Keep Your Eyes On The Road

Standing there on the side of the road with the car door open, I wondered if anyone recognized me. I questioned if anyone saw the Longhorn emblem on the back of my car or noted my jeans for “free dress Friday” at work and assumed I was some irresponsible college kid. People often assumed I was younger than I was, even in professional attire and it wouldn’t be the first time I had been mistaken for a student. But, this time was different. I didn’t feel the subtle hint of pride (mixed with a tiny drop of vanity) that came from telling people my real age and watching the surprisingly refreshing shock spread across their faces. No. Instead, I felt the opposite. I felt shame… and guilt.. and like a major screw up. I wanted so badly to project a different image, to hide my embarrassment. As the cars whizzed by, I silently screamed “I’m responsible! I’m a career woman who has her life together!” But, I felt far from that. With the passing of each vehicle, I felt a dark cloud of judgement build over me. In hindsight, I’m sure it was purely my own insecurities, but in the moment, the feeling was more real than the actual thud of crumpling metal I’d heard just seconds prior.

Let me backup. A few weeks ago, I was in a car accident. I guess the more truthful way to put it would be that I caused an accident. I was headed to work and decided to deviate a little from our normal routine to surprise my daughter by stopping to get donuts. Oh, donuts! We pulled out of the drive thru, me with a hot caramel latte in the cupholder and a small bag of donuts nestled safely in the passenger seat, to be consumed once I got to work. My 2 year old in the backseat watching Annie with a bag of donut holes in her lap. It was going to be a great day. We were not even 2 minutes away from the donut shop when she shrieked. I immediately jerked around to see what had happened and heard her cry out “my donut! I dropped my donut!” Frustrated, I yelled a hurried “you know mommy can’t deal with that while she’s driving” and quickly whipped my head back around. The whole conversation had only taken a literal 2-3 seconds and traffic was moving, but somehow at the moment in which I turned around the cars in front of me had come to a halting, complete and total stop. Peering into the backseat of the other car, which at this point was a mere 3 feet ahead of me, I slammed on the brakes. The wheels stopped but, my car proceeded to skid the remaining distance  directly into the car in front of me. What happened next seemed to have occurred in slow motion. First, the impact. Then, as if my car were made of rubber (or maybe it was the impact of that car hitting the car in front of him) we bounced back with equal force.

At this point, I was shook. My child was screaming, the donuts holes had made their way to the front seat along with several other items from the back on the car, and my coffee was leaking out the side of the cup. I was mortified. After assessing the damage, talking with police, EMTs, etc. I realized that more than being scared, I felt shame, guilt, and embarrassment. I felt condemnation. Right after the collision and making sure my toddler was okay, my mind had immediately went to guilt. “I’m sure I’ve ruined these peoples cars and their day”, “they’re going to be late to work because of me”, “I bet they think I’m some irresponsible teen mom who was texting and driving”. At the end of the day, everyone walked away from the accident (me with a ticket as the proverbial cherry on top). But, the perspective that I gleaned from the experience, would later prove invaluable. At the time I only felt negative emotions and inconvenience. However, I have realized in other points of my life, that I always need to look for the lesson or takeaway in negative experiences. So, a few days later, when the adrenaline had worn off and life was going back to normal, I sat down and asked myself: “What can I learn from this? What parts of my life can I compare this situation to? How can I use this to prune my character and grow? How can I make this experience useful?”

How often do we experience, or cause, car accidents in our walk with God? We do or say the wrong thing. Interpret something the Holy Spirit is telling us incorrectly. We make moves before we’ve been instructed to do so and the list goes on. While, sometimes it only results in a slight fender bender to our own hoopty, other times the implications can be much more grave, causing major pile ups and irreparable damage in our own lives and the lives of others. Sometimes, we’re not actually to blame, we’re merely the third car in the front, impacted by the residual force of someone else’s collision. But, we still end up with damage, nonetheless. How about the times that we choose to divert our eyes from Him, even if only for a second, only to be smacked in the face with some of life’s toughest struggles? Life happens quickly. If we’re not careful and we get even the slightest bit comfortable focusing on what’s going on in the backseat, we can potentially end up in life-threatening situations. Succumbing to temptation, gratifying our flesh, and giving other things priority over spending time with God are all ways in which we look into the backseat. We glance back at the old us, even if for a brief second, and it causes us to forget that we have been made new.

When we mess up, whether by intentionally walking into sin or accidentally stumbling upon bad situations the difference in how we move forward is whether we feel conviction or condemnation. When we remember that an all-knowing God chose to love us in spite of everything we’ve done or will do, we know that we no longer need to feel shame when we mess up. He wants us to feel a conviction that compels us to drawer nearer to Him, so that He can grow us and empower us with the strength to navigate life without repeating our mistakes. But, he doesn’t want us to feel ashamed. When Adam and Eve messed up, they felt so much shame that they ran and hid. But, would the story have been different had they taken their sin to God and asked Him to forgive and help them? Anytime we hide from God, all it does is allow us to sink further into our sin. We begin to feel like, well, I’ve already messed up so I may as well keep sinning because at least it feels good and I’m sure God is already mad at me. But, that can’t be further from the truth. God loves us compassionately and unconditionally. We cannot equate God’s love for us, with the measure of our capacity to love others. His love supersedes anything we could ever imagine, yet we consistently try to limit Him to our frail, human standards.

There are two takeaways here. First, we must keep our eyes on Jesus. We must not succumb to life’s distractions or donuts on the floor. We can use the rearview mirror to glance at our past, but we should not turn back to it and give our attention to what has transpired in the backseat of our destiny. He requires our full attention, wholeheartedly, all the time.  Secondly, when we do mistakenly divert our attention and end up in error, that is when we must run the hardest back into His arms and let our conviction compel us to live to obey Him. We must not fall prey to the spirit of condemnation which only serves to drive us out of His presence in shame.

I learned some things that day and the more mature I’ve gotten in my walk of faith, I am continuously learning more about me and more about Him. I’ve learned not to take my eyes off the Prize. I’ve learned that though I lack patience, some things can wait. I’ve learned that gratifying our flesh puts us in harm’s way. I’ve learned that sin is not worth it. I’ve learned that conviction draws us closer to God and to keeping His precepts, but shame and condemnation push us further away from Him. It is my prayer that you will learn these things, too.

Keep your eyes on the road.

Deuteronomy 2:27, Joshua 1:7, Joshua 23:6


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