the (s)parking lot

“See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

 I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’”  Lamentations 3:24 (NIV)

There is a bigger picture beyond what we can see.

A couple of years ago I helped my son-in-law, Andrew, return the rental truck and trailer to the rental agency after their move to a new city.  According to the GPS the rental business was only a short 15 minute drive away from their new apartment thanks to the nearby highway. “Piece of cake,” we both thought. 

As it turned out, however, it took us twice as long to get to the rental place as we originally thought it would.  Why?  Well, that’s because the parking lot turned out to be a time whirlpool. 

Leaving the parking lot should’ve taken us only a minute but ended up taking a whole lot more time and effort thanks to a neighbor who had inadvertently parked their truck in just the wrong position relative to our rental rig sometime during the night.  It was no longer a simple matter of merely pulling straight out of the parking lot like we had originally planned to do the night before. 

In order to get out of the parking lot Andrew had to pull up only a few feet, turn the wheels a bit, then back up, turn the wheels and so on and so on.  Back and forth he’d go more times than we could count before we were finally able to break free of the parking lot log jam.  It was very reminiscent of that funny movie scene in which Austin Powers (played by Mike Meyers) found himself in a golf cart crazily positioned sideways in a very narrow and restrictive hallway.   

In both examples a whole lot of maneuvering was required to make just a small amount of forward progress.  In map view as far as the GPS was concerned we hadn’t gone anywhere.

How many times have we experienced something like what Andrew and I endured in the parking lot when it comes to realizing goals in our lives?  Too numerous to count is my answer.

All too often it seems that where it is that you want to go or what you desire to possess is sometimes tantalizingly “just right over there.” It’s in sight and the way to get there appears to be straightforward and uncomplicated. 

Sometimes the prize is so close, in fact, that you can practically taste it.  It feels like it’s literally right there for the taking.  All you have to do is reach out your hand and… “Hold on there a minute.  Not so fast!” says an uninvited voice from out of nowhere.  “But…but…but…now wait a minute,” you exclaim out loud, your words seasoned with a fair amount of indignation just like your next door neighbor’s “private drive” sign.  “What do you mean ‘not so fast?’  It’s. Right. There! ” you pointedly observe.   “It’s really quite simple, my little motor boat,” says the unwavering voice referring to the sputtering sounds coming out of your mouth.  “There are some things you need to understand and learn first before moving ahead so things are going to have to slow down.”  Upon hearing those words your heart automatically sinks.

Honestly now, who among us enjoys going slow?

Far too often we tell ourselves we’re all ready to take possession of our goal or the object of our affection before we’re actually ready to do so.  We think we’re prepared for what lies ahead.  We believe we are ready and capable of handling highway speeds, but the truth is there are some things we need to learn in the parking lot and apply to our lives before we can safely handle the demands of the highway. 

Learning in the early stages of most things is painfully slow going just like Andrew and I experienced in the parking lot example.  It was frustrating for us to get hung up in the parking lot like we did, especially so realizing that the highway was only a few minutes away. 

No doubt about it the parking lot is not at all flashy when compared to the obvious forward progress one can make out on the highway.  The highway is always beckoning and teasing us with the lure of our making great, clearly visible forward progress strides, but the truth is if you get ahead of yourself and take on the highway before you’re actually ready the potential for disaster goes way, way up.

There’s a good reason the Lord made us so that we first crawl, then walk, and finally run.  He has only our best intentions at heart in doing so and the same is true in our lives regarding the spiritual maturing He is undertaking with us in preparation for our position in His earthly Kingdom as well as His heavenly Kingdom.   

In other words there is much more going on than what we can see.  There is a larger purpose, a bigger picture to the story in which each of us have been given a unique, important role to play.  Hebrews 11, the “faith chapter,” is replete with such stories reminding us of this truth is it not?   Faith such as described here was forged over a lifetime in many of these our long ago brothers and sisters.  

Lest we forget, our very own Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ, didn’t officially begin His ministry (the highway) until the age of 30. This was well after He had been found by his parents amazing the Jewish elders and leaders in the synagogue at the young age of 12 with his questions and answers. He, too, needed to experience His own (s)parking lot as found in Luke 2:41-52.

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”  Luke 2:52 (NIV)

It’s easy to become frustrated and impatient during what feels like an eternity in the Lord’s parking lot. When forward progress often feels more like 2 steps forward, 3 steps back it’s often frustrating. We need to learn to appreciate and be grateful for everything He is teaching us in this critical stage of our journey towards the fulfillment of His purposes and plans for us. 

Let us no longer see parking lots as uncomfortable periods of no to little outward progress that if given the choice we would likely choose to bypass, but rather as sparking lots in which we recognize that He is creating a rock solid foundation within us capable of withstanding the loads and challenges inherently found out on the highways.

And what exactly is that foundation? Simply put, it’s an ongoing, vibrant, intimate relationship with Him. All things flow from this fountain.

As the well-known saying goes, “He is equipping the called rather than calling the equipped.” And that, brothers and sisters, is definitely something we can all rejoice over for out of the spark nurtured by His gentle hand in our early “crawling” stages comes an enduring and brightly burning flame that will not be prematurely extinguished by highway speeds. 

Let us therefore be content to grow in Him according to His ways and timing and not be overly anxious to set foot on the highway until He gives us the go ahead to do so.

Now then, who among us is ready to try their hand at parallel parking?

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.”  Joshua 1:8 (NIV)

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”  Colossians 2:7 (NKJV)

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