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Mar 18, 2021 08:00am
Grace: Lessons From a Road Trip
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About a month ago, my wife and I took a “road trip” vacation. It was the first time we have ever taken a trip that was focused more on the journey than on a specific destination. We drove around the state of Florida spending the night in a different town each evening. We drove the backroads and explored as we went. It turned out to be a great vacation and I would recommend that anyone give that type of trip a try at some point.

The greatest thing about this trip was seeing so many places and things that we had never seen before and would not have seen if we were just headed to a destination. The worst thing was sometimes finding ourselves in totally unfamiliar locations where even the road signs and GPS left us a little unsure of which way to go. And that uncertainty was really unnerving and frustrating.

By far, the worst of these episodes was getting lost in downtown Miami. We must have circled around for a couple of hours- sometimes passing the same place a dozen times. I am convinced that there are people who have gotten lost there and were never heard from again. Perhaps that explains what happened to Jimmy Hoffa. Maybe he has been lost in downtown Miami for the last 46 years!

Adding to the frustration was the horn blowing of people behind us as we slowed to find our way. I failed miserably at following the instructions of the Apostle James to be “slow to anger”. In fact, their horn blowing was completely counterproductive because every time they blew the horn, I slowed down even more. 

And the cycle continued.

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

Surely those people noticed my out-of-state tag and certainly it should have been pretty obvious that we were trying to navigate unfamiliar territory. But just as surely, they didn’t care. They were only concerned about a few seconds of inconvenience to themselves.

And so it goes every day in one way or another.

Every day, each of us is navigating a day that we have never lived before. Many days are fairly routine. We navigate them without much hesitation. But there are plenty of them that slow or stop us in our tracks. We find ourselves in unnerving and frustrating situations. We may even find ourselves lost to the point where no road sign or GPS seems to be of any help.

And for some, that reality is constant. They find themselves living lives with no sense of direction. Each day, they are trying to navigate circumstances that are overwhelming. At times, they feel hopelessly lost. They struggle to just make it through another day.

And all too often, the “horn blowing” continues.

We don’t have time to be inconvenienced, so we just blow the horn of impatience, criticism, or judgment.

We don’t take time to notice the signs that someone might be struggling. And if we do notice, how often do we back off of our impatience, criticism, and judgement long enough to show some measure of compassion. After all, it’s not our fault that they got themselves lost. We might feel compassion but there is a world of difference in feeling compassion and showing compassion. 

And our impatience, criticism, and judgment does absolutely nothing to help. 

In fact it often just adds anger and resentment to the list of emotions that they are already struggling with.

And again, the cycle continues.

INTENTION MATTERS

Allow me to detour just a moment. There are circumstances were “horn blowing” is appropriate.

If we are trying to warn someone of danger ahead, blow the horn. And if that danger is urgent, impatience may be warranted. Certainly, criticism done in a loving way can be constructive. And carefully expressing our judgement on certain situations may be helpful.

If the “horn blowing” is dictated by a love for others, it can be beneficial.

But if it is self-focused, it is not proper. It does not help. In fact, it is just plain wrong!

I could quote you verse after verse from the Bible that, I think, back up that statement. But there is one instruction found in Colossians that packs the biggest punch for me. I think that it is perhaps one of the most ignored but most needed verses of our time. It is a verse that changes everything:

“Make allowance for each others’ faults—” (Colossians 3:13)

For a Christian, this is not a suggestion – it is an instruction. 

For the rest of us, it is wise counsel if we really want a better world. 

If this one attitude could become predominant in every situation and relationship, we would see a dramatic positive change in our world. Its impact on marriages, families, friendships, churches, politics, workplaces and everywhere else would be staggering. 

This instruction is not meant to excuse inappropriate behavior or dismiss accountability and consequences. But it is meant to recognize that there must always be room for grace in our hearts, minds, and attitudes. That is the message of Jesus. That is the model of Jesus.

Things rarely improve where grace doesn’t make the first move.

So how do we do that? 

SOME TRAVEL TIPS

Well, first it will take each of us seeking God’s help and a lot of practice. Perhaps these four points might be helpful:

# 1 Accept the truth that grace made the first move in our lives with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Until we understand and accept that, our attempts at extending grace will be feeble at best. We cannot give something that we have not received. And the message of this Easter season is that this grace is available for each of us. But we must acknowledge and accept it. Please don’t let Easter come and go without knowing that you have placed your faith in the amazing grace of Christ as your Savior.

# 2 Actively practice being alert and aware of the needs around us. Just as my out-of-state tag should have indicated to people that I was struggling to find my way in unfamiliar territory, there are very often signs that others are struggling in some way. But we have to intentionally pay attention. 

 # 3 Once we become aware of a struggle or need, we must practice the act of showing compassion. Compassion felt but not acted on is dead compassion. My go-to line is simply “Is there any way that I can be of help to you?” Jesus often initiated acts of compassion with similar questions, so I just go with his example.

 # 4 Actively practice making grace the first move in every situation. Stop the “horn blowing” both literally and figuratively.

“Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13)

A PRIVATE CONVERSATION

“Lord, are you saying that I should make allowances for and forgive that horn-blowing jerk behind me”

“Yep.”

“Well, OK—- I think I’ll start by slowing down some more so that I can concentrate better on praying for him as I drive. I’m sure that will be appreciated.”

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