Don’t look at the potholes, he said.
I vividly remember going on bike rides with my dad when I was little. To be honest, I remember never really wanting to go, but little did I know biking with my dad would teach me a life lesson I would hold to for the rest of my life.
One ride in particular, we stopped for ice cream and I remember expressing how frustrated I was with all the potholes, and how I couldn’t bike around them like he could. He so easily maneuvered through the potholes, and I seemed to hit each one that stood in my path. I found myself stressed and scared of them, instead of enjoying the ride like he seemed to be doing.
I remember him telling me “try focusing on the smooth part of the road – don’t even look at the potholes – and you’ll find yourself riding down the smooth part of the road instead”. I was shocked when we finished out our ride that day and my dad was right.
A few years back I remember the Lord bringing that thought back to me, and realizing how this could apply to so much more than just biking. If we focus on the “potholes” in our life, we will run into them every time. But if we focus on the smooth parts of the road, we will ride on that instead.
What if in our days, marriages, children, bodies and circumstances we focused on the “smooth road” or the positive, instead of the “potholes” or the negatives?
IN OUR DAYS
It doesn’t take much to turn a perfectly normal day into a “bad day”. A spilled coffee, a nasty commute, or a missed meeting… and there you have it, you can easily claim your day as “bad”. Or we could choose to not focus on the spilled coffee, and see it as a perfectly good excuse to grab yourself a Starbucks treat, or that nasty commute was a way for you to listen to that podcast you’ve been wanting to or that missed meeting was because you spent an extra few minutes snuggling your kids this morning (worth it, every time). It’s all about perspective.
IN OUR MARRIAGES
Being married to another person, you don’t have to look hard to find each others short-comings. I love my husband and he is a wonderful, smart, kind and fun man… but he is not perfect. And when the work day was long, the kids have been tough and the dishes are piled up, it’s easy to see only others flaws. But why choose to waste energy and your thought life on seeing the negatives (or the potholes), when you could instead see this beautiful home and life you have created with that spouse, even though it’s crazy and messy and exhausting at times?
IN OUR CHILDREN
This one is hitting really close to home right now. Our oldest daughter is three and a half and she is all the good things (sweet, fun, spunky and loving), but is three and pushing boundaries and giving me a “run for my money” in terms of testing my patience and consistency in parenting. It is easy to see the potholes right now, and let the fear (of failing as a parent) overtake the enjoyment of the “ride”. But I need to not focus on the struggles and the tough moments, and instead focus on the good ones and the small wins. I don’t want to remember this season of life as only a time of correcting her and her behavior – and if I focus on the “potholes” that is exactly what will happen. So instead I am working to choose to focus on the smooth road, which helps me to be more patient and loving which then of course leads to better behavior from her.
IN OUR BODIES
This is another area where I am really preaching to myself – it isn’t hard to pick apart things that I don’t like in my body. I can focus on the things I don’t like, or I can focus on the fact that my stomach may not be where I would like it to be, but that’s because it has been a home to two little girls. My legs may not be as lean and muscular as I would like but they allow me to run and dance with my husband. It’s all about what I’m choosing to focus on – the “potholes” or the “smooth road”.
IN OUR CIRCUMSTANCES
Sometimes, perspective is everything. When I reflect back on some of (what seemed like) the most difficult circumstances of my adult life – they are the things I am the most grateful for today. They are when I learned to trust and lean fully on God, they are the times my marriage and faith were strengthened, and they were the times where I thought something was a mistake and it was really a miracle in the making.
I write all this to encourage you (and myself, I need to hear this just as much as anyone else does). But I can’t write all this and not acknowledge that life is not fair, and not easy. Some of us may be facing really real, deep, painful “potholes” right now and I am so very sorry if that is the case for you. If that is your current reality my prayer is that you would feel the Lord so close to you in your pain (Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”). And that the “joy of the Lord would be your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
For those of us who aren’t trudging through the deep “potholes”, let’s take some time to change our focus. Let’s spend more time looking at and for smooth road instead of focusing on the pothole in front of us (or fearing the potholes that may be up ahead of us).