I was driving east on I-465 today, and as I neared the Meridian exit, I saw a construction sign that said, “New Traffic Pattern Ahead.” If you’re familiar with that exit, you know the construction off I-465 reroutes you through large orange traffic canisters and cones. It’s really not that difficult to navigate, but it’s helpful to be given the “heads-up” before you take the exit.
Could you imagine what life would be like if you were given signs telling you that you’re about to enter a “new traffic pattern”? It would be nice to be given such helpful notices that the road ahead is about to change. The problem is that most of life doesn’t work that way. In fact, most of the time we’re not aware of the new pattern until we’re trying to navigate our way through it!
Yes, there are a number of more subtle signs indicating new patterns in our marriage, with our children, and at our jobs. And we should become good students to learn how to watch for those understated road signs of life. If your teenager all of a sudden becomes distant and doesn’t want to talk with you anymore, you don’t need a bright, flashing sign to let you know you’re entering a new traffic pattern. If your spouse starts slamming the kitchen cabinets closed, be aware you have some pretty big construction cones through which to navigate in your marriage.
But what if the signs aren’t so obvious? What if your marriage seems to be moving along o.k., but something just seems to be off and you can’t put your finger on it? Maybe your boss has been a little reserved lately, and you’re not sure if this is a new traffic pattern on the horizon or something bad he ate for lunch. Whether it’s your marriage, raising children, work or personal faith, here are some driving practices to help navigate a new traffic pattern in life.
First, slow down. Some people can whip right through the construction cones, because they’ve traveled that way many times before. But if you’re entering a new traffic pattern in life, the road never stays the same. People are not robots, and we don’t always act in predictable ways. Thus, slow down and take your time navigating through the cones. Maybe this is a bump in the road or a major new roadway. But you won’t know that until you slow down in order to survey your surroundings. Pray. Breathe. Meditate on Scripture. Don’t get in a hurry. Psalm 37:7 encourages us to “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”
Second, if you’re unsure of which way to go, pull over. There’s nothing more dangerous than someone assuming he or she knows the way, only to miss the directional cones and run into a concrete wall. After you’ve slowed down, and you’re still not sure which way to go, pull over and regroup. We don’t always have to keep moving in order to move forward. Sometimes the best way to advance is to pause, re-orient yourself, and then pull back out on the road. This is why Christian marriage counseling can be so helpful, because there are times we need to pull over and get out of the heavy traffic in order to talk and make sure we’re moving in the same direction. We need the Lord’s presence to calm our souls and clear our minds. “But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29).
Third, ask directions. This is the hardest step for me personally, because I don’t want people to know I’m not sure which way to go. Call it pride or an independent spirit, but it’s wrong. It’s healthy to ask people who have been down that road before to give you directions. More importantly, we need to check our “GPS” through the Bible to discern which way the Lord is calling us to go. Talk with others. Seek godly counsel. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”
Fourth, pull back on the road slowly and proceed with caution. Once you have clarity on the new traffic pattern, it’s time to get back on the road, but do so with caution. Be deliberate, and wise. Don’t rush ahead where you fail to see future road signs clearly, because, guess what? Most likely, by the time you have your current road figured out, you’ll see another sign saying, “New Traffic Pattern Ahead.” But this time, you will be prepared, because you will know how to slow down and pull over if needed, how to ask for directions, and how to pull back on the road and continue on the next path God has for your life. In so doing, you will be a living witness of a person the Bible calls “wise,” for it says, “One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless” (Proverbs 14:16).
New traffic patterns or not, let’s keep moving wisely down the road.