It didn’t matter the story or the subject, it always ended with “stay in yo’ lane.”
For about a year and a half my husband (at one point boyfriend) and I visited with my grandparents and were very intentional about sitting and talking with my grandfather because although we didn’t know that he would leave us so soon, we knew our time with him was limited. Regardless of if we were in person, or on zoom, or on FaceTime, my grandfather would always tell Justin (AKA “Just-Right”) “stay in yo’ lane,” as he had told many people in the 9 decades before meeting & telling Justin.
Sometimes “stay in yo’ lane” was a reminder to remember your place as a child, the honor and respect that you are required to give to him and other elders. Sometimes “stay in yo’ lane” was a way of commanding peace when problems would arise - in other words, when someone wanted to “step out of line” but it was better for the common good if they didn't. Sometimes “stay in yo’ lane” was a reminder to steer clear of anger and deceit, and instead to do the right thing - and as my grandfather would say “help the po’.”
What I’ve come to learn about this polysemic saying in particular is that grandaddy was simply saying to be unapologetically and consistently who you are. Know who you are, and know whose you are - and you can’t go wrong. See, when you know who you are then you can “stay in yo’ lane” because you are no longer concerned with what others are doing or saying, it’s only about who you are being and “becoming” (thank you First Lady Michelle Obama for that one!).
Whenever grandaddy would say “stay in yo’ lane” I would often picture a runner on a track or swimmer in the pool. When you learn to run track or swim for a race you are taught to keep your eyes straight ahead (yes, I ran track and I learned to swim competitively for sometime). You learn to focus on the lane in front of you because as soon as you start to look at what others around you are doing, you start to drift out of “yo’ lane.” If you drift far enough, you may injure yourself or others, and if you’re in a relay race you risk the entire race for your WHOLE team.
Part of staying “in yo’ lane” means recognizing that it’s not all about you, what you are doing “in yo’ lane” may be only 1 leg of a larger relay. The other part of staying “in yo’ lane” means acknowledging the purpose in front of you, and your calling that awaits you at the finish line, and they both require your focus. And it’s this FOCUS that allows you to “stay in yo’ lane.”
In Hebrews 12:1 it says,
“...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...”
When it says “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,” I think about the things that come for our focus like distractions, anger, anxiety, comparison, shame, and jealousy, just to name a few. Staying “in yo’ lane” allows you to remember who you are and whose you are and when you do that, distractions, comparison, shame, and all those other things, just don’t hit the same.
When it says to run” the race marked out for us,” I think about our lives, our purpose, our callings that are for more than us individually, it’s for creation as a whole - and here goes this idea of a team again. In Romans 8:19 it tells us that all of creation is eagerly waiting for God’s glory to be revealed in each of us. God’s glory is the beauty of why he put us on this earth and the only way to see the Glory of God manifested on this earth is for it to be revealed through the sons and daughters who “stay in [their] lane.”
The calling at the finish line is much bigger than you, and it requires you to walk out your purpose. You see, your purpose is more immediate than your calling - think of your calling as finishing the race, and think of your purpose as each stride or stroke you are to take “in yo’ lane” - you can’t reach your life’s calling without following your purpose.
It’s crazy that I got all of this from my grandaddy saying “stay in yo’ lane” but whether he knew it or not, grandaddy was always preaching!
When I think about what lane my grandaddy was in and what lane we should strive to be in:
I think about how his lane was in the right hand of the father where it says in Isaiah 41:10 that “He will strengthen you and help you; and lift you up with his right hand of righteousness.” In our weakness He is strong, in our distraction and dismay He is peace, in our place of lack He is plenty… He is everything we need and more, He makes us who we are.
I think about my grandfather’s lane being in the fathers wing, within His hedge of protection where the enemy could do him no harm. Similar to Psalms 91 where it says “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Grandaddy would say, “if I know nothing else, I know god’s got me.” Similar to the “Hebrew Boys” in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3), his lane was peace, his lane was freedom, his lane was joy, his lane was hope, his lane was exactly where God called him to be, regardless of how difficult the race before him. We have to be in a lane where we KNOW God will deliver us, but EVEN if He doesn’t we still KNOW that He is a faithful God!
I also think about how my grandfather’s lane was keeping his mind on Jesus for in Isaiah 26:3 it says “if you keep your mind on me I will keep you in perfect peace.” When my grandfather’s race was over, he had a peace no one could really understand, he would say “I’m knocking at heaven's door now, I just want Jesus to let me on in now.” Most people would wonder why he didn’t desire to stay here on earth forever, I’ve come to discover that it’s because he kept his mind on Jesus, and that gave him a peace at the end of his life that surpassed our natural understanding of what life really is (Philippians 4:6).
This reminds me once more of Hebrews 12 - this time in verse 2 where it says “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1 says run the race, then in 12:2 it says to fix our eyes on Jesus, then in Isaiah 26:3 we learn that this will keep us in perfect peace….. Are you tracking with me?
You see, no matter how difficult the race, when you “stay in yo’ lane” your eyes are fixed on Jesus, so that when you “stay in yo’ lane” you stay in perfect peace, and when you “stay in yo’ lane” you run the race set before you, and in doing so when you “stay in yo’ lane” you keep on keeping on when it makes no sense to others, and when you “stay in yo’ lane” windows and doors of opportunity fly open because you know whose you are and you know who that makes you.
So, if you didn’t have the pleasure of meeting my granddaddy then here is one universal lesson you can take from him: “Stay in Yo’ Lane” and run your race well.