We received many well-intended words of caution as we prepared to move to Tennessee in 1999. Things to watch for included wicked thunderstorms, oven-like heat, tornados, and, of course, the impending Y2K apocalypse. One of the things, however, not mentioned to us was the impulsiveness of drivers navigating a two-way turning lane in the center of four-lane thoroughfares.
The first few months of learning to navigate busy roads lined with car dealerships, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, and strip malls were a bit harrowing. Our trips were filled with gasps, heavy braking, horn blasts, and less-than-affirming vocabulary as people would impulsively dart across two lanes of traffic to get into the turning lane. Sometimes they would suddenly stop and wait for you to pass... and other times, well, they wouldn't. And while I did not see any road signs, it sure seemed that people viewed that center lane as an "ON-RAMP" as they offered a courtesy pause and then sped up to get in ahead of you.
Having been here now for 24 years, we have learned to anticipate those driving habits. We rarely even flinch as cars zip out of parking lots, cross two lanes of traffic, and threaten to sideswipe us as they slip into that turning lane... most of the time.
One recent Sunday morning, I noticed a car on the other side of the road getting ready to pull out from a gas station. And while there was significant traffic in front of me, there was no one behind me.
While I fully expected the person to embrace the obvious logic of waiting for me to pass and then pulling out into the vast domain of open roadway behind me, that was not the case. Before I could utter, "Surely you wouldn't do that," the driver gunned it, sped across two lanes of traffic, tapped the brakes in the turning lane, and then slipped into my lane... right in front of me. No courtesy "thank you" wave and no nod of "Hey, thanks." In fact, there was zero acknowledgment of any space impingement at all.
So you can imagine my smirk when we both ended up stopping at a red light 50 yards down the road. With a quick confirming glance into my rearview mirror, I shook my head, rolled my eyes, and with snarky sass I muttered, "Couldn't you just have waited? There was absolutely no one behind me. But, nooooo, you just had to jump out and create anxiety for everyone else so you could get what you want. Are you happy now?" And with one arrogant, entitled, overly dramatic sigh, I whispered, "Seriously."
Reflecting on that experience, and rehashing my response, I sensed the Lord turn the question around and pose it to me. "Couldn't you just have waited?"
Feigning innocence, the I-have-no-idea-what-you-are-talking-about-but-I-sorta-do Pharisee in me was offended. And my justifying impulse was to say, "But that's different!"
You see, frustrated with my job, and seeing greener grass on the other side of the fence, I had interviewed for another position just two days before. And after a positive, transparent, and fruitful conversation, I ended the call with, "Give me the weekend and I will call you on Monday to confirm moving forward."
The more I stewed about the issues at my current job, I thought the weekend was going to be a courtesy pause to decide just how I was going to resign. So you can imagine, then, just how jarring this divine question of waiting really was. It stopped me in my tracks.
As I spent time in prayerful reflection, it occurred to me that I had obliviously moved ahead, failing to heed the wisdom of King Jehoshaphat as he stood on the precipice of a major decision. "First, seek the counsel of the Lord" [I Kings 22:5].
In the quiet solitude of house cleaning on Saturday morning, a simple thought from Andy Stanley came to mind. "Sometimes in major decision-making, the question is not so much, 'it is right?' or 'is it wrong?' but rather, 'is it wise?'" And there was my answer. Wrapped in the gift of Spirit-granted peace, I realized that leaving at this time would not be wise. The reality was that I would be leaving because I was fleeing... not because I was being led. And in those quiet moments like Hagar ran right into the kind intention of God's will, I too, encountered "El-Roi," the God-who-sees. In tenderness, He gently spoke, "I hear you, I see you, and I want you to go back."
As I started to wash the dishes, lyrics I penned with a dear friend, Johnetta Johnson Page, came to mind, "Even when my enemies oppress and my soul is in distress, I will run into the shelter of You. In You, I find the grace to stay and face the trials in my way. You'll sustain and strengthen me as I go through" [You are the One].
Sunday evening, resting in the blessed assurance of God's gentle guidance, I reached back out to the person with whom I interviewed and shared my decision not to pursue the position any further. My response was met with rich kindness and gracious appreciation for my transparency.
Remaining in my current job, I am daily clinging to the promise, "If you don't have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant you all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking. The key is that your request be anchored by your single-minded commitment to God" [James 1:5-6 VOICE]. God has been, God is, and God will be faithful.
Perhaps you are on the verge of making an impulsive decision. May I pre-emptively ask you as God has asked me? "Couldn't you have just waited?" I exhort you, before stomping on the accelerator and zipping into the turning lane, "First, seek the counsel of the Lord." Ask! "He won't see your lack of wisdom as an opportunity to scold you over your failures but he will overwhelm your failures with his generous grace" [TPT].
And what does "generous grace" look like? To me, it is the moment-by-moment fulfillment of His ever-present, guiding love. "I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don’t fall into the ditch. These are the things I’ll be doing for them - sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute” [Isaiah 42:16 MSG].
Beloved, there's blessing in the waiting. Peace, be still.
Not sure where to start? This simple declaration by Twila Paris called, I Will Wait, has equipped me with a vocabulary of intentionality to, "first, seek the counsel of the Lord." Why not listen to it now, expressing your heart to the One who loves to guide and direct you?
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