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Monday, June 6, 2011

Going in circles?

1 Then we turned around and went back into the wilderness following the route to the Red Sea, as God had instructed me. We worked our way in and around the hills of Seir for a long, long time.  2 Then God said, "You've been going around in circles in these hills long enough; go north."
(Deuteronomy 2:1-2)

There is seldom a time when "going in circles" isn't a waste of time.  I think that someone like a race car driver would be the exception.  He accomplishes either the winning or the losing of the race while staying on that oval track - going around and around at a calculated pace to accomplish the goal.  For most of us, going in circles is another story - we find that we accomplish very little in the course of our efforts.

Israel had been "going in circles" in the wilderness for years.  They had even shed a few tears of grief over their choice to doubt God's provision for them.  Something I have seen over the years (even in my own life) is that tears don't make someone change!  You cannot equate tears with repentance.  We can shed real tears without any real sense for what we need to change or how to change.  

"Circle runners" find themselves doing the same old things over and over again, wondering why they are not getting a different response.  In turn, they get frustrated and their self-will becomes even more determined.  When that happens, we find ourselves "taking another lap".  It grieves God for us to stay in our self-willed disobedience, but he allows us to "do the laps" until we come to a place where we recognize the futility of our having gone in circles so long! We often find ourselves complaining about the "circles" we travel - but if the truth is really known, we don't really want any other path!

"Circle runners" often don't realize what it is that keeps them doing the same things.  There is a lack of awareness because there is a lack of connection with the resources that will help the "circle runner" to "exit the track".  As long as self-will and self-direction is our plan, we may shed some tears at our outcome, but we are still not "uncomfortable" enough in our present circumstances to want any change.  We don't look for an exit when we are comfortable!  

God's promise is to be our guide - to give us clear direction.  The only thing is that we have to be near enough to him to actually catch the movement he makes.  A guide is useless if those being guided are not paying attention to his directions.  Just as the race car driver must be ever-vigilant in monitoring the conditions of the course by watching the man with the "flags" - so we must be with keeping our eyes on God.  I had no idea that there were so many flags they use in a race, but the list below gives us some idea.  Notice that some of these flags are what they call "conditional" flags - once a specific condition is met, the flag is raised.
  • Green - Race begins or resumes.
  • Yellow - Racing under caution. Conditions adverse or hazardous.
  • Red - Racing has come to a halt. All pit crew and repair work must cease.
  • Black - The "consultation flag". Driver must pit. Usually due to rule violation.  There is even a flag for violating rules - if we were smart, we'd look for these flags in our own "circle running".
  • Black with White "X" - Driver no longer scored for failing to pit under black.  Ouch!  This one really speaks to the self-will, doesn't it?
  • White Flag - Last lap of the race.  Woohoo!  We have an end in sight!
  • Checkered flag - Race is over. Winner will be declared.  

The simple truth is that God looks for two things:  1) A waiting heart - one that is "tuned into" the exits and the warnings along the way!  2)  An obedient heart - one that actually takes the exits, heeds the warnings, and is tuned into the conditions of the path ahead!  If you are running in circles today, perhaps it is time to examine the "flag" that is flying in your life today!