That Time Traffic Made Me Think About Things…
It turns out you can have all your stuff together and things still may not go your way. After five months of anticipating the arrival of The Nest’s* next season, I was more than a little excited. I’ve been trying to get up early in the mornings to invest in both body and soul (emphasis on the word trying!!), but this morning was a particularly happy day to be an early bird. I fixed my hair and put on makeup. There was playful banter, a hot breakfast, and an episode of Doc McStuffins. Then I dropped Collins off at my parents and headed out for the half hour drive. Except thirty minutes later, I was in standstill traffic nowhere close to my destination. Have I ever mentioned how I adore traffic? Any day with traffic is like a cheery Christmas morning with extra snuggles.
In and out, in and out, I was breathing. Trying to stay calm. I already had my meditative, worship-filled playlist going, which probably saved me from blowing a gasket early in the game. My phone showed no signs of a wreck, so I waited, thinking it would clear out any minute now. And then we finally crept up to an electronic billboard reading there was indeed a wreck ahead and all lanes were closed. Neat. Since I was alone in the car, I quit the rhythm of in and out and just screamed, eyes closed, “What is going on?” I thought about Ross in the episode of Friends when he opens his duffle to discover his clothes and Bible (that he stole) are covered in shampoo (that he also stole) from the hotel, and moans, “Why do bad things happen to good people?!” The struggle may be real, but this kind of struggle is a little funny if it’s not happening to you.
I was ready—so ready—to be surrounded by other moms, poured into by women who are much wiser and more experienced than myself. I was looking forward to sitting down with my cup of coffee and my straightened hair! And then all the feelings started rushing towards me, my brain unable to timestamp every thought upon its arrival and therefore sending itself into mess-mode. All the sudden I had gone from inspired and relaxed to frustrated and guilty about being frustrated. I was also starting to sweat.
Yesterday was not just an ordinary day where you can choose whether or not you acknowledged the grief in our world. Yesterday was the 14th anniversary of the largest act of terrorism against our nation. We will forever be both honoring and mourning the thousands of lives lost as well as those left on this earth with shattered hearts. Any problem of mine today feels like a small one.
There are over eleven million refugees across our seas fleeing for their lives. We do our part trying to raise awareness and provide rescue and restoration for these humans, these precious men and women and children, but sometimes it feels like our efforts are vapor. My problems feel ridiculous right now, and yet, I’m still frustrated to be sitting in the middle of miles and miles of traffic because someone gave into the temptation of looking at Facebook while driving down the Interstate, while simultaneously risking the lives of all those around—all just to see if someone liked his or her status. And now I start to panic because time is such a major commodity, and I’m spending my precious minutes sitting in a car, doing nothing for this world but sending some bonus pollution into the air. My personal problems are tiny. So I finally get off the cursed interstate and turn around to head back where I came from.
This doesn’t even begin to delve into the lives of individuals we know and love who are hurting, suffering, and feeling very alone today.
Because I felt so charmingly put together this morning, I took an empty purse from my closet and filled it with some essentials including a book, pen, my glasses, and some ear buds. I thought about snagging my laptop in case I had time to write later but decided against it. As I drove back to Rockwall, I thought it would be so nice to sit at my favorite coffee shop, Life House, but then remembered their announcement just yesterday saying they were closed until further notice due to a fire and flooding. Why is everyone out to get me?!….I thought, semi-sarcastically. So I wasted some more minutes driving around to find a Starbucks. The weather was mild enough to sit outside, and even though I was without a laptop, I had spotted my journal on the passenger side dashboard. This day could be redeemed, I decided.
And really, there are two sides of this brain overload. First, although we detest tragedy, it helps us in the way of looking outside our own issues and ourselves. We need to do this and be reminded that whoa, it’s really not about me, and my everyday problems really are not so threatening, and I could be spending my brainpower advocating for these humans instead of pitying myself.
And then there’s the second side, the beautiful side of Grace. Grace says, I see you, and I see your problems and your hurts and your fears. You matter, and you are noticed. Grace says that just as I walk with them, I walk with you. Grace says there is no struggle or pain so insignificant as to not being worthy. Grace says, I love you dearly, and you are precious.
I love how Margaret Feinberg puts it:
“When we breathe out restoration, we join God as he beats back hell and unleashes heaven on behalf of those he’s created.”
We aren’t meant to choose sides here, and we aren’t meant to balance them on a scale. We need them both every second of every day. We are meant to see ourselves as small and not the center. We are meant to advocate for the other’s gain far more than our own. We are also meant to be loved and feel secure in that love. That’s where we get our strength, this love. True, powerful, pure love fuels us to fight the fight of all brokenness, big and small. Love wins. At the end of our days and the end of our lives, love wins. So when our day doesn’t go according to plan and after we’ve taken a moment to remind ourselves the rhythm of breathing in and out, we should be asking ourselves how can we add value to the world with love. It’s not meant to be this magnanimous thing. We are small creatures, and we do small things, one at a time. But we have a God who sees us, loves us, walks with us, and strings together our small, often unnoticed, things to one day be great.
*The Nest is an awesome family ministry at Watermark Church in Dallas. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a mom to littles!