Back Seat Rider

The Inner Release of the Tension of Contention

Do you remember you’re first driving lesson? I’m not talking actually talking about what might appear to pedestrians as your first time as you try and fail parallel parking routinely downtown in full public view. But maybe that kind of public shame triggers the memory of the countless other times you crashed and burned behind the wheel and witnessed destruction at your causing. How many of those times did you even make it past the parking lot? I speak from experience and am sincerely sympathetic toward the reckless who have to defensively call out: “Don’t like the way I drive? Stay off the sidewalks!” to everyone who so much as flinches in response to their ignition.

See, I was the nervous learner who booked it to the farthest lane possible pulling out of the lot for my license test. That was after my ever-encouraging father lovingly affirmed me that I wasn’t ready for this appointment at all. Maybe I was spiteful, maybe I was determined, probably just stupid, but I was out to prove him wrong and went for it against the will of my queazy gut. The results exposed what was painfully obvious: My father was right. But even more right about my driving “level” than he had even suspected. Just to highlight the brutality of my experience, I’ll confess I actually ran over a curb before I even made my grand exit, and in return received the death glare from the cold-hearted face of my evaluator. Hasn’t she seen enough rearview mirrors to know that face is not attractive? Maybe she knows and that’s why she practices. She’s paid to coat failure with a hopeless guilt-trip. I have to commend her work-ethic; she’s doing her job well.

“It’s a good thing that policeman saw me with you, otherwise it’d be an instant ticket for you, young lady,” was her sweet way of sentencing me to the prison of scrutiny for slackers, aka hell level 1. I retaliated with puppy-eyed manipulation and whimpered: “Does that mean I fail?” “Well,” she replied arched over her condemning clipboard, “We’ll have to see how you do with the rest..” I can’t help but relate her to Ross, that persnickety slug from Monsters Inc. By the end of the test, she left me with a pea-sized ego and the condescending words: “You can pass if you promise to keep practicing.” Just what are drivers licenses for anyway? I agreed to this negotiation, not foreseeing that my end of the deal would mean for me a series of disasters for the upcoming months before I could  confidently “earn” that legal piece of plastic.

Sure enough, I stumbled through life’s proverbial road blocks, but in the most literal sense and with more variety than mere speed bumps. I watched myself run red lights in moments of indecision approaching the yellows. I recall barely escaping close calls, switching lanes on the highway, I’ve had a poor deer witness open season prematurely when I hit her sister with my bumper. I’ve successfully bashed into a parking garage pole trying to impress my friends, even now illegal u-turns still seem a classic favorite of mine, especially in the middle of a snowy, trafic-lit intersection, and such is the disaster of my die-hard tendency to multitask behind the wheel while texting. Whiplash will teach you a thing or two about the value of life.

Fortunately, after a few years, I’ve learned (experientially and providentially), what it means to take proper precautions on the road. Ask anyone to know I’m not an expert, but even as conscious an effort as I put into preventing accidents, there is still one thing that regularly disarms my ability to arrive at point B…my poor sense of direction. To put it bluntly, I have a serious lack of orientation. I am 100% co-dependent on Gipsa, my GPS. To leave Gipsa behind means I’m better off cancelling than it’d be fair to show up 2 hours late to my appointment. Yes, it’s been done. But even when I am mindful to take Gipsa with me, I still find that she is a bit unreliable. She does not always keep me on track with every new or different road I encounter.

Now there is one particular combination of catastrophes that really gets me worked up: Being lost/Being late. I hate that! I panic. And when I panic I lose all sense of stable-mindedness (I think most people do). But when that happens I speed up and I get going fast, A: because I need to beat the clock and B: I feel if I just go fast enough I might arrive at my destination, or else eliminate the wrong course if I’m headed in the wrong direction, quick enough to turn around and re-navigate. Neither of these strategies really gets me anywhere, except maybe down a path of mental chaos. Admittedly, these are some of the worst trials of testings for my faith. If there is a way to lose one’s salvation, I’m sure I’ve come pretty close driving frantically about in my car. In those moments of pressure, I pray a good deal, but not in the wholesome-Christian way I might in church. I really grow quite bitter toward God for getting me lost. Through a set of muttered curses, I blame him for not giving me better brains, for wasting my gas, my time, for letting people down, for not showing me a quick detour, the right route, and for just driving me crazy! Nothing about my situation is His fault, however. Deep inside I know that, but rarely do I imagine a calm simple prayer like, “Father, I’m lost, please show me the way,” could spare me a lot of wrong and guilt for my disrespectful rage toward my Sovereign Lord.

