Thursday, April 24, 2014
My Driving Lesson
After reading the article "Dear Religion, I Quit You!" by Bart Millard - it got me thinking about my driving lesson:
When I was probably about 10 yrs old we had a stick shift car, and dad use to let me help switch gears when it was just me and him in the car (this was back when you could sit in the front seat as kid). Dad had to make a quick trip up to the Coast Guard Station and I got to go with him, as he switched gears in the old Toyota my hand was on top of his and I did it too. He parked in front of the office right outside the main gate, and left me in the car. I couldn't take my eyes off the gear shift. My curiosity got the best of me and I tried shifting the gear all by myself. What I didn't realize was that even though the car wasn't running, it could still move. I shifted the gear into reverse and the car, with me in it, started quickly rolling backwards to the main road of traffic. I was panicked and screaming, scared to death. I had no idea how to make it stop. Luckily a guy dad worked with came running out and jumped in and pulled the emergency brake in just seconds before we hit oncoming traffic. I was sobbing and shaking and thankful. I can't remember what my dad said to me on the way home, but I know it had to be one of the biggest lectures of my life. My dad doesn't loose his cool often, but when he does - you listen. I remember vaguely being told the dangers of cars, people, and the power a car has. Whatever was said that day - it stuck. That fear and experience stuck so well that it wasn't until I was 26 yrs old that I got my driver's license.
Now, I had gotten my permit a few times - 3 in fact, but I could never get enough courage to really learn how to drive (or go over 15 miles an hour). I was so afraid of making a mistake, of doing the wrong thing - that I did nothing. Not until a friend of mine showed me unconditional grace. I had had many teachers, many people who tried to help me - but I either scared them to death, or frustrated them even more. I don't blame them - I was a pretty scary driver. After many tries and failures with others, a friend of mine said she could help. I warned her, I think even Edwin probably warned her, but she assured me it would be OK. I learned to drive in her green van. I remember giving her a very good reason why this was a bad idea, how I could dent her vehicle, or scratch it - to which she said it had so many dents one more wouldn't matter, or even a scratch. She was patient, and kind. She was really patient. We laughed a lot, I cried through every step - and she never gave me a hard time about it.
As the weeks went by, my confidence began to grow, and I became a lot more comfortable behind the wheel. I was able to drive faster than 15 miles an hour, switch lanes (if I had to), and even back up (which I still hate doing). Though I was doing so much better, I was still freaking out about taking the test. I had studied the book, I had spent many evenings practicing the dreaded parallel parking, but the idea of the test still made my stomach churn in knots. One night while I was practicing my friend asked me what about the test scared me so much. I took a minute to think about it (and check my mirrors) and I said "What if I fail?". I didn't realize until that moment that the very idea of failing was stopping me from even trying. She said "If you fail it, you wait a day and take it again." What!? Take it again? You mean I get another chance? I had no idea that was possible. I guess in my mind - a "do-over" was never even an option. What an incredible sense of relief and peace overwhelmed me when I finally accepted the idea of a second chance. I was finally able to relax behind that wheel and finish my practicing knowing I didn't have to be perfect, I just had to do my best, and if I messed up - I could try again.
That was the day I was introduced to Grace. Grace was something I didn't have a lot of experience with. Being the oldest child, the first born, I was always hard on myself, overachiever, big goals, bigger dreams - and when I didn't meet those high standards I felt like a failure. I also considered myself pretty self-sufficient "I'll do it myself" - was a common phrase of mine. So being at a place of vulnerability, with this great fear of driving and failing - was a scary place to be for me. I expected no mercy, but that was not what I received. Spiritually I have to admit it broke me. Once Grace is introduced into your life, it begins to seep down to the deepest parts of your heart, reaching dark places that hadn't seen the light in a very long time. Though I had accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of 8, I had never accepted the Grace that came along with it. My walk as a Christian was exhausting, and fearful - I worried much, and rested little. Scared someone would see that I wasn't this "Super Christian", afraid I would fail at the next "test" I was given in life - and expose the true failure that I felt I was.
Once I realized that God was not looking over the clouds of Heaven waiting for me to mess up so He could bonk me on my head with a giant mallet and use his giant pink eraser to permanently remove my name from the "Book of Life" - everything changed. Even though I had read my Bible, done the Sunday School lessons, and listened to the sermons - it took a vulnerable moment, and a loving friend to show me the beautiful, amazing, incredible Grace of God. I walked lighter, I held my head up higher, and I rested in God's love - not running from His Wrath. Something funny happens when you embrace the Grace of God, all the sudden you are able to give the Grace of God as well. Sin was still sin, and right was still right but covered in the Grace of God anything was possible and everyone had a second chance.
By the way, I took my test on July 3rd, and passed by the skin of teeth (I sped up on a yellow light instead of slowing down). On July 4th I celebrated a new "Independence Day"- the freedom to drive - all by myself, and the freedom to walk in the Grace of God. Sure, I still get scared, and I am still my worst critic - but I am daily reminded of the amazing Grace of God and I am thankful His mercies are new every morning!