Originally published in The Valley Press Janaury 2004
My oldest daughter is learning to drive. Thanks to the state, she has plenty of time to practice with her father and me, fifty hours, to be exact, before she gets her license and drives solo.
Fifty hours may not seem like much, a normal work week for many of us, but when it comes in small increments––five minutes to church, ten minute’s to Grandma’s, fifteen to a friend’s house––fifty hours takes months. There are many opportunities for my new driver to get behind the wheel, brave Highway 9 and discover in the words of my chiropractor, “the surprises that wait around every corner.”
I’ve been driving up and down the valley for sixteen years, and have to say that I don’t always see much. The autopilot part of my brain has memorized the twists and turns of my local routes, and with the exception of adjusting to the addition of new signals or construction zones, I cruise from here to there and back again, running errands, ferrying children, often with little recognition of the journey itself.
Driving is much too new for my daughter to be on autopilot. There is nothing repetitive or monotonous for her. She is on alert, sitting tall, scanning mirrors, and aware of the drivers behind her annoyed by her lack of speed. On a recent outing, she even recognized the face behind the wheel in a car headed our direction, another high school driver, and the grin on her face expanded. She’s not alone in this new adventure.
Offering advice from the passenger seat, I realized that my job isn’t simply to help guide my daughter through individual forays, but to prepare her for a lifetime of driving. As I thought about this responsibility to my daughter, I thought about our spiritual journeys in similar terms. We need to prepare for a lifetime of paying attention.
Yes, we can meet the Divine out of the blue, with no preparation at all, but like the person who jumps into a car for the first time without the benefit of any instruction, the circumstances are difficult at best.
If we want to get beyond chance encounters and shaky beginnings, we need to prepare to encounter God. Here are some driving tips that apply to our faith trip as well:
-Choose a vehicle you like and are comfortable in. There’s more than one way to get around.
-Read the owner’s manual. You’ll get more out of your vehicle than by guessing.
-Use a map. Choose some destinations you’d like to see, but be open for change.
-Plan a route and vary your driving experiences between freeway, city streets, and winding country roads. Enjoy the ride.
-Allow extra time for rest stops and scenic overlooks.
-Be patient at red lights.
-Slow down when tempted to speed out of control, it’s our lives at stake.
-Be courteous to other drivers. We travel at different speeds with different skills.
-Get regular tune-ups and make needed repairs.
-Find an experienced driver to guide you.
-Share your excitement and struggles with drivers on similar routes.
-Don’t judge those driving vehicles you wouldn’t be caught dead in.
And two more, that are only for the spiritual journey:
-Avoid cruise control. A life of rote faith on autopilot is empty.
-Avoid public transportation. Once you come of age, you have to get off the bus and drive your own car. No one else can take you where you need to go.
If we prepare and pay attention we will notice the Holy revealed in the most unlikely places. Let’s buckle up and hit the road.
©Cathy Warner 2004