Ten years ago this week, I wrote the following article for our church newsletter. Although the events are a decade old, the message remains ever relevant. Although it deviates from my usual exploration of culture, it seems to be a good time to post it here. It’s a little more personal and not as analytical.
I have the unique opportunity to train two new teenage drivers simultaneously. Chayil was not overly motivated to drive while she was in high school, but she decided to get her license while she is home this summer, at the same time that my sixteen-year-old son, Daka, is taking driver’s ed. Double indemnity.
I don’t know many things that are more frightening than riding in the passenger seat next to a new driver. It makes the Raging Bull at Six Flags seem like a carousel. I have been driving for 36 years now, and I rarely ride shotgun. It is particularly difficult to relinquish control of the steering wheel and pedals to someone who has never operated anything more than a riding lawn mower. They have so much to learn, and they are learning it at the risk of body and limb.
First, there is the issue of wisdom. Not just the rules of the road, which you can memorize from a book. But knowing how to apply those rules in various situations, many of which do not appear in the book. I don’t think I have ever talked so much to my children as when I am trying to impart my experience to them, while clutching the dashboard with white knuckles.
Then there is the matter of judgment. I remember how difficult it was to judge where the right side of my yacht-like Galaxy 500 was in relationship to the road, parked cars, and bicycles. One would think that the smaller cars would be easier to size up. Not so. More than once I have reached over and nudged the wheel to the left to save the tires from the curb, or the outside mirror from a parked car.
And what about judging distances? Isn’t it interesting that in the novice stage there is great confidence in the brakes and little trust in the accelerator. The new driver will sit at a corner for what seems like hours, until there is no car in a one-mile radius, before pulling into traffic (or its absence). Yet, when approaching a car stopped at a traffic light, the opinion seems to be that brakes will stop you in a heartbeat (which I thought was my last on a few occasions.).
And what about speed? The overly cautious neophyte seems to creep along, while frustrated drivers are whipping around him. Then he gets on the expressway for the first time and discovers the exhilaration of power under that hood. The next thing you know, you are reading aloud every speed limit sign as you pass it. (Of course, part of the problem is that the young driver is so intent on keeping the car between the two lines that he doesn’t even notice the signs or the speedometer.)
I think the greatest difficulty for me is giving up control of the car to someone else. It is very uncomfortable for me to allow another person to determine my destiny. I am much more confident in my wisdom, my judgment, my command of this powerful and dangerous technology.
It has caused me to try to imagine what it must be like for God to turn over the management of the universe to such frail creatures as humans. To Adam and Eve God delegated dominion over the entire creation (Gen. 1:26, 28), and He has never retracted that assignment, in spite of the debilitating effects of sin on His fallen managers. Then He entrusted His kingdom mission to His regenerate children, to propagate His gospel and oversee His Church (Matt. 28:18-20; 2 Cor. 5:20). To us! Foolish, weak, depraved balls of dust. Impudent and impotent.
From this perspective, Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 15:5 shout for our attention, “apart from Me you can do nothing.” If we try to drive our vehicles without a helpless dependence upon Jesus we will find ourselves in numerous accidents. How different it is knowing that Jesus is not passively riding in the passenger seat, but is talking us through the process, gently steering the wheel and depressing the brakes for us when we need it.
By the way, both of my children are rapidly, and commendably, progressing in their driving skills. (I just hope they have a better record than I did in the first five years.)
I am so glad that I am not without Jesus, that his Spirit guides and empowers me for the kingdom mission, that I can cry out to him in any situation and he hears, that I can never mess up so badly that he will stop loving me, that he encourages me to keep going and carries me when I am too weak to walk or to foolish to see. Without him, I would be helpless.
I thoroughly enjoyed this commentary on the adventure of teaching young, new drivers from the passenger seat! It gives me new perspective on how my dad must have felt when I was learning to drive and he had to (calmly) tell me that what I had just done was not a wise move… like turning left off of – what was that road – Cunningham Rd. in Joplin? – without yielding to the car coming toward us… I’m sure he gripped the dashboard also! Thanks for sharing this again. -Marilyn Butler Morrison