Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Regaining Momentum

Dealing With Life's Detours

The year was 1979. I was seventeen and my family had recently moved to Bradenton, FL, where my father had accepted the call to pastor First Baptist Church. We had left friends, family, home and schools behind in Lithia Springs, Georgia. In an effort to cure some of my loneliness, mom invited Scott, my best friend, down to stay with us for a few weeks over the summer. The unparalleled adventures we shared growing up in Georgia now turned a new chapter!

Scott decided to get a job at Chi-Fil-A at the mall. This was mutually beneficial, as it provided him with a paycheck and the both of us food. I picked him up after work one afternoon. The plan was to hurry home, grab the poles and go fishing. I decided to take a shortcut on some dirt roads behind a golf-course to avoid the afternoon traffic. What I didn't know was in Florida's coastal towns, most 'dirt' is sand. Sand that, during the dry season, you can hardly walk on, much less drive a car on. I promptly buried my '68 Buick Special all the way to the doors in a sand-trap.

Fishing now completely out of the picture, we walked to some nearby apartments, used a phone, called a tow-truck, and went back to wait with the car, dejected at the turn of events. The tow truck arrived, backed-up to our car, and promptly sank to the top of its wheel-wells! We just gaped at the driver, who gaped back at us, and then said some not-so-nice things. A 4x4 came along and tried to help, only to become yet another member of the "Mired In A Sand Dune" club. Finally, after 3 hours we were all freed, thanks to the efforts of a tow-truck designed to rescue and tow semi-tractors! This vehicle was huge! We laughed as it backed right up to each vehicle in turn, and pulled them right out. Sure, it sank a couple of feet into the sand each time, but when you have a 4-5' wheel-span, it doesn't really matter. We were even able to get a couple of hours of fishing in before dark!

Looking back on that experience, I realize how fortunate we were, and how the Lord protected us. The lesson is not lost on me, either. Sure, we were driving a less-traveled road, but we had no idea that the lack of rain combined with the traffic had rendered the road impassable. I'll never forget the sensation of that car slowly stopping, wheels spinning; having to climb out the windows, because we couldn't get the doors open; looking at our predicament with that sinking "what-do-we-do-now?" feeling; then bursting into hysterical laughter, because we were young, best friends, had no cares, and loved life! The confidence of youth blew worries out the window. We were engaged together in yet another famous "Mark and Scott" adventure (these were notorious among our friends in Georgia)!

Scott and I have grown up and apart (although we do run into each other occasionally on Facebook), discovering along the way - as well all do - that life's unexpected 'sand traps' aren't usually fun or adventurous. In fact, they can be exceptionally challenging and deeply painful. If we're not careful, we can find ourselves as stuck as my old Buick was, bemoaning the circumstances, the failure, the loss of time, relationship and life's momentum. We might have even pulled others in with us, and now we're all stuck, trying to figure out how to get out of the mess we're in (these situations can be particularly tricky and vicious, due to the human tendency to be unforgiving). Most of the time these 'sand pits' are our own doing. We've made them ourselves, ignoring the danger signs along the way! We've totally ignored the warning in proverbs, "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."

All of us at one time or another have taken a wrong turn; done or said something we deeply regret and desperately wish we could take back. We long for a new beginning, a fresh start, but discover these opportunities are rare, and more times than not we are forced to 'lie in the bed we've made.' We tend to see these times as negative, frustrating, and discouraging, when in fact they are wonderful opportunities, if we'll take the time to see things from God's perspective! This is what He says: "For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His." (II Chronicles 16:9); "For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 29:11-14a)

The older I get, the thing I have come to most greatly value (and what I find I lack the most, many times) is perspective. Few have the ability to consistently see beneath the surface of things and anticipate what might lie ahead. We are limited by our knowledge, our experience, our values and our culture. We develop 'filters' through which we evaluate our circumstances and the actions of those around us; trying to discern how we 'fit', in order to create as much security for ourselves as possible. The problem is, these 'filters' tend to focus our minds on ourselves, when our thoughts should be centered on the Father, the Creator, the One who loves us most and knows us best. It's for this reason that we must constantly immerse ourselves in His Truth. It's the one best way to avoid life's 'sand traps'.

The next time you're 'stuck', do yourself and those around you a huge favor: run to the One who made and redeemed you. Seek after Him, get to know Him and His purposes. Spend time reading what He has to say to's all right there in the Bible! Learn to trust Him. He owns the largest tow-truck ever made.

Love In Christ,


Samuel John Gietzen said...

Great post Pastor Mark >> I enjoyed the story!

'Perspective' is definitely an area I lack, usually. Too many times I catch myself focusing and desiring temporal things - the things of this world - when, in fact, this world has nothing for me. I need to focus, not on the things of this world, but on the things to come - eternal things - Heavenly things - Godly things. When our focus is on Christ (immersing ourselves in His Truth, as you said), His precise instuction leads us around / through the 'potholes' and 'sand-pits' of life.

Thank you for this reminder - I could use it daily!

In Christ,

Saved by Grace

Rebekah said...

I enjoyed this one too, dad. Thanks a lot :). I am glad you can be my father even when you aren't with me. :p