Changing Lanes: Steering towards God’s Peace
Changing Lanes: Steering towards God’s Peace
We recently moved my daughter to her new job. The drive covering 228 miles took about 4 hours each way. As I drove the rental truck, I was struck by the sheer volume of traffic on the road. I noticed how people drove, and wondered how many times I had done the same.
I think that it is safe to say that many drivers consider the posted “Speed Limit” as a suggestion, driving well above the posted sign. Some people were on their cellphones, others tried to read and respond to text message, and others were visibly upset screaming and yelling at the slow-moving traffic, even the Express Lanes offered no relief.
In our fast-paced environment, results are expected immediately, social psychologists call this instant gratification. Basically, it means that when we want something, we want it now.
There may be no better example than when we get behind the wheel of our cars. Perhaps unrealistically, we want the roads to be clear. We expect people to use turn signals, stop or yield as designated by the signs. We want to allow traffic to use merge, to make room for emergency vehicles, and perhaps even demonstrate some common courtesies; yet this is hardly the norm. Often when the gratification is delayed, or the results that we want or expect aren’t achieved; anxiety, disillusionment, depression, anger and rage may creep in.
According to a report by The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 80 percent of American drivers engage in acts of road rage, ranging from non-verbal gestures, to purposely tailgating, to yelling, to ramming other vehicles, to shooting at other motorists. The report states that approximately eight million U.S. drivers engaged in extreme incidents of road rage in 2015.
The survey shows that people believe road rage is usually the result of triggers like feeling rushed, speeding, or being in traffic. We are influenced, and perhaps even conditioned, by our responses to the triggers that arouse anger and rage.
In the midst of tremendous societal and technological advances we seem to have lost our “civility.” When someone tailgates, we may want to get back at them or to “teach them a lesson.” We may find ourselves slowing down or speeding up so that they can’t get around us. We may honk our horn or yell at them, and in some instances even death has resulted from this form of rage. Yet, in the split second before we respond, God calls us to “change lanes”; to choose a different perspective and behave differently. James 1:19-20 (VOICE) reminds us to:
“Listen, open your ears, harness your desire to speak, and don’t get worked up into a rage so easily, my brothers and sisters. Human anger is a futile exercise that will never produce God’s kind of justice in this world.”
Sometimes, it appears that people use their circumstances to justify their behaviors; when it is their behaviors that often drives their circumstances. I have a cross-stitch that my wife made for me that, for many years, hung in my small group room, and in my office. It is a simple reminder that reads:
“The behaviors I choose affect the outcomes I experience.”
Despite all the conditions that may steer us toward rage and incivility, it is our choices that drive how we respond, and ultimately how we will be judged. The challenge is usually how should we respond. Ephesians 4: 31 tells us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.” Leading like Jesus, calls us to respond in love.
Consider for a moment the case of the Apostle Paul, who while imprisoned in a Roman jail, wrote “I am being held in prison because of working for the Lord. I ask you from my heart to live and work the way the Lord expected you to live and work. Live and work without pride. Be gentle and kind. Do not be hard on others. Let love keep you from doing that. Work hard to live together as one by the help of the Holy Spirit. Then there will be peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3, NLV).
If Paul could have this perspective from prison, surely, we can strive to have it while imprisoned in traffic, in the office or anywhere else. We don’t know the circumstances, or the life story, of others. We can’t anticipate their behaviors or responses but we can control our responses.
We can choose to “change lanes”. Changing lanes, whether driving or changing our behaviors, isn’t easy. It often requires sacrifice. What can we do to change lanes?
Challenge: For the next 2 weeks try these simple steps. You should feel free to add or change them to what works best for you.
- Begin by changing your perspective. Stop being angry. Turn away from fighting. Do not trouble yourself. It leads only to wrong-doing (Psalm 37:8, NLV).
- Give yourself some extra time. An extra 5 minutes can reduce your level of stress.
- Remove yourself from the situation. Jesus was a great lane changer. When He returned to Galilee and was confronted by a furious crowd at the synagogue bent of throwing him off the cliff. He simply walked right through the crowd and went his own way (Luke 4:14-30).
- We can use kinder words, be less critical, and extend grace. Remember, “A tender answer turns away rage, but a prickly reply spikes anger. (Proverbs 15:1, VOICE).
- Most importantly, before you get behind the wheel or confront the situation. take time to talk to God in prayer. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT).