Life is Like a Houston Traffic Jam

I was driving to pick up my son from a sleepover. The trip should have taken around thirty minutes–but since this is Houston, I-45, and a Saturday, the evil traffic planners decided to shut down the entire freeway (!) so it took me about 2 1/2 hours to return home from this trip. We ended up having to miss the pool party he was to attend after his sleepover. While sitting in the car for a thousand years, I had time to reflect on how life is a bit like a traffic jam.

When I first saw the traffic back up from afar and the sign that said “All Traffic Must Exit” I decided to get off at the very next exit (it took about 20 minutes just to exit the freeway). I tried not to let the people who were in the next lane into my exit lane because they sped up there in no time while I waited forever in my slow exit line. The injustice of it!!!! I suppose this is not the Christian way to feel about it–what would Jesus do?–anyway, they finagle their way in somehow, but I don’t make it easy for them because for every one of those people who get in, the poor exit lane people wait even longer for these people who refuse to wait like the rest of us–surely most of them can see what I saw. Okay, off my soapbox now–just saying, life, like traffic, is not fair. No matter how hard you try to do the right and fair thing, some car will nose himself in front of you and get in by force. Not fair, but what can you do? You have to try not to sweat the small stuff and get worked up over something the line cutter won’t remember in another 30 seconds.

Like Houston traffic, life is also unpredictable. I am directionally challenged, so I come prepared with written directions. I also usually have a backup set of directions because you never know when the first set will be a dud. (I am a dinosaur, so I have no GPS navigation to help me and my husband sometimes fails to get to the phone when I call for assistance.) When you have to get off the freeway and and go some other way unexpectedly, not only does it change the timeframe you had planned on, but also your chosen path. You have to learn to be flexible and open to trying new ways to get to the destination. You may have to go through a scary neighborhood and find yourself praying you won’t break down or get a flat tire, and leaving thankful for the blessings you have and nice neighborhood you can raise your children in. You have to do the best you can with what you know and take a chance hoping it will work out. Sometimes you even discover a new path to take in the future. In this case, I got the chance to go on the back roads of my old hometown and see how things have changed over time.

Sometimes, when you are stuck unexpectedly on the road for HOURS on end, you find you have the time to do things you wouldn’t normally be able to do like listen to the Catholic radio station and hear an iconographer speak about an American ex-slave named Julia Greeley, who is in the canonization process. The brief biography I heard about her charity and devotion to Jesus was an inspiration to me. It is almost like this was some kind of divine appointment–like God wanted me to spend that extra time on the back roads, my love of neighbor having been tried on the freeway to humble me, and listen to the story of this humble lady who was abused and had every reason to hate humanity after what she had gone through, but allowed God to make her a saint instead.

So, even horrible Houston traffic can be a blessing if we let it. Some things we can do to redeem the time are:

practice charity toward those people doing things that irritate us
listen to Catholic radio or Christian music
have some silent prayer time or think some thoughts
listen to an audio book–perhaps a devotional one
spend the time talking to your kid in the backseat one-on-one for a change

The more we can easily let go of our plans and be thankful for when God steps in, looking for the lesson, the more joy and peace we let in to our lives. What lessons have you learned when God stepped in with the unexpected?

Matthew 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.

Your $0.02