My favorite day of the week is Thursday.
I know, it's weird. Why not Friday. . . or Saturday. . . or, for goodness sake, Sunday?
Well, I will tell you. On Thursdays, I commute exactly 56 minutes each way to work. Early in my career I used to listen to music. Once I tired of the never-changing playlists on the radio (yes, this was waaaaaay before the invention of MP3 players), I switched to talk radio. That didn't last long, as I found it made me stressed, angry and paranoid about life and the world we live in, but that's another story for another day. . .
Fast forward to several years ago when I finally entered this century and received my very first iPod--courtesy of my early-adopter husband. A whole new world opened up for me--the beauty of podcasts! I have listened to thousands of these interesting, convicting, (and yes, sometimes boring) self-help lectures all wrapped up in fancy little Apple packaging. Thus began my weekly self-help pep talk along Highway 287, and the reason behind my love for Thursday.
This past Thursday was a particularly insightful drive for me. The Texas Panhandle woke to about 2 inches of fresh, dry, powdery snow. . . covering about 1/8 of an inch of zamboni-smoothed ice. Of course, being Thursday, it was my day to drive to my satellite practice 50 miles away. I dutifully bundled up and set out just a few minutes early to allow some extra time to get there.
I quickly realized that it was going to take me waaaaaay longer to get the 50 miles than it normally did--since I was not breaking any land speed records in my little front wheel drive Chevy. In fact, the simple 3 mile drive out of my neighborhood-in-the-middle-of-nowhere caused me significant stress at a meager 20 mph. I was able to pull over in a couple of spots to allow the much faster moving (insert "insane") motorists to pass. There were several places that I was unable to pull over, and could feel my blood pressure rise--along with the white knuckles--as other crazy 4-wheel drive wielding Texans tailgated me down the road.
Since I knew this was going to take a while, I put on one of my favorite automatically downloaded podcasts--Your Move, with Andy Stanley. I was a little annoyed to find that the latest installment was a repeat message that I had probably listened to at least 4 times in the previous year. It was a message titled "Comparison Trap--the Land of Er". However, at this point, the roads were really dicey, and both hands (not to mention, 100% of my attention) were needed to merely stay out of the bar ditch.
It's funny to me how God has such a unique way of getting my attention. Apparently, there was something in this message that I needed to hear again. So, dutifully, I decided to comply--more out of fear of death, auto damage, or the risk of having to hoof it several miles in 4 degree weather, than the actual realization that God might have something to teach me!
The message revolved around the centuries-long problem with contentment. Now, those of you that know me, know that I invest a significant amount of energy trying to teach my kids the art of contentment. It is a conversation that I regularly have with myself as well--thus the reason I had listened to said podcast 4 times in the past year! So, my natural inclination was "Sheesh! Really? Again? Haven't I learned this, already?!?
Anyway, as Andy began to speak, he referenced the book of Ecclesiastes. Seeing as how Solomon was, indeed, much, much wiser than I, I figured I should pay attention. Here are the verses that he referenced:
4. Then I realized that we work and do wonderful things just because we are jealous of others.
This makes no more sense than chasing the wind.
5. Fools will fold their hands
and starve to death.
6. Yet a very little food
eaten in peace
is better than twice as much
earned from overwork
and chasing the wind.
It was about this point in his sermon that I pulled onto Highway 287. I was the car in front. . . you know, the slow guy that is holding up all the other traffic? The roads were still a little icy. The outside temperature was now a balmy 1 degree, and we were just about to go across a series of bridges. For those of you that have driven in a Texas ice storm, you understand, it's the bridges that getcha. So, being the experienced driver that I am, I was taking it kinda slow--40 mph to be exact. There were a couple of trucks and several semi-trailers right behind me. I was starting to experience some anxiety from all the traffic stacking up. I don't know about you, but I'm the kind of personality that doesn't like being the slowest member of the herd--especially when that slowest member is keeping everyone else from going as fast as they would like.
