When running behind a trash truck, take another road: Choose the path of your thinking

 

dont-run-behind-the-trash-truck

2 Corinthians 4:13

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak…

This past summer when I was on a run, I had the misfortune of getting behind a trash truck.  Unfortunately for me, the road I was running on was the trash truck’s route, so the smell was preceding me the entire way. The summer air was languid with the ripe smell of dirty diapers and rotten food. The stench was so thick that is was almost a taste.

Then I got the clever idea to take a different road home than I usually do.  After all, if my run that day coincided with trash day for a three mile stretch of houses, I was either going to suck in that putrid air all the way home or else find an alternate route.

So as soon as I could, I banked to the right and started down some unfamiliar residential streets. Not only did I find the air remarkably sweeter, but the change in scenery from the usual route was a refreshing boost to my routine.

As I ran, I started thinking about the correlation between my run in the wake of a rank trash truck and my life.  I realized that many times I have followed a putrid path in my thinking far too long.  Maybe life’s circumstances were stinky and making everything around me reek of disappointment, sadness or anger.  But just as I did on my run, I always have a choice to change the course of my thinking.  While I couldn’t change the route that the trash truck was taking, I could change my own.  It’s the same thing with our lives.  We can’t always change the circumstances we’re facing, but we can choose our perspective and our outlook.

2 Corinthians 10:5

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Here’s an example: I have a son who has struggled with addiction issues for a good portion of his life.  He started using drugs and alcohol in his early teens.  My husband and I spent many years and many dollars trying to help him, taking him doctors and therapists, drug counselors and lawyers. Our efforts were exhausting and seemed fruitless. Our entire lives were wrapped up in his drama and addiction, even when we didn’t know where he was or what was going on.  We lived on pins and needles for years, dreading the visits at the door from the police or the phone calls from the school telling me that he was in trouble again.

For years, I allowed the circumstances to rule me. I wore myself out trying to “fix” my son and keep everyone in our family functioning while a circus was going on all around us.  I ran behind that putrid truck and not only breathed deep of the forensic fumes, but I stayed so close to it that I began to smell like trash myself.  Everything coming out of my mouth reflected that I didn’t see any other road for my thoughts other than depression, fear and hopelessness. Why me? Why him? Why our family? Why couldn’t we have a normal life?

I blamed myself for his problems.  It took me a long time and a lot of reading to realize that this train of thought was as crazy as running behind the trash truck and blaming the odor on myself!

But then I started attending a recovery group that began to put some new thoughts into my arsenal.  I began to read about the cycles of addiction and hear other families’ stories that mirrored my own.  I realized that it wasn’t me or even my son that was the trash truck.  Addiction is the trash truck and any one of us can choose to start down another road at any time. We each own our individual choices.

I chose to run another road.  I chose to think different thoughts about myself, my son, and about our family.  I am still learning how to do this. I haven’t arrived.

But as soon as I start thinking stinking thoughts filled with self-condemnation, worry or fear, I remember that I can take another road with my thoughts. I choose to think about the people I can help with my story. I think about all of the good things I did as a mother and pray to God that He will heal my son’s heart from my mistakes. I think about how I am stronger and more confident than I was last year, and the year before that and the year before that.  I think about how God has carried me through some of the most challenging things a parent can face.  My faith in His care is stronger than it ever was.  My trust in His faithfulness and mercy on my entire family is unshakable.  And my empathy for broken young people who struggle with addiction when deep inside they are amazing, intelligent people has made me a more compassionate person on a gut-level that often brings me to unexpected tears.

I see more and more how the stink of the trash truck pushed me down another road and how that path has deepened the color of my life.

Now you:

  • How have the stinking situations of your life turned out to bring more color into your life?
  • Can you identify how that path has made you a stronger and richer person?
  • Can you see now how the difficult roads forced you down unexpected paths that brought a deeper faith than you had before? Do you think you could take that knowledge into your current stinky situations and begin to speak faith and life and strength now?
  • Is there someone in your world who needs to have words of life spoken to them? There are people all around you who are saturated by the stench of their situations. They can’t see their way out or the path forward. It’s amazing the power that words of life and hope can have in someone’s life – or just their day – when we take the time to reach out!

 

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