“Work in progress”. "Construction ahead". As I drive around Detroit I see these phrases posted on streets everywhere. It’s almost as if they are something of an unofficial city motto. It’s kind of like the whole city is saying “pardon our mess and sorry for the trouble but we are working to become better”. That’s the point of road construction right? Improvement. Even so, I am struck by how inconvenient road construction is. Delays, detours, and dead ends where the street used to run straight through. Construction has a way of taking what should be a simple “here to there” trip and turning it into something that can be confusing and frustrating.
There really are two ways to look at road construction if you think about it. You can either look at it and see the mess, or you can look at it and see the potential of the final product. Road construction is inconvenient primarily because it diverts us from the plan we created in our own minds. We had a picture of what it would be like to drive from here to there and construction takes our plan and completely destroys it. We formulate a mental road map of what it should take to drive to the grocery store, or to go to the gym, or to get to the park…and construction takes these simple everyday routes and complicates them. Who has time for that?
Life really isn't all that different. We formulate a mental road map of what we think it will take to achieve goals, to meet major life benchmarks that we see as important, and to get from here to there. We approach life with a certain amount of confidence in what we view as a thorough, well thought out plan. Inevitably, we all come to a place in life where we realize that due to unforeseen circumstances our plan is falling apart. We come to a season of road construction. We come to a place in life where due to unforeseen circumstances the regular details of living are no longer as simple as they once were.
We find dead ends in relationships that once seemed to be a two way street. We experience delays in our career path that just last year was flowing fast towards that promotion. We come upon detours in life circumstances that seem to draw us further away from where we want to be. At this point we have a choice. It is not so much that this choice changes our circumstances so much as it changes our perspective. See, road construction (in Michigan and definitely in life) is inevitable. Since it isn’t really about “if” but “when” the best we can do is control our perspective on the inevitable…there are going to be days where our lives and the roads we go down will be an inconvenient and sometimes painful work in progress.
Our perspective all comes down to how we answer a simple question: Is the value of the final product worth the inconvenience of the construction ahead? Is what you will become and where you will end up worth what you are going through?
One of my favorite things about Jesus is that when we meet Him, He promises to not leave us the same as we were when we first met Him. The moment we have an authentic encounter with Jesus He immediately goes to work in order to transform us into the best possible version of ourselves!
IN OTHER WORDS: You might say that the moment we meet Jesus we agree to become a walking, talking, living, breathing “work in progress”.
One of the most famous instances of a God-sized detour has got to be found in Acts 9 where Saul (soon to be Paul) has an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Saul was heading on to continue to stir up problems for the church but little did he know that he would never go down that road again. Saul was about to enter a stretch of road construction that would forever change his path and his life!
Acts 9:3-9 “3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.” (NIV)
Jesus said “and you WILL be told what you must do”. Jesus doesn’t lay it all out there for Saul in the middle of the street. Jesus doesn’t say, “listen man…you are going to be God’s chosen instrument to proclaim His Name to a bunch of people; you are going to be used by the Holy Spirit to write a bunch of what will come to be known as the New Testament”. Jesus doesn’t tell Saul any more than what He knows that Saul can handle in that moment.
It’s like Jesus says: Right now Saul, I just need you to go into the city where you will be told what to do next, do you think you can do that? Oh…and just to be sure I’m going to take away your sight so that your friends HAVE to lead you to where I want you to go. (that is a message in and of itself!)
Isn’t that the nature of road construction though? You come upon the first signs indicating “road work ahead” or you start to see the little orange cones that let you know you’re probably not going to get to where you were going as fast as you thought…and then all we get to see is the broken up mess and all we get to experience is the inconvenience of the construction. You see, the nature of road construction and the nature of a work in progress is that we are rarely able to visualize the final product through the current mess.
Sometimes when life seems to be completely falling apart, when nothing is going the way you planned, and when it seems like everything about you is a total mess is when God is actually leading you into a season of road construction. A season of improvement. A season where He is giving you the right to say to those around you “pardon my current life mess and sorry if it is an inconvenience for you but I am working to become better”.
Too often we give the devil credit for the difficult seasons of our life. Perhaps with more careful evaluation and an intentional adjustment of our perspective we will come to realize that we have incorrectly given the devil more credit than he deserves. Not every path changing, life altering, faith testing season of proverbial life “road construction" is an attack from the enemy…sometimes it’s a God ordained season of improvement. Road construction is inevitable. Following Jesus guarantees that our life is one big work in progress. How will you handle it?
As a good friend of mine likes to remind me: “You can’t control what happens to you but you can control how you react”.
- Pastor Bill Comai