The other day I got stuck in the slow lane behind a garbage truck. Even with the air on recirculate, I could smell the contents of a McDonald’s dumpster. “Well, this stinks,” I said through clenched teeth.😬
Finally, I was able to slide over into the fast lane, only to get caught by a red light.😖 But that’s when I had time to read the sign on the back.
“How can I get around you if I slow down?!”🤔 I asked the offensive truck. Then I realized what the sign means. When one is traveling in a neighborhood behind a giant garbage truck, it’s best to pass it carefully. You don’t want to hit a sanitation worker, or meet another vehicle head on.
A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.
Frankly, the sign on the garbage truck was a sign from God. At least for me. Recently, I’ve felt a bit stuck (that’s twice in one post) behind situations that, quite simply, stink. The temptation to speed around them has been strong.
“So, what if I WANT you to follow a proverbial “garbage truck” for awhile?” said the Holy Spirit. “Is it really a deal-breaker?” Well, when you put it that way, Lord… I suppose I can slow down to get around.
Ever driven through a round-a-bout? I guess some traffic engineer thinks sending people in circles is more efficient than a stop light.
After he retired from teaching, my father ferried racing greyhounds to New England. One of his favorite stories involved being stuck in a traffic circle near Boston, pulling a 20 foot dog trailer! Here’s how he described it: “A bunch of people going in circles trying to make their turn by taking turns.”
Whose turn is it anyway?
I’m sure it’s in the driver’s manual, but in practice the round-a-bout has no hard and fast rules.
Ah, the classic stop light; now here’s a simpler solution! Red means stop. Green means go. And yellow means wait (even if you’re late).😇
Yet when it comes to walking with God, the experience can feel more like a round-a-bout than a red light. It’s not a precise stop, go or wait; rather, it’s a keep-circling-until-it’s-your-turn reality.
Yes, there are places in the Bible where God gives specific “stop light” style guidance (Numbers chapter nine is a good one), but these aren’t the every day norm.
Picture all the Bible heroes whose lives didn’t travel in a straight line. Moses comes to mind. I mean, forty years on the back side of the desert?! Sounds like a round-a-bout thing. Or brave queen Esther. Her’s wasn’t a “stop light life;” she kept circling–waiting for the chance to make a big difference.
So if it seems like your life is on ⏸, maybe you’re not stuck at a red light after all. You’re just coming back around to make your turn.
There now. Feel better?
Here are a few of my favorite “Circle Back” scriptures. Please share one of yours!
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8 (NIV)
“He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3b (NIV)
“Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” — (Proverbs 14:29)
As a teacher at an elementary school, I’ve heard young children say some pretty profound things. I was out on the playground one day with the kids, when a little guy came up to me to show me his fancy band-aid. It was a big purple one that covered half his little forehead. He pointed to it and said, “My mommy says this is a magic band-aid. It let’s the boo-boo breathe.”
Let the boo-boo breathe
Not long after my conversation with the enlightened kindergartener, I was called to my principal’s office for a meeting with an upset parent. Before the mother arrived, I asked my boss how I should respond.
I’ll always be grateful for her advice. She told me that the less I said the better. “Most caregivers just want to be heard,” my principal said. “They need to know that you care about their child.”
So I listened. It was hard when the mother made unfounded accusations–based on false information from her child–but I held my peace until it was my turn to speak. Calmly, I said, “Maam, we each want the same thing; we both want what is best for your child.”
Instantly, the icy wall between us melted. The mother began, with tears in her eyes, to tell of her struggles as a single parent. Like my principal said, an overwhelmed caregiver just wanted to be heard. She needed to know that someone understood.
I wish I could say this is how I’ve always approached interpersonal conflict. The reality is, many times in my life I’ve lost perspective and overreacted in frustration or anger. This has usually only made things worse.
Here are a few ways I let the “boo-boo breathe,” to give myself a buffer zone before acting:
Do No More for 24 – When you’re super angry, whatever you say or do is unlikely to help the situation. Give yourself 24 hours (or more) to cool off, and then calmly state your grievances (if necessary) with the other party.
Just Don’t It – When you aren’t sure how to react to a situation, do this: NOTHING. Like the old song by the Beatles says, 🎶”There will be an answer. Let it be.”🎶 Okay, this one is almost the same as Do No More for 24, but not quite. Maybe it’s not necessary for you to DO anything.
Talk With a Trustworthy Friend – Sometimes it can be helpful to take the decision out of your own hands. Share your dilemma with a trusted friend–someone who is not so close to the situation–and let them help you decide.
Finally, here are a few of my favorite “Magic Band-aid” scriptures to let the boo-boo breathe. I’d love to hear some of yours. Or maybe you have a story about how a relational time-out saved the day. Please share!
“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” — (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
“The wise fear the Lord and shun evil, but a fool is hot headed and yet feels secure.” — (Proverbs 14:16)
“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil.” — (Psalm 37:8)
A parting thought:
The power of a particular emotion doesn’t necessarily determine it’s value.