let someone else pass us. Even if we need to take a lower place, it's better to do that, and have God move us up, than to take a place of prominence and find ourselves unprepared.
  • Slip into the spot God has opened up for us (easily, naturally, because if it's Him it will be!) and go with the flow... of the Spirit. Trying to do anything in our own strength is a sure recipe for disaster. And honestly, why would we even try? We have His grace and power to rely on, and He will work everything together for good - the greatest good ever: making us more and more like Jesus!! (see Romans 8:28, 29) 

Keep checking. It is easy to settle into a routine after we have been doing something for / with God for a while. We are tempted to coast: "Hey God, I think I got this, it's okay." The thing is, He IS the road. He IS the map. He IS everything! We need to keep reminding ourselves that He is our source at all times. And He hates being pegged; He never does the same thing the same way twice. So ... let's buckle up because He might decide to just switch things up and take us on an adventure we never expected!! 

Or, He just might ask us to pull over and take a rest from time to time.

We just never know. But that's okay. Because He does.

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