Traffic Sign Theology

By Debbie Shope

EXPECT DELAYS.  This is my life motto.  I know.  Many Christians have a ‘life verse’ that comes from Scripture, not a road sign.  I, too, have passages that I hope define my life.  Philippians 3 and Isaiah 41 are the top contenders.  But these verses describe truths that are transcendent; they are what I cling to regardless of circumstances.  My beloved traffic sign however just tells it like it is in the gritty day-to-day.  And for the years that I have been on this earth, it has proven itself to be faithful harbinger of many of life’s experiences.

I know this is a bit of an “Eeyore-esque” take on life.  I readily admit he and Puddleglum are among my favorite literary characters.  The reality, though, is that things in life often don’t happen when or how we want them to.   On the other hand, I have learned that this is okay, and most often even good.  If what we ‘expect’ is for God to do His will and that it is good, even if it includes a delay, detour or perhaps a dead end (traffic signs all!), we are less likely to get derailed thinking that God doesn’t care or that life is just tough or without hope.

More importantly though, I think delays are often God’s modus operandi.  We need only look at the history of Israel to be convinced: Abraham’s promised heir, Moses’ years of wandering and then never seeing the Promised Land, the prophets foretelling the Messiah.  Even the most triumphant moment in history, the resurrection of Jesus, was delayed for three days.  Three days of wondering, frustration, despair, confusion, anxiety and fear.

Delays are rarely fun.  I have many times wondered, and even arrogantly asked God why the Israelites had to go right to the edge of the Red Sea before He showed them the way.  Why didn’t the water divide as they were running toward it?  Why didn’t Jesus show up on Saturday morning?  What is the purpose of the delay? If Your will is going to be done, why not now?

God in His wisdom has not given me a complete answer and so I don’t really know.  But I have seen glimpses of goodness in the delays.  As frustrating as it is waiting at the edge, I know there are things that happen in my heart at that moment, or over those years, that could not happen otherwise.  I know that God uses these things to draw my heart to Him, even if it is only because I have nowhere else to go.  And maybe that is the reason.  Or maybe there are a thousand different reasons.

But I do know that it is not by chance.  God Himself is delaying (from our perspective) Jesus’ return, even though His heart aches to see the misery and turmoil sin has inflicted in the lives of his beloved children.  God is often by nature a “delayer”, but One whose wisdom, love and goodness is far deeper than our understanding.  And if that is so, then to “Expect Delays” is to expect God to be God when delays are wise and loving and good.  I can live with that.

So I will stand by my motto. I may even explore adding in a Speed Limit or Yield sign.