What I’ve learned: Gripping Ten-and-two

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When I was learning to drive, I majorly overcompensated. I wanted so badly to do it “right” that I would grip the wheel at ten-and-two with a force that turned my hands cold and my knuckles white. With my foot on the gas, I maneuvered to keep the car moving at EXACTLY the speed limit (not a single mile over or under) while simultaneously keeping us EXACTLY in the center of our lane. My hands were moving the steering wheel by single-digit degrees in an effort to keep everything perfectly straight. I struggled to keep the 4-Runner from veering even the slightest bit to the left or the right. Eventually, my dad reached for the “oh crap” handle by the window. The ride was less than smooth. Finally, Dad gently, but with conviction, said, “It’s OK. Let go a little bit. The car will drive itself. Just keep it on the road.”

Oh.

That makes sense.

I needed to relax, to accept the wiggle room.

If you ride with me now, hopefully you’ll find me more calm. This is due, in part, to the confidence I’ve built up while gaining driving experience over the last twelve-ish years. But, every now and then, I still think about what Dad told me at sixteen: “The car will drive itself.” If I try to micro-manage my vehicle, my ride will be tense and nerve-wrecking.  If I simply put my foot on the gas and watch where I’m going, the ride is much smoother. It is enjoyable. Road trip!

 

I’ve learned that life works the same way.

While I was in bed a few nights ago, on the verge of unconsciousness, a thought came to me. Maybe this is odd and it never happens to you this way, but these words came and stuck. They wouldn’t go away. To get them out of my head, I had to write them down. So I jerked around and rolled to grab my journal from the nightstand. My fingers followed the ribbon marker to a clean page and I scribbled down this note in the half-light:

“Sometimes, we spend too much time ‘waiting’ for God to ‘tell’ us what to do when He’s already given us common sense. Let love drive you. Do what is practical. Do what is wise. Period.”

Even the next morning, this thought crowded my brain. I thought about all the students that are graduating, all the people of the world that are making “big” decisions right now. All the people that stress themselves silly because they want to “find” God’s one and only “plan” for them; all of the people like me. They’re afraid that relaxing, loosening their grip on the wheel would make them less dedicated to his plans for them – as if it will somehow steer them off of the “straight and narrow way.” They’re afraid to let the car drive itself.

That’s what I thought too.

Now, listen, I’ll be the first to say that God is not always “practical.” No  sir. A lot of the time he does things beyond our wildest dreams, our most vivid imaginings. Yes, Jesus does (and asks us to do) some crazy shtuff. But, sometimes, he doesn’t come right out and tell us what to do. Sometimes, he sits back, I think, and watches what we do. He’s in control, sure. But I think that, like any parent or adult, God likes to watch his kids explore. He doesn’t have to explain everything to us – we can go find it, discover things for ourselves. He’s given us brains and mentors and scripture as guides.

We have ultimate callings, overarching commandments to live by: to love others, to seek His truth. But outside of this, if he’s not giving you a clear direction after you’ve begged and pleaded for it, maybe you’re free to choose. Maybe he’s smirking as he awaits your decision, the adventure you’ll pursue or the passion you’ll fuel. Take your common sense and use it. Seek wisdom, be a good steward, and then go. Stop creeping along in fear of making a mistake. Put your hands on the wheel and your foot on the gas. Now, relax. You don’t have to worry about veering off your “path.” God is big enough, his grace is wide enough to catch you, even if, by some chance, you start to cross the white line.

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