During our recent backpacking trip through parts of Europe, an interesting thing happened. We were walking around a city square in Ghent, Belgium one workday afternoon, and we saw a child running from the middle of the square toward the busy, crowded street. He must have been about two years old, and it caused us alarm because nobody wants to see a kid to go running into a dangerous situation packed with oncoming cars and buses and trams. I was like, whoa, what the heck, this is not good! But then I saw another child – probably around six years old – moving fast towards him on his little bicycle, with wide-eyed fear plastered across his face. He was dressed in the same manner as the younger child, and so I am going to assume it was his older brother. And I watched that older brother stop his bicycle in front of us, put down the kickstand so it wouldn’t fall over, and then run hard to reach his little brother and grab his arm before he walked out into traffic.
What next ensued was surprising, but then not surprising. Despite the six-year old’s insistence, the two-year old refused to budge and move away from the street! He just sat down on the ground right at the curb, and threw a fit with screams and tears. But I watched the six year-old patiently stand by him, and did not raise his voice or get upset. He just attempted to gently kick him and nudge him towards the square, towards a safer place. And that helped a little – the little boy did move just a little bit away from the road, and kept doing so with every gentle nudge. Albeit with his arms crossed in disgust, a constant whine and whimper, and a frown on his face.
Rachel pointed out how this reminded her of how we are with God. It’s so true – I rarely know what is really best for me. And I often run in this direction, or that direction, in search of excitement, or purpose, or fulfillment. In fact, I get on these seemingly noble but still wild goose chases where I convince myself that I *must* do this, or must do that. I see in retrospect that God has saved me from so much – the wrong relationships, the wrong work partners, the wrong investment decisions, the wrong choices. But I’m embarrassed to say that many times – before I get a clue – I am quite stubborn and childish in my immediate reaction when He corrects me, or diverts me, or undermines all that I wanted to do, or planned to make happen. My attitude and actions pretty much all the time tend to betray that I know what’s best for me. But I don’t. I just don’t. Only God does, and it’s at best foolish and at worst dangerous for me to think that I do.
Plus, when He corrects me in these ways, it feels like it’s a blow to my autonomy, my freedom. I feel like my choice is being taken away, and having that choice seems inextricably attached to my identity, my life, who I am. But the reality is that I am not losing freedom – I am simply being protected. That decision would just not be best for me. He knows, and I don’t.
But in these moments, all I can think about is how the derailing of my plans is painful. How His correction stings a little. How it’s not fun at all, and how sometimes I just want my way with no consequences. Just like I bet that two-year-old felt when his older brother was kicking him so he would move away from danger and back toward safety.
What I really want to work on is not moving ahead with any idea or choice without going to Him and making sure He’s on board. To be sure, I know that many times He won’t give me a green light and that I need to take the first step of faith if I feel good about the decision. But what I have learned from experience is that if I give Him that voice into the situation while I am taking the first step or two (before completely running off and doing my own thing), He will give me a yellow or red light. And that will serve as the direction I need, and keep me choosing options that are in line with His best for my life.