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Larry Elder said, "A goal without a plan is just a wish." How many of us have a bunch of wishes that are nothing but wishes and become nothing more than wishes? As time goes on we get tired of wishing because they come to nothing more than wishes. We assume that wishes remain only that and that they are not capable of being moved from the vague and misty transparency of wishes to an actual reality. Wishes are just that . . . wishes; the hope of something more that will never be anything other than a hope. The "when you wish upon a star" mentality assumes the hope of wishing as a magical sort of gesture, but it placates any tangible outcome to hopeful thinking. Therefore we forgo the whole wonderful idea of dreaming and we settle for the scrapes that life tosses at us.

The Right Lane of Life
We end up in the traffic of life; the molasses-moving, pathetically congested, ever-frustrating right lane of traffic. The right lane of life is home to an endlessly illuminating sea of brake lights, the irritating jostling of stop-and-go traffic, and the distressing gridlock of everyone going nowhere while thinking that they're trying to go somewhere. It's a slow motion parade that has nothing of the fun, energy and celebration of a parade, but has everything of celebration gone to rot in the right lane.

Once we're in the traffic of life and we're firmly in the right lane we set our speed to whatever the traffic around us is. Whatever the life in front of us is doing, that's what we end up doing. Our cadence is determined by the bumper that we're riding in front of us, and the one that's riding our bumper in the rear. We become a link in a long progression that settles into a methodical flow that devolves from going from one place to going nowhere.

We end up doing nothing more than just maintaining some sort of general movement that eventually becomes all about the movement and has nothing whatsoever to do with a destination of any kind. In time, our destination is the right lane and our goal is driving it in with some sense of pride, progress and commendable persistence.

Adopting the Drive Styles of Others
In the methodical doldrums and humdrum of the right lane, we eventually develop the driving styles of those around us. In time we're moving along in some sort of mediocre line of life's right lane, isolated and hemmed in less by the traffic itself and a whole lot more by the routines that we've developed in being in the traffic. Sure, we're headed somewhere, but we're poking and plodding along as a small part of the traffic around us and not as people who are called to great destinations.

We are a single link in a larger jam. The line of people that make up this traffic extends out beyond the horizon of our sight, leaving us with the sense that we've just got to sit it out and let it work itself out. "Hang in there," we tell ourselves in some sort of hallow hurrah. Bolstered by our own cheerleading, we do exactly that. How tragic.

Eventually we forget our destination altogether because our entire focus is in keeping in pace with the traffic. We're paying so much attention to the stuff in the right lane that all we're doing is paying attention to the stuff in the right lane. Life becomes all about navigating the traffic. It's all about watching the traffic and forgetting to ask why we're in the traffic at all. We quit asking what we're doing here and we let the navigation of the traffic be our singular goal.

When that happens, it's indicative of the fact that we've forgotten our destination altogether. Our focus becomes driving down whatever road we're driving down, and our goal becomes navigating the road for the sake of navigating the road. In time, the right lane of life is all that we see and ultimately all that we know. Life becomes a one lane road heading in one direction with one person in front of us and one person behind us. And our one goal is to stay on the road. The left lane is entirely forgotten, so much so that we have forgotten the fact that it exists at all.

The Other Lane
There's something freer in the left lane of life. The left lane is the place where we go when the simple cadence and average speed becomes irritating or altogether intolerable. The left lane is where we have a greater sense of a larger goal, and a lesser sense that life is about pacing ourselves based on everyone else. There's a responsible aggressiveness in the left lane; not a foolish type of aggression, but an aggression that's borne out of a refusal to bend to mediocrity and kneel to the status quo. There's a sense that life can open up when all that we see is congestion; whether that's the congestion that other people create in our lives or the congestion that we're so prone to create in our own heads.

