Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3
At first it seemed unfair but then, there it was, conspiracy. There is a lot of talk today about conspiracy schemes. When and whatever happens there is someone who will say there is a dark diabolical reason for it happening. I wasn’t sure about it until it happened to me. Yes, there was a conspiracy.
As you may remember, my wife and I were able to attend a pastor’s conference in North Carolina. It was so good to pack a few things, jump into our 44 mpg Jetta and hit the road. Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” was ringing in my ears. We cruised across Tennessee and were heading toward North Carolina when it happened. About five miles from the border, our GPS talky thing said, in her most gentle voice, “traffic ahead.” Well, it wasn’t like we were in Chicago or something so that could only mean trouble.
Soon, very soon, trouble was staring me in the face. Brake-lights and slowing vehicles were everywhere. We were in a slowdown—we were in—traffic. Signage and the talky thing confirmed my worse fears—there was construction ahead. Now you need to know something. First, I am not patient in traffic. Ok, that wasn’t totally transparent. I am totally impatient in traffic. In fact, I’m not patient period. Whether it be in traffic or at the store, I am changing lanes like a one-armed paperhanger looking for the shortest and fastest lane. The Bible says we are fearfully and wonderfully made but I must have missed the patience part.
Have you ever been driving and the traffic going in the opposite direction is stopped and you are feeling sorry for them? Well, I was the one stopped and I could just feel the empathy of the other drivers. It turned out to be about a 45 minute stop and go. The amazing part was I did pretty good. Judy was beaming at my surprising patience. I even said, “Well, at least going home we won’t have to deal with this.” Soon (though not soon enough) we were through the construction—we were on our way. Hit the fast forward button.
That was Wednesday. Too quickly the days of the conference went by and in no time it was time to go home. After the conference ended at noon we jumped into our 44 mpg Jetta and hit the road toward home. Willie was once again whirling around in my head singing “On the Road Again.” We were nearing the site of Wednesday’s lesson in patience feeling confident and glad that we were heading in the other direction. And then it happened. The GPS talky thing mentioned traffic, 14 miles per hour, and delays. Wait. What? We were not supposed to have to deal with this. And that is when I knew there was a conspiracy. They had changed sides.
Here’s how I think it played out. The North Carolina Department of Transportation called the conference center, asked when I was leaving and then quickly moved the construction to the West bound side so they could get me again. I am sure of it. So, another slowdown, another wait in traffic, but this time they were merciful since it was only 27 minutes and 14 seconds. Oh yes, I was counting. And the people going East, they were zooming by with looks of mercy for those of us stuck. It just wasn’t fair.
I know the Bible well enough to know that you don’t pray for patience. That is one prayer you won’t hear passing through my lips. Pray for patience and you end up with traffic. Pray for patience and you end up locked in your house with three kids for three months. So I get that. But there is a pesky couple of verses found in James 1:2-3 that say, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” I really like the Bible but I really don’t like those verses.
Of all the emotions I feel when I am sitting in traffic, joy is not the one that comes to mind—and especially not great joy. But then I read verse 3 and it gives me pause. James says I should appreciate the moments in traffic because it helps me to grow. It helps me to be a better person. It helps me be stronger—it builds endurance. Like lifting weights at the gym strengthens muscles-—so trying situations strengthens our faith in God. Which means part of this whole pandemic deal might be to make us stronger in our faith. Hmmmm. Well, in the end I did pretty good through traffic lesson number two and we managed to get home that evening just about on time. Truth be known…God was good, God was faithful and even in traffic, God can be trusted. No matter what, He has my good at His heart. He wants me to thrive in this world and not just survive. And that means sometimes learning patience sitting in traffic. As you travel today wherever and however that looks, just know God is the traffic manger of your life. Just sit back, enjoy the pause and rest in Him. He’s got this. Honk, Honk.