Unfortunately, this is an ongoing pattern for me in my every day life, not just in the car (although I’m likely at my worst driving stick-shift ). To evaluate my actions, those that just seem so ridiculous and insensibly unspiritual, I need to get to the root of the bad fruit I am bearing in a moment of fury. I naturally start out by thinking, first: that the journey ahead is a route I designed for myself, second: that I have done everything I possibly can to prepare myself for it, and third: that I am responsible for getting myself where I need to be, come what may. However, I am not operating these thought processes under God’s will or guidance. In fact, if I know myself at all, this looks more like a familiar attempt to claim control. We humans have a rather ironic way of ruling our lives on our little thrones. We are quick to assume God’s rightful omnipotence as our own, but even quicker to blame Him for anything that harmfully “throws off our groove.” Funnily enough, this behavior actually admits that there is nothing absolute about our egotistic monarchy.

When God reveals these childish habits to me, I am thankful. It hurts to be proven guilty, but I know that my Teacher has a life lesson for me with every conviction. When I pray: “Search me O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (Psalm 139:23-24), I am preparing to meet the ugly. It may not be as glamorous or gentle an ugly as I ask Him to expose to me, but when I see repeated sin like stubborn, spiteful contention for “my rights,”or “my life,” that is an indication to me that it is time to call my faith into question. I have to bring myself before God and say: “Forgive me, Lord. I am clearly not trusting You to guide me on the path You have made for me. I have doubted Your promise to ‘lead me in the way everlasting.’ Indeed, ‘The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places,’but I let myself be overcome by confusion in the fog of the night or the slickness of the snow and I get all turned around. When I can’t find my way, I use my own discernment or call upon things that show me little information, but do not know me nor my deepest needs. But ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from You…The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot…I have set The Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad…for You will not abandon my soul to Sheol or let Your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16)

If this is a prayer I contradict in my thoughts or my actions from day to day, then I must rethink my trust and devotion to God. If in my difficulty, I forget He longs to take care of me like a mother hen for her little chicks, odds are I am neglecting to spend time knowing Him in a week of hustle and bustle at work. I need to snuggle up close to Him and His Word and let Him teach and remind me of His truth. He wants to transpose it onto His children’s hearts and fill us with peace and great joy. We must make time to let Him; burry Him deep within our souls and walk in constant fellowship with His Son. We take Him everywhere! There’s no escaping Him! Thank God for that! We can bring Him our troubles, sorrows, and fears in the quietness of our hearts and expect Him to listen. Then, as we go out, He will be quick to guide and deliver us into the light of His good and faithful Spirit!

One of my recent favourite hymns lately has been Psalm 20. It is a sweet and memorable benediction…

“The Lord hear thee in troubled times, may Jacob’s God defend thee and send out strength from Zion’s hill and from His sanctuary. May He recall thine offerings, with all thy sacrifices, and grant thee all they heart’s desire, fulfiling all thy purpose, as His good grace suffices.

We will rejoice; salvation comes! In God’s name lift our banners, may God fulfill all thy requests and lift up all thy banners. Thus now I know God saves His own, God saves His own anointed. He always hears, with His right hand He comes from heav’n above us, and in the strength apointed.

Some always trust in chariots and others trust in horses. But we recall our Lord and God, strong past our own resources. Our enemies have fallen low, but we are held and upright, so save us, Lord, our God and King as we in trouble call thee, as we in trouble call thee.

“The Christian Journey” is a course that our loving Father facilitates. All He asks is that whatever we’re given, with whatever road or task He purposes for us, we commit ourselves to seeking Him, trusting Him, following Him and knowing Him. He desires our dependency and we can worship Him with that. We can trust Him with our lives. “He who calls you is faithful; and He will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24) Now “May The Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 3.5)

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