Parable of the Freeway
"The crown of life is neither happiness nor annihilation; it is understanding. These are the moments of revelation which compensate for the chaos, the discomfort, the toil of living...These are the moments in which all the disorder of life assumes a pattern. We see; we understand; and immediately the intolerable burden becomes tolerable…"
— Winifred Houltby, Virginia Woolf: A Critical Memoir (1932)
I want to share an insight and parable with you from several years ago that seems very timely right now as we think about moving forward on creating loving changes in our lives.
As we returned from the airport at the end of the holidays in 2008, we noticed the oncoming I-75 traffic had stopped. The lanes were completely empty. Our direction of traffic continued to move along, then slowed. Then stopped. Still, there was no traffic coming toward us.
We thought there might be an accident, so we held our breath at what we might see. When we arrived at the “scene,” there was a sweeping machine cleaning up large chunks of aggregate from the road, apparently dumped by a truck. It would have been deadly to leave it untended. Then we saw the very, very long line of vehicles waiting, completely stopped. Cars, trucks, motorcycles all lined up for miles upon miles.
I thought, “If I was one of those people waiting two miles back, sitting blind with no idea why I was being asked to wait, I would be so frustrated.” That’s when it dawned on me:
THIS IS JUST LIKE WAITING FOR GOD.
We set an intention, a desire we want to manifest—say, getting to Naples on I-75. We take some steps toward it and things seem to be moving along nicely. Then, WHAM! All the momentum comes to a standstill. We are stopped cold. And just like the people in line on the freeway, we have no idea why, what the hold-up is, what has stopped us. We say things like, “It’s meant to be,” or “Everything is in right order,” but secretly we fume and are impatient.
And then, just like the traffic on I-75, things start moving again. We arrive at our destination, never knowing what safety hazard or interweaving of events was responsible for the delay. In fact, there is nothing to see. The mess is all clear when we arrive. We may not even know where the problem was. In puzzlement we shake our heads and go on.
To be patient is often a great challenge, but in this one scene we understand some of the big picture interplay that we never see, all making our lives more safe, more enjoyable and, in the long run, more successful.
There are things we control and things we don’t. The things we control are about us: what we want, what we need, and how to change ourselves to get them. The rest is up to a very large Divine order beyond our understanding. Perhaps waiting for God is the least we can do when the job is so big!