When Jan and I were based in Kingston, Jamaica, we learned a lot about the history of the island. One day, I was speaking with an old-timer who told me about the day when the first traffic signal was installed on the island. If you were to visit Jamaica today, you would quickly realize even with an abundance of traffic signals in the cities the driving is very chaotic to this day. I could not imagine what it was like when an unfamiliar traffic light was first put in place.
On that day, the busiest intersection in Kingston was chosen to receive the new traffic signal. A notice was placed in the paper about the coming change. No one had ever seen a traffic light before. As cars approached the newly regulated intersection many of the drivers simply did not see the traffic light. It was not in their field of vision because it was not yet part of their thinking. Wrecks happened one after another. The intersection became a massive crash site.
The old-timer sharing this memory with me began to smile. He said, “It was so entertaining! Hundreds of people filled the streets watching crash after crash. When a new crash took place we all let out a cheer and applauded like we were at a soccer game.” This crash scene went on for weeks until the drivers finally came to realize what it meant to have their driving regulated.
The day the first traffic signal was installed in Kingston a lack of self-control was present. The traffic signal did not press the brake to obey a red light. That was the responsibility of the driver. It would become a learned skill.
One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. This is not God or a pastor controlling our lives – it is you and me doing the controlling. That is why it is called self-control. We are the ones in charge of how we speak and how we choose to live. The appetites of our lives need a set of brakes and an accelerator in order to safely navigate the intersections of life. It may not be a positive-sounding message to consider a life lived under the control of the Spirit, but it is the only kind of life that will keep you from crashing.
Here are a few examples that Paul shared in Ephesians 5 that reveal to us what a spiritual traffic signal looks like when installed at the intersections of a life:
“So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” Vs. 25-27
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Vs. 29
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” 31-32
There are other spiritual traffic lights operating elsewhere in Scripture. Find where they have been installed and heed their warning. They will keep you safe in the journey.