Exit here…

I missed my exit on the freeway yesterday. It was near the new section where I-69 and 435 intersect. You know the one. I’ve been on almost all of the new exit ramps at least once since they were opened so it was not as if it was brand new territory for me. I thought I had been on that stretch enough times that I could easily drift into the desired lane at the right time and make my connection.  

But somehow I was just not alert enough to notice when I should have been steering into the right lane, so I missed the turn and went WAY out of my way to get back on track. In fact, as I thought a little more about my wrong turn I came to realize that if this had been my first time traveling on that stretch of road I probably would have been paying a little bit more attention.

            And then – as I found myself with a lot of extra driving time on my hands – I began to wonder if there might be some parallels between my encounter on the highway and life in the world of the spirit. Surprisingly, I decided that yes… there are some parallels. In the very early stages of the journey we are eager, alert, eyes wide open, making note of every dip and turn in the “road.” We are hyper-alert to our surroundings and not likely to miss our “exit.”

            On the other end of the continuum – the very experienced end – we enjoy a similar level of clarity. We have been down this road many times. We are intimately familiar with the contours and rise and fall of the land, the light places and the dark corners. We thrill to traverse the holy ground and allow it to unveil its secrets to us.

            In both the world of car travel as well as the world of the spiritual journey, it may well be that the most treacherous times are those “middle” stages of experience. You know how it goes… we have been over this terrain. It is familiar. We feel comfortable with the landscape and so relax our vigilance.

            And that is when it happens… that is when we are most likely to take a wrong turn and get lost.

            There are many times when I feel like I am in those middle stages of my spiritual journey: a long, long way from being the “deeply committed Christian” I seek to be and yet not a total novice either. My goal is to continue maturing, developing, and growing.

But I have to admit… sometimes I get lazy. Sometimes I get busy and skip one devotion time… and then another. In my haste I neglect to pray the Wesley Covenant Prayer and encounter its tender reminder that, “I am no longer my own but Thine.” In that state I begin to worry more about whether I am receiving enough… enough pay, enough credit, enough attention, enough love, enough whatever… instead of whether I am giving enough.  

Feeling familiar and satisfied in the life of the spirit is one of our surest “exit ramps” from our travel along God’s path. And the sad part of it is, we might not even know we left the road.

Diana Butler Bass, in her recent book Christianity After Religion, reminds us that… “’Who am I in God?’ is a starting point of Christian spirituality. Why do Christians pray? Christians do not pray to have wishes granted; rather, Christians pray to find themselves in God and that they might be more aware of their motives and actions.” (Bass, Christianity After Religion, p. 187).

We each need a little wake up call now and then to remind us of the preciousness of every moment and the power of that moment to reveal God’s presence and power. Today, even though it is my “day off,” I begin by asking God to help me stay awake and alert and not miss the turns He wants me to make.

Will you join me in that same prayer?

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