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Friday, April 15, 2016

Spiritual T Roads

I am assuming that most of us who have a driver’s license and have spent time behind the wheel know what a T road is.  I grew up in rural Indiana and it was not uncommon to be on a T road.  Pretty quickly you learn there are only two options---well at least two good ones!  I know I learned this lesson long before I was old enough to drive a car.  But then I also know I was driving tractors on the roads long before I was sixteen!  Now that I think about it, I am not sure anyone ever wondered if that were legal!

When I assume things, I always am prepared to be on guard that my assumptions may not be shared by all.  For example, I am not sure younger, urban drivers grow up learning about T roads.  Perhaps, they have never heard the phrase and have no clue what I mean.  So for their sake a T road is a road that dead-ends into a perpendicular road---forming a T, as it were.  When you are driving up the trunk of the “T,” you do dead end into the other road.  You have a choice to continue: go right or go left.

The nice thing about a “T” road is you are left with a choice.  You can continue; you can make progress.  Of course, you cannot keep going straight.  That road ends.  But you can make a turn and continue.  Obviously, that is why a “T” road is not the same thing as a dead end road.  I am sure we have all seen those signs along the way.  When you turn down one of these roads and get to the end, it is the end!  No further progress is possible.  Only going backwards is possible.

As I was walking one day, I realized that my spiritual journey has had both dead ends and spiritual “T” roads.  I was drawn to think about the spiritual “T” roads.  The first thing occurring to me is the fact that I almost never knew in the beginning that I was on a “T” road.  I laughed at this insight.  As I thought back, I don’t recall every seeing a sign at the beginning of a road that said, “T” road.  Of course, it always did at the end---right before the “T” road.  No doubt, the same thing holds true for spiritual “T” roads.  We usually are on one before we realize it is a “T” road.

Theoretically, this is not a problem.  It will not stop us.  It will change our course.  I think I can offer my own example of prayer.  I suspect this may resonate with a number of people.  In the beginning of my spiritual journey, prayer seemed rather easy and often fulfilling.  I was eager to do it and there was a satisfaction in doing it and some spiritual fruit from having done it.  I did not realize it, but I had entered a spiritual “T” road.  Maybe if I had read enough, I might have suspected this might be the case.  But I was naïve.

But that was ok.  I was on the journey and that was a very good thing.  There was spiritual movement and growth and that, too, was a very good thing.  Indeed, a spiritual journey is a journey.  It is not an event.  In most cases it is not a race and certainly not a sprint.  I had every reason to hope it would be a lifelong journey.  So I was not thinking about “T” roads and clearly not worried about it.

Normally, spiritual “T” roads don’t have signs as clearly as the ones that marked those rural Indiana roads.  And sometimes you cannot see a spiritual “T” road as clearly as you could see the approaching “T” option on the literal Indiana road.  My prayer life came to its “T” more gradually and slowly emerged into my consciousness.  At some point I realized much of the satisfaction had gone out of my prayer.  It felt like I was forcing it rather than embracing it.  What had once been fulfilling was leaving me less and less touched.  I had come to a “T.”

That meant I needed to find a different way to move ahead.  It did not mean the former prayer life was bad.  It was just the end---the end of the road.  It had brought me so far.  It was time to turn right or left.  It was time to find a different form of prayer.  Or it was time to find a different way of doing a similar kind of prayer.  There were a variety of very good options.

I realized, however, that many of us get stuck at the “T.”  It’s not as simple as driving a car, turning the wheel and giving it the gas again!  In that case the car is doing all the work.  In the case of prayer it seems like I am doing all the work.  I am sure God graces us, but usually God does not grace us automatically when we some to that spiritual “T.”  And I am not sure honking the horn is going to move God to start gracing.

God knows we have options and good possibilities.  Spiritual journeys require that we grow up and develop.  I suspect the spiritual “T” often hastens this developmental process.  Maybe spiritual journeys are a “go and grow” process!  For myself I know attitude has a great deal to do with it.  It is not a hardship.  It is not a dead end.  If I can be patient, I am thankful for the options and possibilities.  I can choose.  I can develop.  I can grow into the fullness of life that God has in store for me.

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