I could feel it in my hands as I clenched the steering wheel and my foot moved off the gas to slowly apply the brakes while the cars were slowing in front of me. My whole body tensed as the stress and pending difficulty of the traffic clenched my muscles, strained my nerves, and heightened my senses. My eyes darted about noticing the car behind me that was NOT slowing down and a car next to me swerving a little because they were too gentle as they responded to the near stopped traffic. Yes there I was merging onto the 405 along with what looked like all of Orange County!
Now if you are Southern California driver you get the stress and difficulty of driving in traffic. It is a pain; some call it a night mare, and many try alternate routes or public transportation to avoid being behind the wheel. I mean we see on the roads and listen to the news every day about multiple accidents and most everyone I know has a story of a near miss or some unpleasant experience. I bet you have one as well!
Well here I was about to get on the 405 freeway and thinking we would be fighting this traffic for a long time, so I decided to pull off to an Ikea store to grab some dinner! (Yes, Ikea has a cafeteria with Swedish meat balls and you can even get a soft-serve frozen yogurt for a $1!) As we were making our way up to the food place we noticed something that had a deep impact on me.
What impacted me were not all the sales, specials or cool new hip furniture and gadgets (though I love all that stuff and the fun this store is). But what impacted me was something I noticed as a mom and her very active kids that were singing, laughing, jumping, and just vibrating with energy and life were leaving the store. It looked like the kids had been to party or some fun activity as their faces were adorned with colorful face-painting designs and they had party bags and juice boxes in hand along with those paper measuring tapes Ikea provides throughout the store.
The mom looked a little warn out, with young kids all sugared up and bouncing with energy, who would not be exhausted. And besides that, it looked like one or two of the kids could have been friends of her kids, I did hear one of the kids yell out MOM, and the mom had another one in a stroller and no other adult with her. I was tired just noticing the brood walking along. The mom sweetly encouraging them to hurry along because they were going to have to fight the traffic on the way home. I thought, “Oh yes you are, it’s a parking lot out there and with these hyper kids it’s going to be a zoo in your car. I hope she makes it!’ Her shoulders slumped as she noticed how bad the traffic was.
But then it happened; it was only for a moment but it changed everything, for the mom, for the kids and even I was caught up in it. After hearing the words “traffic”, two of the little girls looked at each other with eyes widened and a full ear to ear grin said together with great enthusiasm “TRAFFIC, we love traffic!” And they broke into a dance singing, “We love traffic! We love traffic, Traffic is the best!” They were waving those measuring strips like streamers and twirling about. “Yes, traffic! We love traffic!” Everyone was noticing these kids, and like me, started to smile and laugh and feel their pure joy. Who knows why they felt so elated. Maybe it was because the kids got to spend more time together or really interact with the people in cars as they crept along. Who knows and who cares? These little angels of joy just made us all smile. Even mom was breaking into a smile as her eyes lovingly rolled and said, “Come on, let’s go find some traffic.” And the kids cheered.
It was like Christmas morning for these kids and in just a moment they danced our difficulty away. I’m not sure what kind of traffic-like thoughts or burdens others were facing, but I had a few and you know what…those precious little messengers of God just danced my difficulties away. As the escalator carried us up to the second floor I was singing in my head, “Traffic, I love traffic!” And I think I was starting to kind of move my feet to the tune.
As I thought about the joy these kids passed on I was reminded of a Psalm King David wrote about how God turns our difficulties into joy. Now I know that traffic is not a tragedy and some of us have faced real deep issues, but God has a way to even turn our grieving into dancing. Listen to the Psalm:
Psalm 30:1-12 I will exalt you, O LORD, for You lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O LORD my God, I called to You for help and You healed me. O LORD, You brought me up from the grave; You spared me from going down into the pit. Sing to the LORD, You saints of His; praise His holy name. For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” O LORD, when You favored me, You made my mountain stand firm; but when You hid your face, I was dismayed. To You, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: “What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it proclaim Your faithfulness? Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help.” You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give You thanks forever.
Read that over a few times and let the truth that God loves you immensely, cares about you constantly, and loves you immeasurably soak in so much you start to smile and maybe even dance a little. You may even dance that difficulty away.
Seeking to Dance Difficulty Away with you,