Slowdowns on the Road of Life: U-Turns, Side Roads, and Traffic Circles
Sometimes in life our courses are shifted in directions we did not anticipate. We plan and plan and plan, but no matter how mapped out our route may be, we undoubtedly hit a few bumps along the way, and oftentimes get set off the course entirely. I call these unplanned moments in life “U-Turns”, “Side Roads”, and “Traffic Circles”. It may seem like we’re lost in these moments, but I’d like to suggest a different perspective.
If you take the first letter of each of those words you get UTSRTC. That likely makes no sense to you right now, but I’ll explain how it can be looked at from a different perspective a little bit later to find a hidden meaning. But before we get there, let’s break down each of these moments, and explain what it looks like in our lives.
Sometimes on the road of life, it feels like we start going backwards, or at least like we’re going back to somewhere we’ve already been. Sometimes it feels like we've got a point that we just can't get past, and no matter how hard we try, we keep getting stuck there. Sometimes we’re on our way at full speed, and then life throws a wrench in our plans, bringing us to a screeching halt, seemingly making us lose all of the progress we’ve just made. Other times it’s like a point that we reach over and over, but something (or maybe someone) keeps pulling us back. Or, maybe it’s a decision that we keep coming to, and we struggle to make the choice that moves us past where we keep stopping. Whatever it is, it can be difficult to figure out how to get past these points in our lives.
I call these moments “U-turns”.
When we’re out on our way to a particular destination, sometimes we find ourselves making what feel like “wrong turns”, and it may feel like we’re driving off the beaten path, so to speak. Many times in life it seems as if, even if we’re still moving towards our end destination, we’re either not quite sure where we are, or we’re worried because it feels like our arrival time keeps getting pushed back. Things just seem to not be going according to plans, and we get irritated because the paths we mapped out are not where we currently are. We plan and plan and plan, but it always seems like we hit detours, often times sending us off into the unknown and uncontrollable. These “detours” can be really frustrating, especially when it feels like we’re now headed in the totally wrong direction.
I call these moments “side roads”.
With the U-Turns and Side Roads, even though they can be confusing, and we might feel lost, at least we still feel like we’re still moving. However, there are other times in life where we just feel like we’re stuck in an endless loop, never really knowing when we’re going to get out and get going, and sometimes so dizzy from the circling that it feels like we could get sent in a million different directions. Sometimes we've been going around so long, it seems like we'll never get out and get back on track. And even if we did, we've lost sight of which way to go. Maybe these times have been caused by something out of our control, while other times our inability to choose a path has us running in circles trying to figure out which way to go. Another thing that tends to happen in these moments is that we spend so much of our time looking out, trying to figure out which exit to take, that we take our eyes off what's “inside”. We’re so busy looking out, that we never stop and look in.
I call these moments “traffic circles”.
Lost? Or Just Redirected?
Now that we’ve defined these three moments in life when our plans change, we have to decide how we’re going to view them, and then what we’re going to do about it when it happens. For a large majority of people, we like control. We like the feeling that we’re in charge, and when we can’t control something, we typically have one of two responses: fight or flight.
So, when these situations come up, how do you normally respond? Do you spend all your time and effort focused on fighting back, or “road-raging” so to speak? Do you find that when you get stuck, you start blaming other people, situations, and sometimes even God? This is an easy tendency for us. When we lose control, we try to shift the blame away from ourselves. The problem is, we’ve been behind the wheel the whole time, and we’re the only ones to blame. We have no reason to get upset about where we end up based on the choices we’ve made. Granted, things don’t always go as we planned, but we’ve still had to react to our circumstances, and ultimately we make our own decisions. If we’ve been in the driver’s seat, then only we are to blame. Not only can these responses make our situations worse, but often this leads us to hurt those around us. We blame them, or let out our frustration on them, and our “passengers” – those going along life with us, who were never in control of the wheel – they take the brunt of our frustration merely because of proximity.
Other times as a result of uncomfortable situations we try to flee. We don’t know where we are, so we panic and make rash decisions. We make hasty choices in an effort to just get out and go anywhere but where we currently are. The problem is, this usually leads us to get even more lost. It also usually causes us to ignore those around us, which can be just as hurtful as getting angry with them. Usually those closest to us are just trying to help guide us along, and we either ignore them completely because we are so worried about where we’re going, or we don’t take their advice and make our own irrational decisions. And as we get more lost, we get more and more stressed out, sometimes to the point of losing total control and ending up in a wreck on the side of the road, or so lost we feel hopeless of ever getting back on track.
Choosing Your Path
So, what choice are you going to make the next time you find yourself in one of these kinds of situations? Are you going to panic and flee? Are you going to get angry and blame others? Or, are you going to try a third option?
This third option I’m talking about brings us back to the letters in the beginning: UTSRTC. I told you there was a hidden meaning there. Have you figured it out yet?
If you rearrange the letters, one possible combination ends up being TRUST C, or as I see it, TRUST Christ. If you can learn to not react as you normally would and instead trust Him, then things will turn out a lot better for you. All you have to do is give Jesus the wheel (aka, the control)!
If you’ve ever been a passenger along for a ride, when you’re not the one looking at the map or worried about directions, then for the most part, no matter which way you go, you generally trust that it’s right. It can be the when we trust Jesus. While it may seem scary to give the wheel up, once you relax and realize that he will take you exactly where he wants you to go, then you’ll realize that there’s nothing at all to worry about. However, there’s still some effort on our part, and it’s not as simple as just giving up and letting whatever happens, happen, saying that it is “God’s will”. We still have to hold the wheel. But, like a GPS, if we ask him to, Jesus will be with us every step of the way guiding us to our destinations in life. We still have to step on the gas, and we still have to turn the wheel, but when we are guided by his direction, then we know that every move is taking us exactly along the path that God has planned out for us. We may not always understand where we are going or why, but if we trust, then we know we are always headed in the right direction.
For many of us, control is everything. I know that in my own life, this is completely true. I’ve had to trust God that he knows where I’m supposed to go, and what I’m supposed to do. Giving up control of the wheel hasn’t been easy, and oftentimes I take it back and think that I have a better way. But I have learned that there’s a certain peace in not having all the answers. There’s a relative calmness in knowing that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be, even though the unknown is always all around me. It’s hard to listen, especially when the world is buzzing and telling me where it thinks I should go. But if I quiet myself and listen, the still, small voice of Jesus is there, guiding me ever onward towards the destinations that he has placed in my path. I don’t have to know where all the stops are, I just have to know that Jesus is moving me onward on my journey, stopping where he wants me to stop, driving past where he wants me to drive past, and meeting people along the way I never would have ever planned to on my own.
If you trust Jesus and let him guide you, your life will happen exactly as it should, and you will be ever more attentive to the beautiful destinations of a perfectly planned journey.
So let go of the control, open your eyes, and breathe in every moment. I promise, it will be worth it!