“You’re on the wrong side of the road,” my mom calmly told me. (Really, she was calm. I promise.)
“Oh, right. That could have been bad.” (Cue nervous laughter-because that’s what I do when I’m flustered.)
You might be wondering when this little mishap took place. Years ago, when my mom was teaching me to drive?
Nope. Not that long ago.
For sixteen years, I lived in Australia. (No, we didn’t have crocodiles in our backyard. Kangaroos, yes, but no crocs. People often ask that…) 🙂
I was 20 years old when I first set foot upon the sunburnt country of Australia. Which means I’d only been driving for 4 years. Which also means I’ve driven most of my adult life on the left side of the road. (Notice I didn’t say “wrong” side of the road. As a dual citizen of the US and Australia, I refuse to get into that debate.)
In those 16 years, I picked up some great habits. The first of which was to stay on the left side of the road, as to avoid oncoming traffic.
The second habit was getting into the right side of the car anytime I planned to drive. That was the logical side to get into. Because, you know, that’s where the steering wheel was located.
(Time to pause for a short story, just in case you haven’t had anything to make you smile today. This story took place after I’d been living in Australia a couple years. My car was close to empty, so I made a quick stop for fuel. After filling the car and paying, I jumped back into my vehicle. Only to discover there was no steering wheel. You guessed it…I got into the wrong side of the car. At a crowded gas station. So that was fun.) 🙂
And the third habit was to always, always be watching for kangaroos on the road. In my sixteen years of Aussie driving, I hit three kangaroos. Considering the area where we lived (kangaroo heaven), that’s not too bad.
After moving back to the States, I could no longer simply hop into a car and drive. I had to concentrate on what I was doing.
At intersections, I had to pay close attention to staying in the proper lane. When I used the turn signal, I had to remember which side of the steering wheel it was on. (Turns out that using the windshield wipers doesn’t really show other drivers which way you’re turning.) I had to learn how to shift with my right hand instead of my left.
And it was a full 12 months before I stopped watching for kangaroos on the road.
Anything we do, day after day, becomes a habit.
And habits can be very, very hard to change.
This is a good thing, if the habit is good for us spiritually, physically, emotionally, relationally.
But not so good when the habit we’ve formed is a detriment to us.
It can be oh-so-easy to develop a destructive habit.
Like picking up our phone first thing in the morning instead of picking up our Bible.
Or watching a less-than-wholesome TV show.
Or looking to food or entertainment to cope with stress instead of taking our troubles to God.
Or defaulting to worry instead of praying when a crisis hits.
I could go on, but I dare say most of us are aware of our bad habits. We don’t need anyone to tell us what they are.
So how do we change? How do we get back to the right side of the road?
Proverbs tells us that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. (Proverbs 23:7) It all begins inside, with our hearts and our thoughts.
Our thoughts become actions, and our actions become habits.
A change in thinking will result in a change in acting, which leads to a change of habits.
When I was re-learning to drive on the right side of the road, I had to constantly think about it. But day after day, as I continued to drive, it once again became my natural default. Now I’m able to hop in a car and drive, all without having to stop and think about what side of the road I should be on.
It all begins in the heart.
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (II Corinthians 10:5)
Watch those habits. If you don’t, you may just find yourself on the wrong side of the road.