Stoplights and Country Drivers

If the Cloud stayed above the Tabernacle two days, a month, or a year, that is how long the people of Israel stayed; but as soon as it moved, they moved. –Numbers 9:22 (TLB)

I’ve been driving for almost 50 years, and I confess I’ve turned into a country driver.

I prefer sharing the road with just a few vehicles, preferably not slow pokes or those prone to road rage or who are clueless about using turn signals and turning on their headlights in certain conditions. I tolerate the occasional horse and buggy in my lane and watch for country critters crossing unexpectedly in front of me at night. When I’m driving the interstate, I set my cruise control to 10 miles under the speed limit so all the other traffic will breeze right by me.

I like having the road to myself, and, living in the country a dozen miles from the nearest town, most of the time I do.

I don’t do city driving. One time coming home from the Pittsburgh airport, I drove more than an hour out of my way, taking the long way around rather than drive through the city.

Back when one of my children was young, I had to take him to regular appointments with a doctor whose office was in Oakland. Those were the days before GPS, but I knew my exit, which wasn’t very far into the metropolis, and the doctor’s office was just a few blocks from there. I knew my way out, too.

One time, however, I got lost. Apparently I made a wrong turn and ended up by the University of Pittsburgh campus. When I recognized the Cathedral of Learning, I knew I was in trouble. My son, who heard the quiver in my voice, said, “Mom, don’t cry. Please don’t cry.”

I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to! Instead I stopped and asked someone on the street for directions. The way back to my regular route wasn’t far, and the directions were thankfully simple. We made it home without me having a meltdown.

At Bible study last week, we were discussing driving in city traffic. Carla, the hostess, told us about a time when she was stopped at a red light in the city, and her Aunt Alice, noticing her angst, said, “When you get to a red light, it’s time to get your bearings.”

What wisdom! And not only for driving in city traffic but also for navigating life’s roads.

There are times the Good Lord puts a red light in front of us so we can get our bearings. But instead of being thankful, we grumble and whine and complain. We don’t like being slowed down or stopped on the way to where we’re going. And we’re always in such a hurry.

God led the Israelites through the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When it moved, they moved. When it stopped, they stopped—no matter how long the stop was.

Although He doesn’t use the cloud-and-fire method these days, God still does direct us—if we’re paying attention and if we’re willing to follow His leading. Sometimes the stop is longer than we want—indeed sometimes we don’t even want to stop.

Are you stopped at a red light today? Thank God and remember: He knows the way and He knows when to move forward and when we need time to get our bearings.

Thank you, Father, for the stoplights of life that help me to get my bearings. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Exodus 13:21–22Numbers 9:15–23

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