Almost every day, the beginning of my day starts with getting on Interstate 55 heading into downtown Jackson. It is a good road — a few twists and turns but overall, it is a fine highway except for the thousands of other people who get on the road with me. In all honesty, they are not a problem but all of them together create a problem for me and I help create a problem for them. Here’s the way it works. There are strips of the highway where it seems like everything is going smoothly and you can get up to 50 or 60 miles per hour. Everything is good and then, even when there’s not a wreck in the road, for whatever reason everything slows down — 30 miles per hour, 20 miles per hour, 10 miles per hour. Creeping along, you begin to wonder how long you’re going to be out here on the Interstate. Then amazingly, everything opens up again and you get your speed back up to 30, 40, and you’re getting closer to downtown.
The stopping and the going happen at different points along the way almost every day. There’s no way to make sense out of it. You just have to be ready for it and to the best of your ability try to stay in the flow of the traffic without slowing other folks down or plowing into the back of their cars. Through the years as I have driven that road over and over, either trying to get to work or get to the hospital or to a meeting, I have learned that there is hardly ever a time when it is not stop and go, stop and go. I’ve tried to adjust my time and my psyche to just deal with it and hope I get there when I’m supposed to be.
There have been a number of times as I was going through the speed-up-slow-down process that I thought about what a metaphor for ministry are Interstate 55 or even Interstate 20, for as you serve the Lord and as we join together as a congregation of people, it often times — in fact nearly always — fits that pattern.
There are stop and go moments as you walk with the Lord and serve Him. There are some things we can learn from the stop-and-go process, or at least we can come to understand that one or both of these things – stopping and going and even going faster – are a reality. They will happen. You may not want them to happen. You may have your foot on the gas and not want to put it on the brake and you want to not only go but go faster, but because of conditions that may be weather-related or some crash or injury or detour, you can’t keep going fast. You can’t accelerate at that moment. You have to slow down and wait and watch for the opportunity to speed back up.
On the other hand, while both will happen, both are also needed. When I say they are needed, they are needed on the highway and the same thing applies to ministry. You see, you’re not on the highway by yourself. Neither are you serving the Lord alone. There is a family. There is a flock of sheep. There are young sheep, old sheep, smart sheep, and smarter sheep. There are hungry sheep and sheep that want to lie down and rest. They’re all in the flock and they’re all family, and what is important for each of us is that we not just drive like we want to drive, but be aware of the folks around us who may be having car trouble or personal crises or maybe just bewildered by the crush of vehicles all around them and they slow down. Maybe they’re rubbernecking and looking at something on the other side of the highway.
You and I need to be aware that we’re not out there by ourselves. Occasionally there are impatient drivers around us. At other times there are sirens around us. At other times there are people who do not know the directions and they are confused by the whole pattern of driving. While we could be helpful, more often than not we choose to just express our exasperated emotions by teaching our horn to say thimgs that it shouldn’t say. In church this super highway of redemption and love and life has all that stuff out there on the road we’re traveling. There are folks going slow and some who are so revved up that they are just angry, upset, not happy at all with the rest of the bunch that are not traveling at their speed. More than likely, some of you who are reading this have been in all these situations. Maybe you like going slow. Maybe you like going fast. Maybe you are disturbed because things are not moving like you think that they ought to. I understand, but there are folks that you need to help along the road of life in church and on the Interstate because they may not at all have the ability to get up to the speed of where you are. Yet the Lord uses them and blesses them and blesses others through them and all of us need to keep on the same road whether we’re going 60 or six miles per hour. The people going wide open don’t need to be mad at the folks who are going slow, and the people who are going slow sometimes sense an understanding and appreciation for those who are going fast.
One other thing that I would just like to point out is that when it comes to stopping and going, neither is the norm and neither is the only way. Both will probably be a part of your life on one day or another and you need to be understanding of those who are not going the same speed you are. One time during His ministry, Jesus’ disciples saw people who weren’t doing what they thought the people ought to be doing, so they wanted to call down fire and brimstone on them and it be it. Cure the problem and change the situation completely, but Jesus did not do that. That was not what needed even though it could have been an immediate fix. He named those disciples a new name maybe just to give a description of them. Boanerges is what Jesus said. It means, “sons of thunder,” for they were great disciples, energetic, passionate, get the job done, put the pedal to the metal, let’s go 75 miles an hour. In time, we see them as they recognize the full scale of what God is doing and serve the Lord effectively, meaningfully, and thoughtfully whether they had to slow down or speed up wide open. Whether you’re stopped or going, keep your eyes on Him and you will get to the destination right when He wants you to be there.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.