As is common in Southern California, I commute to work. As is uncommon in Southern California, my drive goes against traffic, which means, that although my car accumulates mileage much faster than cars across the rest of the nation, my drive is much more pleasant than most of other commuters. What this also means, is that it is very easy to relax on my way to work. In doing so, there are times that my attention to my surroundings is lacking. More than once I’ve been driving along, and I look around, surprised at where the journey has already taken me. (Before you get concerned, I do pay attention to the cars and other objects in proximity to me; I just don’t always pay attention to the landscape.) Less frequently, there have also been times when I’ve noticed my surroundings and asked myself “wait, am I on the right road?” It seems to be a place that I’ve never been before even though its part of my regular commute. A few seconds later, I’ll realize this and wonder how I could have gotten so confused to begin with.
The cause of all this uncertainty is that when I’m on a familiar path, my attention tends to wander. I think I know where I’m going so I don’t have acknowledge the signs and the signals as I must when it’s a place I’ve never been before. I relax in my commitment to awareness and as a result I find myself asking, “Wait, where am I?”
As a long-time Christian, this also happens in my walk with God. When I get comfortable, when I get complacent, I stop paying attention to the signs and the signals along the way. My commitment to diligent watching fades and I get to a place where I ask “How did I get here?” and “Wait, where am I?” I think I’m on the right road and hit cruise, only to have my attention called to an unfamiliar sight and I must question whether I am in fact, walking the intended path. Thinking I’ve been down the road before, I neglect the practices that got me safely there to begin with.
This is no good thing. Just like driving is a “privilege not a right” a close walk with God is not a guarantee, even for believers. We must continuously do those things that make us aware of how God is leading. Even on familiar paths, we must pay attention to His directions. Otherwise, we may find ourselves in a place where we look around, surprised, and ask “Are we on the right path?” and regret the answer.