I had a dream the other night that I was racing up and down a twisty mountain road, fishtailing around turns, careening left and right, losing control and nearly crashing over and over. The drive went on and on, left, right, left again, up, up, up, then down at breakneck speed. I was the driver but I wasn’t driving; I was the car being pushed and pulled along the road by an unseen hand. I was scared. Scared of wrecking, scared that I couldn’t gain control of the car. I wanted to be anywhere but on that road. I woke up wishing I could straightened the road.
The dream represented my life.
I am totally out of control, and it’s terrifying. I’m veering from one shoulder to the other, living from paycheck to paycheck, trying to support my family. I lie awake at night wondering what my purpose in life is, quaking at the thought that I’ll never discover it. I’m trying to live up to all sorts of professional, religious, spiritual, and familial expectations and responsibilities. I’m waiting for the phone to ring and get the great news that another company wants to hire me. I’m judging myself for my bad behavior and my poor Christian witness at work.
To wake up wishing I could “straighten the road” is at the same time both understandable and totally unnatural. The road is my life. Life is not a straight, smooth road. Life is a road full of blind turns, danger, and potholes. Wanting to “straighten the road” is like wanting to skip life, and I’ve recently perceived in much greater intensity and detail my eagerness to skip life, both in the past and the present.
It’s the way I’m always looking forward to a “better” job, a “better” life, a “better” house, a “better” car, “better” behaved kids, a “better” night’s sleep. It’s the way I try to maintain the Evangelical Christian’s kindergarten understanding of God, trying to use Him to “straighten” out my life, to transform me. It’s the way I refuse to stay in the moment and suffer, the way I refuse to sit with Jesus in my sin, the way I try to have Him change me so that I’ll be worthy of Him.
Pause for a moment…
I want you to try something. Hold your hands up in front of you, pinch your thumb and forefinger together on each hand as if you were tying your shoelaces, and hold one hand about an inch or two above the other. Now imagine each set of pinched fingers is holding the end of a string suspended in the air, and that the string wends back and forth like windiest road you’ve ever seen. Come to the realization that the string you’re holding is your life, with whatever troubles, challenges, and complications you’re facing. Pull your hands apart and say aloud, “straightening my road.”
Every effort you make to fix or escape your life through entertainment, distraction, exercise, work, religion, spirituality, self-help or drugs (prescription or otherwise) is an attempt to “straighten your road”. And “straightening your road” doesn’t work because it’s a denial of your basic human condition. When you try to “straighten your road” you’re trying to stop being human. But there is another way.
The New Testament talks about the ability to rejoice with plenty or with little, in good times and in bad. I believe this ability is given to us by God through His Son Jesus Christ, but it’s not achieved by getting high on Jesus, by hiding from our pain behind Jesus, or by using Jesus like a Band-Aid over our wounds. God gives us the ability to rejoice in good times and bad, to stay present with each other in the moment regardless of our sins (past, present, or future) through the recognition that we are loved and are blessed to be alive. In Him we live and move and have our being, the good and the bad, in sinfulness and holiness, and that recognition is a tremendous blessing we miss out on when we focus exclusively on Christ’s return, when we try to get high on praise and worship music, or when we hide ourselves from God in the midst of our sins.
I’ll close with this piece of advice: Stop trying to “straighten the road.”
I felt something profound recently, you could almost call it another vision, and it was brought on by a willingness to look at and accept everything in my life without trying to label it or categorize it. I accepted reality, I allowed my life to “be” without trying to judge it. In those few brief hours when I stopped trying to “straighten my road” I can honestly say that I felt more alive, more of an active participant in this world, than I ever have before. I hope you can experience that feeling someday.