I remember the first time I was introduced to the “bright lights” feature on vehicles. I was riding in the backseat and noticed my dad continually pushing the “blinker stick” back and forth. He always moved it one way when a car was coming towards us, and the other way when the car had passed. Being the curious child that I was, I finally spoke up and asked him what the deal was.
He explained to me that there are two different lights you can use when you’re driving at night. You have your “normal” lights that don’t blind people as they approach you. And then you have your “brights” that you can turn on when no other cars are around. The brights, he explained, shine the light higher up, and farther out, allowing you to see a larger area.
Hmmm. That seems cool.
As I sat in the backseat, I tried my best to see the difference between the two lights. I knew it must really make a difference if he put that much effort into continually pushing the stick back and forth. But really, I never noticed any difference. So I sat back and assumed it must be something only parents understand. Like why watching the news or reading the newspaper is more entertaining than normal TV. Strange adult things I guess.
It wasn’t until my first night driving late at night, that I was able to see the difference those “bright lights” made. So THIS is what dad was talking about. I get it now!
I quickly began to place high value on this feature. On those late nights driving on the Trace, being able to use my brights felt like nothing short of a lifesaver. Props to the genius who invented these things. I love ’em!
I will go so far as to admit, I’ve even gotten irrationally irritated when a car comes from the opposite direction, causing me to have to dim my lights. It’s like someone stole my special privilege. Don’t take that from me!
And until recently, I assumed everyone else had the same feelings as me. But, apparently, they don’t.
For some odd reason, there are people out there who prefer to keep their lights on dim. Even on pitch black, back roads. I know. I don’t get it either. But it happened to me. I was driving somewhere one night and turned my brights on, as always, to help illuminate the area better. And my passenger casually asked if I could turn my brights off….
“Excuse me? Turn them off? Why?”
“I just don’t like them.”
You don’t like them? You mean the feature that was made specifically to help the driver see better in these situations? You want me to turn that off?
I realize this is not a big deal in the grand scheme of life. So they don’t like driving with their brights on. So what? But I just couldn’t get over someone not wanting to see as far and wide as they possibly could.
And then it hit me.
This is so the perfect description of my personality.
With everything, I want to know as many details as you can give me. My passenger, however, was fine living simply in the here and now. They didn’t need to know everything that was ahead, as long as they could see right in front of them.
Some days, I wish that was me. I wish so badly that was me. But my life looks a lot more like investigating every option and thinking through all of the possible outcomes.
Before I try a new restaurant, I read reviews and look at pictures and deduce what would be my best menu choice. I note the bad reviews, you know, to keep my expectations realistic. Before going to a new destination, I research for days, and pay special attention to the bad reviews, so I’m prepared for the worst. (Keep your expectations low and you’ll always be satisfied, right? Kidding. Kinda.) Before going on our first cruise, I spent days looking up tips and tricks and how to’s and packing lists and everything I could find that promised me a better experience. I wanted to know it all. And I always have.
My mom has told me many times about the incessant questioning I was akin to as a child. Each morning resembled something like this:
“Momma, what are we going to do today?” “What about after that?” “And what about after that?” “What are we going to do after that?” “Well what about after that?”
Honestly, I don’t know how she didn’t strangle me most days. She would eventually have to end the conversation by saying, “I don’t know yet. We’ll see.” Which was probably promptly met with a “Why?”.
It’s like it was a part of me to always want to know everything about the future.
And even more so now that my choices have such a lasting impact on the trajectory of my life.
I want to know all of my options that accompany every choice. I want to be able to know that if I pick this grad school, my apartment will look like this and my classmates will be like this and my church home will be this and my job opportunity will be this and then the job I take will be like this and my house will look like this and my life will look like this and I will be this.
It seems crazy to string all of those things together, as if each path will lead to only a certain option and that will lead to either success or failure. But that’s honestly how my brain works 98% of the time.
I stress over what choice to make, because I can’t see what the outcome will be. And that absolutely drives me insane. I don’t want to agree to something before I know the outcome of the agreement.
But that’s not how life works. And that’s not how it’s ever worked.
In fact, God wasn’t in the business of laying out all the details of His plans for His people either.
“The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”
God told Abram to go, but He didn’t tell him where. That command would have been enough to send me into an all out panic attack.
I’m thinking if you’re going to make me leave my family and all that’s familiar, the least you could do is tell me where I’m going. Right?
“So Abram went…”
Abram doesn’t question God. He just goes. He doesn’t think about all of the “what if’s” or “but what about?…”. He trusts God. And he goes. As simple as that. “Abram went.”
I can’t even imagine the anxiety, fear, and stress that would be going through my head if that command was directed towards me…
But, at the same time, it is, isn’t it?
Christ called us to take up our cross and follow Him. God has called us to have faith and place our trust in Him. Repeatedly, we find God’s Word emphasizing the importance of trusting God and casting out fear, doubt, and worry.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”- Proverbs 3:5-6
“Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.“- Philippians 4:6
“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” -Psalm 55:22
“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you.” -Psalm 56:3
So although we might not be called by God to leave our family and home and travel to an unknown place, we are called to trust Him enough to follow where He leads.
We are called to walk faithfully the paths set before us. And we are called to place our trust in Him. To let go of the worry, fear, anxiety, and pressure of trying to figure it all out on our own. Because He is there for us. To help us. To guide us. And to shape us into the people He created us to be.
The knowledge that God is there to guide us, should be enough for us to cast out fear. But some days, it’s not. We can’t always see where He’s leading, and we get scared, thinking about all of the what if’s and the possibilities of failure. And on those days, I still wish we had a “lights on bright” feature for life.
But we don’t. And we never will. Our job is to accept that fact, and embrace the reality that there isn’t one “magic path” that leads to everything good. And there won’t be one “cursed path” that leads to everything bad. The truth is, every decision we make influences our life, but every life comes with ups and downs, mountain tops and deep valleys. And that’s part of it.
So what do we do?
We pray for guidance. We study the Word. And we make the best decision we know how.
So whether it’s grad school in Texas or Florida, South Carolina or South Mississippi, I will follow where He leads. And I will face those mountain tops and deep valleys with the faith and knowledge that God is good. In the uncertainty, He is there. In the darkness, He is there. And in the bright, shining moments of life, He is there. He is faithful. He is good.
And He makes driving with the lights on dim seem a little less scary.