An intersection is the place where two paths meet - the place where one path merges with another, or you must choose one way or the other. We face many of these in life, oftentimes just navigating them without much effort or forethought. At other times, we almost stall out just trying to make a decision about which way to go. There are times when we come to intersections and find the way is not clear - the road "signs" just are not clear enough to really guide us into the next path we should take. This is frustrating, to say the least, but more importantly it gives us concern because the wrong path can cause us countless hours of back-tracking and reworking our path. Learning how to choose the right intersections is important if we are avoid this continual "rework" in our lives.
Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life. (James 1:19-21 MSG)
Some instruction designed to help us make the right choices at the various intersections in our lives are:
- Lead with your ears. At first the may not seem like very profound instruction, but most of us go by what we see, not by what we hear. If we were to close our eyes for about five minutes, I wonder if we'd interpret things the same way as we do when we can only hear what is occurring around us. It amazes me when I see people with the loss of vision compensate with their sense of hearing. My mother visited our doctor a couple months back, but as soon as he began to speak, she knew something was wrong. How? By the tone of his voice. You see, he had begun a battle with cancer and it was weighing on him. She heard that when he began to speak with her. We can sometimes miss the things God wants to speak into our lives because we expect to "see" something rather than just hear it. Oftentimes the instruction of God is simply a still small voice - if we aren't listening, we will miss it.
- Follow up with your tongue. Some of us are too quick to answer and too slow to listen. I think the intersection choices might be made a little clearer if we were to shut our mouths and open our ears. Over the course of time, we have come to answer what we don't know because we don't want to appear ignorant. I have learned that admitting I don't know is sometimes the best answer to the question. At least I avoid looking like a fool when I give that answer! The tongue gives us more problems and leads us down more paths we'd probably like to have avoided in our travels simply because we have not learned to "lead" with it.
- Let anger straggle along in the rear. I think this is really odd to put anger in the midst of listening and being a little more thoughtful in our responses, but it is here, so we have to seek to understand how it applies to the intersections of our lives. Most likely it is because what we "think" we heard and what we eventually speak will sometimes get us into the mess of anger. Anger has a way of ushering us further down a wrong path than it does in helping us to avoid one. Anger is really a form of retaliation - or just plain pride rearing its ugly head. When we learn to listen intently, we can avoid some of the pitfalls which lead us into angry responses. When we spare our words by thinking before we speak, we also narrowly avoid wrong turns and potholes.
- Get rid of the garbage and baggage. No journey is ever undertaken in the best manner when we are toting all kinds of garbage and baggage along with us. When we are loaded down with the stuff which is really just making our lives putrid, we have no enjoyment in the journey. We cannot get beyond the "stench" of our lives, so we don't even try. Garbage is meant to be discarded, not stored up. If we get rid of the stuff we shouldn't be keeping around in the first place (like the stuff we hold onto while a grudge begins to take hold), we might just find the journey is made a little more enjoyable.
- Embrace the tending of the Gardener. None of us is where we have the potential of being - so we need a little "tending" to get us to that point. It goes without saying that "tending" is not always pleasant. There is a whole lot of hand holding, but also a tremendous amount of just plain redirection needed when we are being "tended". Learning to see the guiding hand of our Lord as keeping us FROM the road we should not be traveling rather than questioning why he is interfering in our choices is a big time advantage in avoiding many a troubled journey.
- Be landscaped with the Word. No journey is more enjoyable than those which allow us to gaze upon the beauty of the countryside, or take in the majesty of the rolling waves clapping against the rocks of the shoreline. When we take time to listen first, speak second, let go of anger, and unburden ourselves from all the garbage in our lives, we are in a place of being tenderly guided into the places of the greatest beauty. God's Word shapes us, but it also paints a majestic landscape over our lives. Isn't it time we began enjoying what he has provided? Just sayin!