Last year I completed a defensive driving course. It was a combination of practical skills (emergency braking, safely getting the car out of a skid, etc.) and theoretical knowledge. At one point in the course, our instructor showed us a photo of a stretch of road, with a tree beside it where someone had crashed their car and died.
“What do you notice about this tree?” he asked us.
“I’ll tell you. It’s the only tree around on this whole stretch of road. And yet, when the car lost control, it managed to crash straight into that one tree. That’s because he was looking right at it.”
He went on to explain an important principle of safe driving: “When you’re behind the wheel, you need to look where you want to go. Especially if you lose control of the vehicle, keep your eyes in the direction you want to go, and your steering will follow.”
And today I thought of this principle again, because I reckon there’s a bit of life-wisdom there too.
A Bad Day
This morning was shaping up to be “one of those days”.
It started with the kids getting up and thinking it was morning time at 5 am.
And by midday, I was making a mental tally of everything that had gone wrong or that was making my life that little bit more difficult.
- My son was too sick to go to childcare.
- My neck and shoulders were sore.
- I was tired from not sleeping well.
- My husband and I snapped at each other.
- The baby decided to scream the whole way through the grocery shop, strapped to my chest.
- When I found a place to sit down and feed him in Aldi, he screamed some more and then threw up on me.
- The baby continued screaming even after I fed him, and then fell asleep as soon as I put him in the car.
Great, I thought to myself, what a day this is shaping up to be!
I had my mental notebook and pen poised, ready to record all the bad things that were sure to keep happening the rest of the day.
Then a thought occurred.
What would happen if I spent the rest of the day actively looking for and noting down all the things that went wrong?
Would my day miraculously turn around, giving me nothing to be upset about? Or would I continue to have a “hard day”, finding many more things to add to my list?
I’m betting it’s the second one.
Look Where You Want to Go
That’s when I thought of the driving principle: Look where you want to go.
I’m looking at the tree! I realised. And if I always look at the tree, I am going to hit it every time! I need to look at the road…
I decided that where I actually wanted to go was not “a really hard day”. But I actually wanted to have a good day.
So, I went back over my list of
struggles complaints, and rewrote it in my mind:
- My son was sick, but that meant extra time I got to spend with him, nurturing and loving him (he gets extra cuddly when he’s not feeling well).
- My neck and shoulders were sore because I’ve been spending lots of time cuddling my precious baby.
- I didn’t sleep well, but it is only one night in the grand scheme of things – the sun will set again tonight, and I’ll have another chance.
- My husband and I might snap at each other sometimes – we’re not perfect – but today we celebrate 7 wonderful years of a marriage that seems to keep getting better.
- I may have felt anxious and self-conscious about my baby crying all through Aldi, but people were actually really kind to me! A lady who was also doing her shopping held the baby for me while I got organised with the carrier (then there was the hilarious moment my son told her to “give it (the baby) back!”) and then the checkout operator packed my shopping bags for me! And no one made a single comment about the crying.
- I actually found a place to sit down and feed him in the middle of Aldi. It might have been on a pallet in the middle of the floor, but hey – it was a place!
Suddenly, my day wasn’t looking so bad. It was actually quite good.
And suddenly I am looking for things to add to my list of “thanks”, rather than my list of grievances.
My eyes are focussed on the road ahead, not on all the trees I might crash into.
Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus
It strikes me how this is also like the Christian journey.
Sometimes it is easy to get so bogged down in our trials, in our struggles with the persistent sin in our own hearts, in all the potential pitfalls we might encounter.
But what if that is just what Satan wants us to do? What if he wants to keep us looking at everything that’s going wrong, and all the ways we have failed so that we never move forward? What if he wants to keep us distracted by all the trees that we might hit, so that we forget to look ahead to the road we are travelling?
In Hebrews 12, Paul writes:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
By fixing our eyes on Jesus – considering all He went through and where he ended up – we also can “run with perseverance”. How did Jesus endure? “For the joy set before him” – he kept his eyes on the good to come, and the good things he would achieve by his work on the cross.
We don’t need to get entangled by all our sin or keep carrying things that hinder us. We can progress in our Christian journey, not perfectly on earth, but moving onwards unto heaven when we will be made perfect.
Because, did you catch this – Jesus is not only a good example for us to copy. He is also the “pioneer and perfecter of faith”. He is the reason we can have faith and he is the one who will bring us to perfection at the end of this road.
But we need to keep our eyes fixed on him.
Look where you want to go.