Last summer I was traveling through the highway and byways of West Virginia after a speaking engagement for IFCA’s national youth conference. I was making the 10-hour trek from the beautiful campus of Appalachian Bible College to my beautiful wife and kids in northern Michigan. As often happens during summer travel on America’s amazing road system, traffic came to screeching halt as we entered a construction zone; a bridge spanning one of West Virginia’s many lazy rivers was under some much needed repairs.
The west-bound traffic was only stopped for a couple of minutes, and as I drove over the bridge that was under repair, I realized that an accident on the east-bound side was a distraction for everyone. A small military convoy was at the front of the mess, where it appeared a smaller sedan had collided with one of the lead desert-colored humvees and ended up creating a significant multi-car collision in the one lane that wasn’t under construction. It looked funny to pass the accident and see dozens of soldiers in military garb standing about, and shuffling around on the freeway.
Thankfully it appeared that no one had been seriously injured, but the debris on the road, combined with the difficulty in accessing the accident due to the lane closures, made this a terrible spot for an incident. Cars were trickling by, very slowly, as they navigated what little shoulder the bridge had to offer, under the guidance of the military personnel. Our lane was moving at a matching speed, simply because everyone likes to look at an accident scene.
As I’ve traveled over the years, and been witness to many backups and slowdowns, I’ve developed this strange habit of checking the mileage (and travel time when it’s in my lane) from the front of the line to back, because I’m always curious what the impact of a collision or slowdown is to the rest of the line of travelers. This particular backup ended up lasting nearly 7 miles. When you’re traveling at 5mph or less…that’s a VERY long backup!
We’ve all been at the back of one of those traffic lines and have experienced the frustration of wondering what in the world is making traffic slow to a crawl on a beautiful Friday evening when it seems like everyone should be moving well.
As I traversed the bridge and dropped back down on the other side of the small river that we were crossing, I could see the backup of cars going on forever, but between the end of the bridge and the first bend in the road, there was an emergency vehicle turnout. The turnout was about half mile from the bridge, roughly six minutes for someone moving at 5mph.
While driving past the turnout, a visibly frustrated driver on the other side of the highway pulled out on to the left shoulder, sped alongside the stopped traffic, then violently turned in to the emergency turnout and jumped in to our flow of traffic. They pulled right behind me and drove the next five miles in my lane before taking the nearest exit. Who knows, maybe they needed fuel badly, or maybe someone in the car needed to pee and another few minutes of stopped traffic would have meant a change of pants at the nearest Walmart.
What struck me was this: if they had stayed in their lane another six minutes, just another half-mile, they would have been through the accident and at an exit on the other side of the bridge. They were so close to breaking free from the traffic congestion, but for whatever reason(s), they gave up their spot, lost ground, and moved back in line. About 30 minutes later I made a stop, and I glanced back at Apple Maps to see where the driver might have been going. Because of the river, there really weren’t many crossing options that would have made sense on some little West Virginia backroad, so my guess is that if they had wanted to continue eastbound, they would have had to renter traffic at the back of the line.
I wonder how many times you and I have been so close to finishing a goal, completing a dream, or pushing through a difficult barrier, only to sabotage our victory by taking the emergency turnoff just moments before we would have broken through, finished, or completed the task? Dreams and goals are hard to achieve but they are even more difficult when we start working against ourselves!
The Apostle Paul was a man with great focus and intensity, and as he neared the end of his life, he could tell is prodigy that he had run the race, he finished well, and he was looking forward to the rewards that awaited him. In other words, he hadn’t taken the emergency exit when his frustration, irritation, or anger had taken over. He didn’t head back the other way because he was so discouraged, and he didn’t miss the finish line by half a mile because he was just so tired of waiting and working. He finished.
As we jump headlong in to 2019, let me encourage you to set your heart and mind to finish the goals God has given you for this year. Start with a finisher’s mentality that says you are going to hold the course and run your race well. You may not run fast or pretty, but you will run hard, and you will run to the finish line no matter how many emergency turnarounds show up along the way.