The left lane is just a few scant feet over from the right lane, but it's miles apart in attitude. It's about refusing to ride the bumper in front of you or be ridden by the one behind you. The left lane is about breaking from what everyone else is doing and choosing to take a more active hand in where you're going and how you're getting there. It's about letting an open road give you room to map out your destination, rather than having that destination dictated by the taillight in front of you that's dictated by the one in front of it. The left lane is for those who aren't afraid to press the accelerator a bit, pass a few pokey cars and set their sights a whole lot further down this road that we call life.

The Conviction of Desire
In her now classic bit of prose, Helen Keller wrote, "It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel toward our distant goal." Left lane living is fueled by desire . . . passionate desire. It's a relentless desire; an unforgiving desire that will constantly pound on the door of our hearts until we grant it the complete entrance into our hearts that it demands. It's a rightly obstinate, persistently ruthless and unashamedly robust sort of passion that will not permit the plodding cadence of right lane living.

Desire demands what desire itself desires, and that is the expenditure of every drop of lifeblood in the life-giving pursuit of life itself. It's about the outright rejection of compromise. It's a casting off of the blood-sucking nature of fear and the agonizing tedium of worry. It's about the outlandish confrontation of any attitude, plan, destination or emaciated goal that would do anything other than demand the fullness of our abilities and the totality of our allegiances. It's desire unleashed which is life unfettered.

That kind of desire thrusts us into the left lane of our lives. With desire, we can't be any place else. The right lane of life becomes entirely insufferable. Driving along keeping a weather eye on plodding life in front of us with constant attention to the other plodding life behind us as tightly reflected in our tiny rearview mirrors becomes dreadful. In time it will become completely unbearable, forcing us to seize the wheel and swerve out of the timid, double-lined right lane of our lives and roar into the momentum of the left lane.

The Power of Passion
If desire is what drives us to wrench ourselves out of the right lane and careen into the life lane, passion is the accelerator. Alexander Pope wrote that "on life's vast ocean diversely we sail. Reasons the card, but passion the gale" (italics mine). Passion is the wind in our sails that blows in gale force. It's that unyielding and obstinate thing that will not cease despite the fact that we often keep the mainsails of our lives wrapped tight by the rigging of fear and the lanyards of practicality. Passion is the power that either drives, drags or throws us forward with the momentum generated by its inexhaustible energy.

We can stay in the right lane and just let the left lane blow by us, wondering what in the world that was. We can see the left lane more as something of an annoyance that blows through the calm of our mediocrity, causing us some degree of consternation about something that seems so intrusive. We can view the left lane as filled with a bunch of impatient people who let their arrogance dictate how hard they're pressing the pedal. Or, we can recognize if for what it is, let it fully fuel our lives and throw us forward in the left lane of life. We can bring all of the resources that we have together in order to harness the whole of it and be thrust forward toward horizon after horizon after horizon.

Which Lane?
One final thought that we didn't entertain. That is the fact that sometimes we're not in the right lane, nor are we in the left lane. Sometimes were not on the road at all. Sometimes we've just chosen to wait it out, thinking that the road will lighten up at some point and present us with a more favorable journey. There are the rest-stop dwellers among us who've found some kind of debilitating solace in getting off the road altogether. For those of us who are these people, we'll probably never get on the road at all because it will never be as safe as we might like. So, we park and we wait for nothing. And that is the most tragic journey I can think of.

So, which lane? Or, maybe we'll chose no lane at all and park it somewhere. The open road of life is exactly that . . . open. God has granted us endless highways to explore and numerous destinations in this thing called life. Indeed, it is an adventure designed by the Master Adventurer Himself. The left lane's calling and it's open. So, which lane will it be?

Copyright © Craig D. Lounsbrough, M.Div., Licensed Professional Counselor
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Craig D. Lounsbrough
Web site: Craig Lounsbrough Professional Counselor
Craig Lounsbrough strives to bring an effective blend of experience, expertise, clarity, concern, and action to the counseling process in order to maximize outcomes and provide genuine healing and wholeness to individuals, marriages, and families.

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