After I graduated from seminary and was ordained, I moved to Louisa to work in a church there. I enjoyed some parts of living in town at that time. For starters, there was only one traffic light and very few stop signs. I could start out in my car on one end of town and breeze right through to the other side.
I realize now that I was spoiled back in that place. I came to that conclusion several months ago. I live on one end of Rocky Mount, and my church is on the other end. I go through quite a few traffic lights to reach my destination. Maybe I just have terrible timing, but a lot of those lights seem to be red by the time I reach them.
I admit that I started losing my cool several months ago when I came across my umpteenth red light in a row. Either I had lousy timing, or the lights were out to get me. Either way, I grew more frustrated every time I would have to drive across town. I remember smacking the steering wheel several times when the light turned red. It all sounds silly looking at it now and writing about it.
I realized something not long ago about those red lights. They felt like a symptom of a deeper problem within me, not the traffic system. They started to feel like an invitation for me to slow down. Like many people, I have a terrible habit of ripping through the hours and days of my life. I rarely slow down long enough to “smell the roses.” I am anxious by habit and that means I am often thinking about what I must do next instead of enjoying what I am currently doing or the people I am surrounded by.
I am convinced that God wants us to remember the past and make plans for the future. However, I am equally convinced that God is encouraging us to enjoy the very moment we are in, as much as possible. We need to learn to live life one day at a time. I think that might be part of what God was trying to teach Moses and the Israelites in Exodus 16. The people had just left Egypt and were probably looking forward to a bright future in the new land promised to them.
The Israelites were also looking back on the good things they had in the Egypt. Like me, they were constantly living in the past and the future, completely missing the wonderful things God was doing in their midst right at that moment.
So, God tells them they will have just enough food for the day. If they collected more than that, it would rot. As a result, they had to learn to live day by day. That’s a lesson that I am clearly still learning.
I think that much of learning to live in the moment or the day is dependent upon us trusting in God to take care of us. The more we can trust God to take care of whatever comes at us tomorrow, the more likely we will be able to relax and enjoy the present.
Matthew 6:34 (The Message) says, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” That is another invitation to slow down.
Now, those red lights are teaching me a lesson. They are showing me a different way to live. I am learning that there is great joy in my life right now, right here. I hope you find the same in your life.