The picture is of ruts in the stone roads in the ancient city of Pompeii. All the wagons had wheels with the same spacing, and all could follow the same ruts. Some say these ruts were cut into the stone by the passing back and forth of the wheels many times over many years. Others say that the ruts were purposely cut into the stone, especially at pedestrian crossings where there were stepping stones across the street, to guide the wagons through the difficult passages.
I see a parallel with modern life for all of us. We all have a wagon with equally spaced wheels. And we all tend to follow the ruts that are both formed from long routine and habit, and those formed by cutting the path with our (sometimes bad) choices and decisions. While the wagon wheels are all spaced the same, the amount of baggage we pile onto our wagons differs, as does the type of baggage we choose to carry. You see, when we are smart and recognize that some of the baggage is useless and only adds weight to our burden; we are wise enough to get rid of that baggage.
But what really makes a difference is when I am able to see that the street and path I am on leads to long term regrets, even though there may be some short term happiness. Then more drastic action is needed, change is needed. I may even have to physically lift my wagon to redirect it onto a path that leads to long term happiness without regrets.
One of the areas I have been addressing has to do with what (who) I compare myself to. I always felt comfortable I didn’t have a problem with judging others. But recently I have caught myself playing the comparison game. Is my retirement, job, marriage, relationship with my children better, worse, less mediocre, than someone else’s? Are my struggles with hurts, habits, and hang-ups as bad as someone else’s? When someone tells me about their struggle and the ruts their wagon is following, the baggage they carry on their wagon, do I react with a sigh of relief that at least I’m not that bad? Do I beat myself up because they seem better than me?
I have decided to take action and guide my thinking into three paths, and work to cut the ruts deep:
(1) Forget the past. I cannot change the past and there is no point dwelling on the negative in the past. Both the Old Testament and New Testament have verses to this effect: Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. Isa 43:18 and But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead… Phil 3:13.
(2) Pick one thing to focus on changing and improving. This is especially true with hurts and struggles. When I find that I am comparing myself to someone else I try to focus on the one thing about them or what they said that most resonates with me as something I could improve in my own life. By doing this I escape the comparison trap.
(3) Be willing to share my personal struggles and experience with others. When I organize my thoughts about a struggle or recovery from a struggle, I not only think about how I can get the thought clear in my own mind. I ask myself, how could I express it in a way that it might help the one person that really needs support or encouragement?
I always have to guard myself not to let the “urgent” things overwhelm the “truly important” things. I have shared that in Spain when you find a hair or bug in your food, you say “What doesn’t kill you makes you fatter.” And here in the USA we often say about a personal crisis or struggle: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I apply the same thinking to any area of struggle – “What doesn’t kill my marriage, makes it a stronger marriage.” I intend to be both fatter and stronger!