Exiting Traffic Circles and Moving On


Why your travel partners can make or break you by Lori Champion

I was on a road trip recently with my husband, my middle son and his wife, when I overheard my son’s phone conversation with his brother. I heard him laughing, “Yes, Mom and Dad are already fighting over GPS directions!” My husband makes me navigate, knowing that I am directionally challenged, even with clear directions.

“Directionally challenged, even with clear directions.” Think about that. How many times do we miss big turns in life, ignoring prominent road signs and red flags while Siri (or your navigation system’s name of choice) keeps yelling: “Re-route!” “Turn-around!” or “Abort mission!”

Millions of people followed Moses out of Egypt on a road-trip to the promised land that God himself had planned. It was a two-week journey that turned into 40 years. I wonder what heaven’s conversation was like seeing the children of Israel stuck in this never-ending traffic circle. Then God had enough and said to them, “‘You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north’” (Deuteronomy 2:3, NASB). God goes on to not just give them a path but a pattern of travel. He tells them how they will be received by the locals on their route and how they should prepare and respond.

As we embark upon another new year, or “trip around the sun” as some say, our desire should not be that we just circle the sun, that we don’t just move but that we move on. We need to break through the roadblocks that have held us back, distracted or detoured us from the desired promised land that God has for each and every one of us.

If we are going to move forward in 2023, we must grow ourselves into our desired future. Success doesn’t make you; it reveals you. Those who are generous once they have money, were generous when they had little. Those who are rude once they reached the top had bad, sometimes well-hidden, attitudes before they were promoted. As a person who has entrusted my life and future to Christ, I am fully convinced that He not only orders my steps (Psalm 37:23), but He orders my stops and sometimes my traffic circles. What I know about God is that He is more concerned with my holiness than my temporary happiness. He has a growth plan for me, and it involves tests of my character. As a good instructor, He allows us to circle back and retake tests that we don’t pass.

If we are not seeing success (however that’s defined for you), we must first look at ourselves. When I end up at the wrong destination, its likely I’m the one who made the wrong turn(s). Everyone takes a wrong turn every now and then, but there are some who keep taking the same wrong turn, over and over again, cycles of bad decisions, toxic relationships, and drama no matter where they go. It’s always someone else’s fault, but they are always the common denominator. Thus, we are stuck in the traffic circle, sometimes by self-inflicted decisions, sometimes by God’s testing process.

If you find yourself with the same list of New Year’s resolutions this year, do some self- reflection, maybe even ask some friends, “How am I getting in my own way?” or “What mistakes do I keep making that get me back to the same place, year after year?”

I’ve been a women’s pastor for more than two decades now, and I’ve counseled, warned and even begged some women to make better choices for their lives: “Don’t marry the guy without a job,” or worse, “without being equally yoked” or the “manipulative, controlling or leading- you-on-guys,” and women have told me, “This is my last break-up with him!” . . . until it’s not.

Going back to the children of Israel story, I’ve often wondered if out of the millions of people who were experiencing this road trip gone wrong, did not one of them think, We’ve passed this same landmark several times? Did no one feel the need to stop the madness and re-route? They were children of God but were being detoured by their difficult pasts and their years of slavery, where they were unable to speak up, to strategize or to change course.

They didn’t have a winning mentality when it came to their future. They weren’t seeing things right, so they kept circling. One thing I’ve learned in leadership is if I can help people become aware of themselves, and aware of how God sees them, then their choices start to change.
If they start to see that they are worth being treated with respect, they can begin to see the value that Christ placed on them and their confidence is elevated. They feel the confidence to overcome and move beyond their limitations.

Paul admonishes the church at Philippi, “. . . But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14, ESV)

I wonder what Paul had to forget in order to press on toward the goal. He had to forget that he once persecuted the very church he was called to build. He had to forget that he was an enemy of Christ. He had to forget his old way of doing things. The shame of his previous life could have debilitated him from moving into his future.

And he had to forget good things too because we can sometimes “rest in our laurels” and lose our hunger to do more. There is an expression: “The enemy of great is good.” And it’s true about our personal development, our businesses and every area of our lives. We don’t want to just be good enough; we want to live the life of greatness God has called us to.

What do you need to forget? What mindset, behavior, pain or shame need to stay behind so you can move ahead? We have a race to run, and we run faster without carrying dead weight with us.

Hebrews12:1 (ESV) says, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Secondly, you’ve got to travel with the right people. There are lunch friends and then there are vacation friends. Who is on the trip of life with you? There’s a level of trust and vulnerability that is required for traveling friends. Have you ever thought it was a great idea to go on vacation with people only to find out that when you spend a lot of time with them that they are “A LOT!”? I have found out that some of my friends were DRAMA in tight quarters. Some of them made us all run late. Some were moody. Some were messy. Some had annoying habits. Some do not know where they’re going and they’ll get you lost too. Moses found all of this out on his trip out of Egypt.

I’ve had some healthy (and unhealthy) conflict and conversations with the people I’ve allowed on the journey with me. We were on a trip with some of our best friends, and she was playfully making fun of her husband, but he didn’t think it was funny. It was becoming awkward, and she was the only person who didn’t realize it. So, I gave her a gentle love-kick under the table. She knew it was my way of lovingly and discreetly saying, “Maybe you should back off!” She took it light-heartedly, and announced, “Lori is kicking me under the table, so I better stop!” She has done the same thing for me . . . a not-so-gentle kick in the pants when I was being a wimpy leader who needed to address issues courageously. Hopefully, you have people around you who have navigated the rough roads of life, who have succeeded in your field of work and are ready to help you win or who have successfully built a strong marriage or raised children to become great human beings. I usually call them “friends to my destiny,” but they can also be called “friends to your destination.”

Years ago, when we planted our church, we were struggling with just a few people. We joined with some friends who were also church planters and helped form an organization called Association of Related Churches (ARC). It started as small gatherings where church leaders gathered to exchange ideas with a commitment to help others plant churches. Before that time, we were doing church on our own, not learning from anyone else’s ideas or mistakes. I attribute those relationships to the leading cause of the dynamic growth we began to experience as a church. Success and failure run in packs. Good marriages run in packs. Bad marriages run in packs. I would not be the leader, wife or mom that I am without people who I didn’t just enjoy but I listened to, sometimes even when it stretched me or required me to see a situation through a different lens! We all have blind-spots that others see.

It’s a new year, it’s time to stop circling and start seeing the future God in store! It’s above and beyond your imagination!

This article was extracted from issue 8 of Thrive Today! Journal (Winter 2023).