If you had not guessed it by now from reading one of my earlier blog posts, I am not a big fan of snow. Growing up in the West Indies gave me a deep appreciation for sun and warmth and snow was simply something I saw on television or on a Christmas card. Nothing was more beautiful to me this week than seeing bright sunshine and the snow melting away. Unfortunately, as the snow was melting, it revealed another of my least favorite things in life – potholes. Potholes have an amazing way of appearing out of nowhere and doing a lot of damage to those vehicles that do not avoid them. As I got to thinking about it, potholes are a lot like temptation and sin in our lives.
1. They often appear when you least expect it – I can be driving along a road that did not seem to have any potholes the day before and suddenly there is this gaping hole in front of me waiting to swallow my car alive. I was once driving along Cresheim Valley road on the way to center city Philadelphia with a van load of people when a pothole ate my back right tire. We were having a great conversation and then pow, the tire blows and we are stuck in the middle of the road. Praise God, I was traveling with people who were more mechanically inclined than me and “we” got the spare tire on relatively quickly. How often in my life do I get into certain kinds of routines that blind me to the potential potholes ahead. Getting consumed by work and checking e-mails endlessly has certainly allowed me to fall into a comfortable pattern that leaves me vulnerable to a distancing relationship with God. Suddenly a situation occurs that requires my total dependence on Him or the right biblical wisdom for that moment. My spiritual blindness and lack of road wariness can lead me into a deep pothole of self dependence or worldly wisdom at those critical moments.
2. Little Potholes can become big ones overnight – this reality is one that is particularly frustrating for me. I am driving along a road with a pothole that I know about and am prepared to swerve around it. I even notice the detour signs ahead and think to myself – “I just came this way yesterday, how big can the hole have gotten?” Before I know it, I am stuck in front of a crater and have to turn the car around or worse I get stuck and have to find my way back out of the hole. How easy it is for me to get spiritually cocky in any area of habitual weakness in my life. Just because I have the power of the Holy Spirit in my life does not mean that I will be any less susceptible to temptation even in an area that I have just experienced victory in. Spiritual vigilance is a constant necessity in the walk of every believer. Recently, I spent time with a pastor who would soon be working with a female colleague of mine and he made sure that he took the time to introduce her to his wife both as a professional courtesy and as a means of avoiding a potential pothole ahead.
3. Potholes are caused by fatigue and bad weather – I did not realize that roads got tired, but I guess it is reasonable to see that after a lot of wear and tear, a road is going to show it’s age and eventually develop potholes. Interestingly, a road can go for some time without developing potholes and then a snowstorm, flooding or some other weather related event can cause holes to develop without any warning. I know that spiritual fatigue and ministry exhaustion are some of the leading causes of serious sin in the lives of saints over the years. Couple this type of weariness with a crisis of some kind and a pothole is very likely to develop. How devastating it has been for me to see some of my heroes of the faith brought down by secret sin right after a season of extensive and effective ministry to others. As I have gotten older, I have come to value times of physical and spiritual rest as a crucial part of my maturing process. It is startling to realize how quickly I can develop a sleep deficit and keep going on adrenaline rather than the power of the Spirit.
As I look at the road ahead, I am committed to avoiding potholes by:
a) Being ready for each day by committing to deep times of intimate fellowship and worship, not just times of routine prayer and reading the Bible.
b) Paying attention to the “little” sins of bitterness, envy, and frustration that can lead to the “bigger” sins of anger, jealousy and slander. I am learning that being the chief repenter in my family is a lot more important than being the chief of my family.
c) Spending time getting refreshed both physically and spiritually so that I am prepared for the ministry crisis that will inevitably come. I am no good to others if I am exhausted and “weary in well doing”.
What a blessing to know that I serve a God who knows where all the potholes are and when they will develop. Even when I don’t see the potholes ahead, He is always there to get me out of the hole and back on the road again.