Before you get too far into this column, I feel I need to issue a warning that I’m going to say something political and it’s going to get most people fairly heated. Ready?
I like roundabouts.
I know there’s really two camps of people: those who dislike them and those who despise them. They caused quite a stir when Brainerd and Baxter wanted to build some, and years later people are still grumbling about what they see as a public nuisance. Roundabouts get labeled as difficult and slow.
Roundabouts get a bad wrap in my book. I think they are great! They keep things flowing and the driver is in control. You must pay more attention to other drivers, but they are amazing tools that help drivers navigate easily once they are understood.
At a normal intersection with a traffic signal, you are stuck. You are stuck until the light turns green. You are told “stop," “go," “go faster” (I know, a yellow light doesn’t really mean “go faster”). There are “turn only” lanes, “go straight only" lanes, “left turn on green," “yield on green” and so on.
The point is there’s not a lot of interpretation. The driver is told what to do and there’s no flexibility.
Life needs flexibility. People need flexibility. Life is not as easy as “stop” and “go," “up” and “down," “left” and “right." There’s more nuance to it. A red light means stop, unless you’re turning right. A green light mean go, but sometime you yield. You can go left by turning right three times.
We made those rules because life demands flexibility and nuance, which is why I like roundabouts, but it’s not the only reason. I also like them because I think they are illustrative of a life of faith as taught by the Bible. Who knew that the Bible could be found in roundabouts?
Many people see the Bible as a book of rules. A book of “Dos and Don’ts." A list of what a person can and cannot do. How people should behave, how they should not behave, how to include those who think like you, how to exclude those who don’t.
It has some of that. Some. But, the Bible doesn’t have as much of that as most people think; it’s just been the focus for too long.
The Bible is less about “who’s in” and “who’s out” and more about personal conviction; how we see ourselves (as individuals and communities) when we look in the mirror the scripture provides.
There are exceptions to this and there are places in the Bible when instruction is cut and dry. To me, they are the exception and not the rule. For me, there’s more “roundabout” then “traffic light” to the Bible.
In other words, the words of the Bible are there to help us navigate life not with a set of “dos and don’ts," but with guidance for each and every situation and all the nuances of life. A life that is filled with nuance and struggle, joy and heartache, highs and lows.
This does not limit or deny the Word of God. Instead it allows us to see God in the nuances of life because we aren’t given answers to some of the big struggles of our time, but we are given guidance on how our daily lives and our faith can interact.
We don’t get Biblical instruction on how to deal with gun violence, Alzheimer’s disease, how to live with technology, or many other issues in the modern world. When we’re confronted with those issues, we can get stopped in our tracks, look for answers in the Bible, so we can say “God is on our side."
Instead what we get is how to navigate the intersections of life and faith. Where something could stop us in our tracks as we look to the Bible for a set of rules, we can instead navigate the intersection with an understanding that the Bible is more of a roundabout, allowing us to make transitions, change directions or keep going all without having to stop and check for a list of rules.
It also allows us to give freedom to others; freedom for them to navigate the intersection, at the same time, and come up with a different direction.
Who knew that roundabouts and faith go together? I bet you’ll look at roundabouts differently the next time you see one, and hopefully you’ll see faith and life a little differently too.