For a small country like Singapore, it’s amazing how many traffic lights you have to drive through every few meters or so. And on some days, it feels like you’re wrestling with a dragnet designed to turn red at every street corner. It can be rather frustrating when you’re impatient for time.
The fact is; many of us are so accustomed to speeding along in life that we often react to any delay or obstructions with predictable annoyance. Some drivers weave through traffic in their ridiculously pimped up machines as if the devil was on their tail, or their trunk was on fire. We want to get there first; we want to get there fast, and without any obstacles in our way.
As a driver myself I often notice that when I’m behind the wheel, I tend to look myopically ahead like a horse donning blinkers. I hardly perceive the scenes whisking by. Of course it’s partly out of safety that I keep my eyes to the front, but mostly it’s also because I’m so focused on the road ahead that I often miss the journey entirely. Indeed we can drive for years down the same stretch of road and never really notice the environment around us except for the endless stretch of grey ahead. We don’t notice the view; the flowers, the colors, and the attractions that accompany us on our journey until we let someone else take the wheels of our car. And whenever I’m fortunate enough to sit back as a passenger, I’m surprised to see how beautiful the world is outside.
Why are we so fixated on rushing through life, only to arrive often with disappointment? The time spent getting to our destination is often fraught with anxiety about what we’re going to do when we get there, who we’re going to meet, how we’re going to handle the various situations etc, that we’re almost fearing the arrival as much as we’re anxiously spurred on by an urge to be somewhere, to do something.
There was a time when people drove for the fun of being on the road, of spending time in each other’s company. Now it’s all about getting somewhere quick. In the past, the journey itself was the reward, getting there was just incidental. And people arrived at their destinations with greater satisfactions even though they may arrive later or take detours along the way. In fact, detours were welcomed as an adventure…knowing that as long as they experienced all things in love and companionship…even the difficulties along the way were redeemed as beautiful encounters.
Admittedly, many of us really need to slow down. Perhaps some of us even require emergency brakes to stop short of impending disaster. But when we can’t help ourselves because we’re so used to being the driver of our own destinies, what does God do to help us? I think he turns on the red lights in our lives, he throws up those obstacles and detours that annoy us so much because they delay our plans and disrupt our routes, but which ultimately save us from spiritual death or manslaughter.
Have you ever seen children running gleefully down a hill? In our youth, we ourselves have rolled down more than one slope, scraped more than one knee and sometimes broken more than a few bones. Despite natural feelings of caution that go off in our brains, our egos to compete, our greed for excitement and our pride in not losing out to anyone else effectively drown out whatever warnings our parents might give us.
As adults we continue to run recklessly down the hill of our lives without brakes. And even though God our Father asks us to slow down and to stop running, we don’t listen.
Sometimes he has to forcefully throw obstacles in the path to stop us from hurting others and ourselves. No one likes running into a wall, but sometimes a wall of love is the only buffer that can save us; much like an airbag in a car. Of course, it’s going to be painful. Of course it’s an experience that can be avoided in the first place. But when we get out of control, God has to activate the brakes and airbags in our lives to slow us down, to stop us in our tracks even, so that we may survive our mistakes despite our bruises.
What are the obstacles that have forced you to take a detour in life or to slow down? What are the walls that have been erected in your path, separating you from what you imagine to be your happiness and fulfillment?
Whether it’s the distress of a bad investment, or the cross of a debilitating illness, or the loss of a loved one, or the misunderstandings that lead to the end of a relationship, we’ve all experienced the frustrations of being thwarted in our plans and our hopes. And in the absence of supernatural faith, we can turn bitter with anger against God whom we see as the enemy to our happiness.
The truth is; God allows us to encounter these obstacles because of three things – love, love and love. We are going through our present difficulties because God loves us very much; not because he wishes us ill, but because he alone knows how much good can be born from our patient acceptance of our crosses. It is not good to be sad naturally, but faith in a heart that believes in the fidelity and loving will of God gives every Christian soul the strength, the courage and the supernatural hope to trust that God will bless the broken path that leads to real joy and happiness.
Yes, many of our crosses are of our own making. Many of our crosses could’ve been avoided. And many of our crosses are the direct results of our own bad choices in life…including a sinful life. We have insisted on driving through every red light, we have resisted every call to slow down and avoid running down steep hills for thrills, and we have purchased the pain of our actions through foolish pride and irresponsibility. And now that we are humiliated by our circumstances and our failures, we can finally relinquish our desperate mastership of our destinies to one who truly is King of our lives.
C.S. Lewis says, “Pain is God’s megaphone for rousing a deaf world”. And humility cannot be learnt except through humiliation. Yet it is humility that can begin the long path to healing and redemption; to recognize that we are not God, and in our prayers to let God be God in our lives; instead of taking that divine tone ourselves.
Just two Sundays ago, we celebrated the end of the Church’s liturgical year with the feast of Christ the King. In his time on earth, our Blessed Lord preached unceasingly of the Kingdom of God. But what is essential for a kingdom? Subjects surely, ministers, soldiers and various people with various talents who live their citizenship in this royal domain. But more than anyone else, a kingdom needs a king who is free to exercise his rightful place as sovereign and lord.
The Kingdom of God can be understood as the acceptance of and loving obedience to the kingship or lordship of Jesus in our person and in our lives. In other words, we give ourselves as humble subjects to our Lord, asking him to be master and lord, king and sovereign over our entire lives, and to establish his most holy and loving reign over our souls and our bodies; accepting the good and the bad from his hands, trusting in his divine will which expresses this kingship most clearly.
Know that God’s will is most clearly manifested in the events of our days, the opportunities of our lives, the chance encounters, the tiny crosses, the opened and closed doors, and the friendships, relationships and people who cross our paths…all of which are opportunities for grace and eternal happiness…if we start from today to listen to his voice so that we may see what he sees, hear what he hears, and desire what he desires for us.
But if we continue to cling to this obsession to be behind the wheel of our own lives, to keep in control, to be the master of our destinies when we often don’t even know where we’re going or dread going there if we do, we shall drive ourselves into a ditch of sadness, despair and enduring pain. Not just for ourselves, but also for those we love.
The roads of life are always changing, the maps are constantly evolving and obstacles are ever present. It takes someone with a towering view of things from the air, like a pilot in a helicopter, to be able to tell us what lies ahead, and what to avoid.
Only heaven can guide us to safety. As pilgrims on the road, we can’t see more than 300 meters ahead, and often there are obstructions in the way. Even then, bad weather or the darkness of night can make visibility even worse. But no darkness is as dark as sin, and no obstacle so insurmountable as stubbornness and pride. To continue down this path of neglect for our soul and our dignity is to drive off a cliff one day, dragging others with us.
So in this season of advent, slow down, take stock, stop to think, pray and look around you. Check your moral GPS, see where you are…and if you are lost and confused, come back to the Lord for he is waiting for you…just as the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son stands on the brow of the hill looking out, and waiting for his child to return, so that his joy may be complete in you, and your joy may be real in Him.
Viva Christo Rey! Long live Christ the King!