Travel traffic is heaviest on Thanksgiving Sunday. Most other big holidays have pretty ambiguous start and end times, but the Sunday after Thanksgiving ends the holiday week for everyone in America. That day is known for traffic jams and lots of people everywhere. It is a rare person who actually enjoys slow traffic and packed crowds. However, during the regular day-to-day, when we go somewhere or do something, we tend to scramble to see who will go with us and to find out who will be there. We also prefer for there to be a good crowd when we get there because that somehow validates the event. Most of us do not like to do things alone, or to spend much time by ourself.
There is an increase in joy when we can celebrate with others. There is a decrease in sorrow when we shoulder it with loved ones. A study was done proving that even stress decreases if we have someone experiencing it with us.
In contrast, it is also possible for activities done with a group to have a negative impact. We are more easily convinced that a wrong isn’t a wrong when the popular voice sides with the wrong. We can be talked into doing something that is against our better judgement when the whole crowd is moving in a direction that makes us uncomfortable. To stand up to the masses for what we know to be best, or for what is against popular decision, can be a lonely place.
I did an exercise once when I was speaking to a group of middle and high school students. I had them stand up if they liked chocolate more than vanilla, then everyone sat down. I had them stand if they liked Taylor Swift more than they liked Selena Gomez, then everyone sat down. Stand if you like the ocean better than the lake. Now sit. Stand for football over soccer. Sit. Stand for burgers over hot dogs…. When we stopped, I asked the question: How many of you stood just because your neighbor stood, or sat just because your friend was sitting? A shocking number of people raised their hand. Many of them had stopped listening to the questions and were only sitting or standing based on the crowd. This was my point, exactly.
When we go with the flow of traffic, instead of deciding for ourselves what direction we should be travelling in, we are in danger of losing ourselves. We develop “herd” mentality and move at the will of the masses.
Jesus warns us about taking the heavily traveled road: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate, and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus was speaking here about making the choice whether or not to follow Him.
Following Jesus can be pretty unpopular at times. Walking His road means admitting that we are sinners in need of a Savior. He tells us to deny ourselves and to take up our cross in order to follow Him. He asks us to consider others above ourselves. These things are hard because they don’t allow us to spend time satisfying our own desires and cravings. The apostle John writes in I John 2:16 “everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.” This is the risk – becoming enamored by the world and its seductive offerings can pull us away from God. John goes on in verse 17 to say: “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” This is our reward – heaven/eternity with Jesus! I had a student tell me one time, “I guess it is better to stand outside the crowd on earth, so that we can be part of the crowd in heaven, than to be part of the crowd here and stand outside of heaven.” She nailed it.
Humans are self-centric. It seems we get more so with each new advertisement for doing what feels good, and what makes life easier. We are urged to claim everything that gives instant gratification. There is danger in following this flow of traffic. It takes away the challenge and the blessing of thinking for ourselves.
Following Jesus on the road less traveled is actually the BEST thing we can do for ourselves! It allows us His strength, which makes the things of this world easier to bear, gives us solid purpose in every big and little thing – the smooth and the difficult parts of the road, and gives us eternal rewards that our minds cannot even imagine.
Next time we are sitting in traffic, we can take the time to reflect…am I following the crowd because it is the best choice for my journey, or do I need to take an alternate route that will get me to my desired destination?
I am averse to pain. I avoid it at all