Words of Wellness

August 18, 2009 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner

Warning Signs

Returning from vacation this past weekend I had the privilege of going on a two-day road trip through Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee.† I also had the privilege of driving through several construction zones, where we saw signs alerting us to altered routes and pitfalls to avoid.† How I wish sometimes that life came with similar kinds of signs that could prepare us for what we are about to encounter.††

†††† The first one that caught my eye was a large blinking sign above the road that warned us to "Stay Alert! New traffic patterns ahead".† Since I had never been on this particular section of road I didn't have any trouble adjusting to the change in traffic patterns because they weren't new or different for me.† I was feeling pretty cool about all this until I nearly missed the turn for the newly designed exit ramp in the Marquette interchange in my own home town of Milwaukee!† The exit I was used to taking was always on the right side of the freeway and now it's on the left.†† I had taken the right side exit thousands of times in my life, and have only taken the new left side exit only a handful of times.† I can imagine someone who might have just moved to Milwaukee last week having no problem with the "new" exit because for them it's the only one they have ever known.

†††† When you and I work through change, grief and loss it is similar to my experience with this new left side exit.† It's disorienting at first.† We may feel angry that things had to change.† After all, no one consulted us for these opinions on these changes!† We want to travel the same familiar route, but it's no longer available to us.† We have no choice but to adapt to the new reality.† The choice we do have is to be gentle, patient and loving with ourselves as we take whatever time it takes to adapt and adjust.††

†††† Another sign I saw often on our recent road trip was "Slow Down--Construction Zone Ahead."† What great advice this is when we are going through the kind of loss or grief I just described, as well as any time we are going through a time of rebuilding and reconstructing our lives.† A new job, relocation, a health scare, a new or shifting relationship are just some of the times when when we find ourselves needing to do some new emotional and spiritual construction.† Just as on the highway, the most important thing for us to do at such times is to slow down.† If we move to fast through a construction zone, the consequences can be high, again, just as the signs tell us:† "Fines double (or even triple) for speeding in a construction zone."††

†††† The next sign read, "Major Delays Ahead--Alternate Route Suggested".† As we approached the turnoff being suggested I watched as many of the cars went on ahead without heeding the sign; after all, it was just a suggestion.† I can just imagine that their trip may have ended in a frustrating traffic pile-up, where traffic came to a crawl on as the road became congested.† Again I got to thinking about the choices we make. We may know that there is an alternate route, but want to just take the planned route instead of taking a chance on a detour that could be beautiful and more successful. Sometimes it's hard to heed the sights around us suggesting that another route may be better in the long run.††††

†††† My favorite though, is "Pardon our Progress". How many times have we striven to appear perfect to the outside world? To be as ideal as the photogenic family next door? The truth is, no one's life is that ideal. Sometimes, we lose our tempers. Teenagers slam doors, and toddlers howl in the grocery store when we deny them the sucker for the third time. Still, most of those actions are invitations to conversation and construction, even though they're expressions of frustration. Progress is messy. It results in traffic jams, dust, and detours. The other side is always appealing though, and as someone wise once said, "True wellness means you can enjoy the scenery when life takes a detour."

†† So many signs fit life's progress and inevitable bumps. Expect delays, uneven pavement ahead, buckle up, if you drink--don't drive...it really makes me reflect on how much more informative the road is than the path into the future! Don't let life's construction cause you to miss the hidden signs and directions, and remember to slow down and enjoy the scenery when the path changes around you.

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