Heads-Down at a Green Light

In the era before we could look up the birthdays of famous people or purchase Hello Kitty collectibles while driving, I recall people were a lot less patient while waiting at stop lights. “Dang it, I have places I want to go!” seemed to be the prevailing attitude; one could often observe cars lightly rocking forward as the lead driver released tension on the brake every so often in heated anticipation of the light turning green.

The Open RoadThose days appear to be long gone.

Doubtless by now you have noticed that more and more people seem entirely disinterested in what color is being displayed by the traffic light that initially brought their vehicle to a stop. Instead, yesteryear’s Galling Delay of Transit has been transformed into the Serendipitous Mobile Office. So busy have we become answering our e-mail, keeping up with the latest news or passing on amusing one-liners that we routinely lose sight of what brought about the unexpected opportunity to multitask in the first place. The light turns green. We sit still and try to outbid some guy in Reno for a Boba Fett action figure.

Depending on the day, how much sleep I got the night before and the list of tasks in front of me, I can be by turns both amused and seriously annoyed at the person in front of me holding up traffic to update his Facebook status or send someone a text message of “Ssssup?” Over time, though, I have become progressively less angry and actually begun playing games in my head when I encounter this all-too-familiar phenomena. Sometimes I will sit silently and play “Who Will Get Audibly Angry First?” in my head, placing bets on the Good Ole Boy in the rusty pickup truck or (more likely) the Serious Lawyer Guy in the BMW. Other times, I just smile, give a politely-brief BEEP on my horn and wave kindly to the offender, effectively masking my true feelings.

As the sanctification of my soul has allowed this silly American pastime to morph its impact from infuriating to ironic to humorous, it occurred to me that those of us who persist in sitting still at green traffic lights – myself included, to be fair! – provide a rich word picture for what I have found to be true for most of my years as a Christian believer growing in grace.

It is my settled belief that when I stand before the throne of God and give account for my life, I won’t be able to stop 1) laughing, or 2) throwing up. Scripture tells me that being covered in the blood of Christ will ensure that there is far more of the former rather than the latter.

If the Christian life can be favorably compared to a pleasant drive, filled with amazing scenery and beautiful memories, it seems as though I still spend far too much time focused in on the small, temporal aspects of life than I do on the vista that God alone can offer. Jesus is beckoning me to follow him down a scenic highway filled with ever-increasing delights, but I’m perfectly content to remain at the stop light playing Angry Birds.

Because I attend church at The Crossing, it’s pretty much mandatory that I have read several books by C.S. Lewis. It was Lewis who finally threw the breaker in my head and heart that God used to help me understand how small and insignificant my desires really were. Money? It can all be taken from you overnight. Fame? I dare you to find a more capricious mistress than that of Public Approval. Sex? Like any good addiction, it only offers momentary pleasure and The Law of Diminishing Returns is especially cruel in this realm. Being able to see in advance that the road you are on will never truly satisfy is itself a gift from God, a road flare that helps signal Bridge Out Ahead.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

So it was Lewis who helped me put words and biblical ideas around the hole in my heart that could never be filled. Later on, it was John Piper who helped validate that empty feeling I always had by making the simple observation that Augustine had voiced centuries earlier; the longings of my heart are far too big and far too outrageous for anything in this world to satisfy them. If you are tempted to question the truth of these statements, simply observe the lives of those who have entirely given themselves over to worldly passions; what is their manner of living and do they seem truly at rest? “Play every tape to the end” and pay closer attention to where your road is leading. Do you even want to go there? Why?

I can think of no more open road than that of the Christian, the one who has been forgiven much and trusted with much. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Master, He gives us the keys to our authentic selves, the Authentic You that was carefully woven together in the depths of the earth before time began (Psalm 139). We are encouraged to floor it, to see what can be accomplished with this vehicle we have been given, and to do so with our eyes set firmly on the horizon.

Jesus gives us lots of green lights. Because the world and its ways are passing away, He has freed us to lift up our eyes and look toward The Great Day when suffering will be no more, when we will rule over angels and be glorious as we reflect His glory. While we do need to pause and care for our corner of the world from time to time, it should never become our dominating focus. I’m convinced that Christ has given me an open road and a powerful muscle car, yet I still often live my life like I’m stopped at a red light in an old Yugo. Lord, open our eyes to Your great calling and marvelous provision.

Almighty God
To You all hearts are open
We long for more
Than what this world provides
No shallow spring
Will ever satisfy us
But Your river deep
Floods over everything
“Almighty God” by Leslie Jordan, David Leonard and Sandra McCracken

Psalm 73:25-26 (ESV)
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

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