I was very thankful when the road finally opened up into two fairly decent lanes. Slowly, all those trucks began to pass me. It was strangely freeing to slow down even more to grant them access. In just a few minutes, all the traffic was long-gone and down the road and I was all by myself again on Highway 287. I began to relax. The roads started to clear, and I was able to ramp it up to about 70 mph.
Still listening to Andy go on and on about contentment, he reached a point in his message where he was addressing "the comparison trap". Why are we so inclined to always be looking to our right and our left? Why are we always so worried about what others are doing? Why do we stress about keeping up with the Jones'?
That's when I saw it. . . the huge double-stacked tractor trailer in front of me. You know the one. . . that semi that has TWO trailers in tow. The guy that is bigger, heavier, and meaner than everyone else on the road. I began to slow, as the left hand lane had returned to a bit of an icy overlay. The right hand lane was still fairly clear, and certainly did not require the measly 55 mph that the huge mammoth beast in front was traveling. However, with no other options, I was resigned to camp out behind said behemoth. I was surprised to find that my blood pressure began to fall, my knuckles loosened their grip on the steering wheel, and my entire body began to relax. With nowhere to go, but straight ahead at 55 mph, behind the biggest guy on the road, life became inexplicably calmer.
By this time, the sermon was over and I had moved on to another. . . can't even remember what it was, because I had stopped listening and was instead mulling over the profound experience I had just had inside my own head. As I realized I was only going to be about 25 minutes late to work, and that my first patient had actually no-showed, life just seemed so much simpler.
I was able to read the following verses in Ecclesiastes later that day, and here's what they said:
7. Once again I saw that nothing on earth makes sense.
8. For example, some people don't have friends or family. But they are never satisfied with what they own, and they never stop working to get more. They should ask themselves, “Why am I always working to have more? Who will get what I leave behind?” What a senseless and miserable life!
9.You are better having a friend than to be all alone, because then you will get more enjoyment out of what you earn.
10. If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble.
11. If you sleep alone, you won't have anyone to keep you warm on a cold night.
12. Someone might be able to beat up one of you, but not both of you. As the saying goes, “A rope made from three strands of cord is hard to break.”
So, here was the take-home message to myself yesterday, and the Ah Ha Moment from 287:
1. Sometimes when you are being pushed down the road by people behind you, you are going faster than you should.
Translation: Don't let the world tell you how busy you need to be, how many accomplishments you need to make, how many sports your kids need to be involved in, and how many hours in the day you need to work in order to "keep up".
2. When you start to look to your right and your left at those that are going to pass you, you forget to pay attention to what is right in front of you.
Translation: Don't be so busy trying to outpace those that want to pass you, that you forget to enjoy the blessings of today.
3. Sometimes it's nice and relaxing to align yourself with someone bigger, stronger, and more capable.
Translation: That big double-stacked tractor trailer in front of me could have easily been traveling at a faster clip--he was bigger, heavier, and had A LOT more wheels on the road than the rest of us. However, he was confident, secure, and not in any hurry to get where he was going. It's good to be friends with those that are strong. Let me repeat Eccl 4:10 "If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble". I will add, sometimes your bigger and stronger friends keep you from doing stupid things--like driving too fast on icy roads!
4. Sometimes going too fast does not really get you to your destination with anything extra to show for your effort.
Translation: I was only 25 minutes late to work. My first patient had already cancelled. I didn't lose anything by being late, yet I gained my life, my sanity, all my fingers and toes, and an intact automobile.
So, in closing, I think the Eagles probably said it best in their song "Life In The Fast Lane"
Life in the fast lane
Surely make you lose your mind
Life in the fast lane, everything all the time
Life in the fast lane, uh huh
Blowin' and burnin', blinded by thirst
They didn't see the stop sign,
Took a turn for the worse
So, here's to staying out of life in the fast lane. . .
Wishing you a right-hand-lane kind of day!