It's that time of year when folks are driving a lot and so perhaps it's appropriate to think in terms of driving cars.
Are there spiritual lessons?
Life is like a trip, like a road. That's one lesson. At times it can be a winding one, it can be straight and tedious, it can be bumpy, or smooth, it can end abruptly, it can be long. We're never really sure, as we are not certain of everything when we are driving somewhere we haven't driven before, not sure of what's around the bend. It's often very different from what we envisioned when we saw it on a map. God knows the map of your life; He has it all figured out -- the trials, the dreams, the victories, the ruts, the challenges.
There can be holes. There can be bumps. There can be flashing lights in the rearview (please, not that). Life is like this also: we hit holes or bumps and cause the least damage when we are prepared for them -- when we have prayed, when we have made adjustments before there is impact of any kind, when we watch the speedometer. Bumps and flaming bubbletops can be signals from the Lord.
Bumps come in emotions, in health, in goals, in work, in aspirations, in relationships. Only when we have the discipline to keep our eyes fixed on where we're headed do we avoid unnecessary commotion.
There are curves. Life throws us curves. Often, hardballs! Curves can be scenic when handled prudently (winding through bucolic country sides) and dangerous when handled otherwise. Best avoided: hairpin maneuvers.
Appreciate the beauty but beware of distractions.
Red lights are there for us to stop and evaluate the crossroads of life. There are signs. Do we read them carefully?
There are hills. Sometimes we can't see beyond them. We have no idea what's coming. For sure, it's good here also to slow down. There are mountains. There are curves around the tops of mountains. There is the descent -- which can be more dangerous yet. Somewhere, down the road, is your destiny.
Christ prepared for His final stretch of road by fasting and praying alone -- drawing Himself as close as possible to God; calling out to Him; accepting the ministration of angels -- who are always there and are excited into action when we ask them for help.
At many accidents witnesses report mysterious strangers who offered critical help. These are sometimes angels in disguise (Hebrews 13:2) or human "angels" inspired to be where they are by God. If you get lost, if you take the wrong turn, remember that your angel knows the way back and wants you to call for him. They know every twist and turn of every route. They know the easiest way and the most pleasant fruitful one. We do well when they are constant front-seat companions.
To have discipline is to drive well. That means starting the car gradually instead of jamming the gas; it means accelerating with a slow steady foot; it means gliding to stops instead of speeding up to red lights or stop signs or turns and then hitting the brakes.
Try this and you'll find it saves much gas and more importantly the wear and tear on brakes and joints that creak and strain when we whip around a curve and create centrifugal force -- momentum sideways instead of forward.
A trip to church: 21 miles per gallon driving without paying attention -- unevenly -- 30 miles per gallon on the daily trip to church when the driver is thoughtful and smooth.
The same is true in life -- with body and soul: We are less weary and worn when we glide, when we coast once we have hit a desired speed, when we adjust speed in a gradual manner, go with the flow. If we drive smoothly, there is less strain on the nerves. We feel better and live longer, just as a car does.
Pray for every single person you pass by on your journeys this summer: for their well-being, for their eternities. Pray for those victims of accidents represented by the crosses alongside the road. Pray so that no one you know or you pass ever needs a roadside cross.
The best prayer time can be behind the wheel (when the radio is turned off). God often speaks in the quiet of a car, when we tune in, when we shut off the world.
Pieces of advice not quite like they send you from the American Automobile Association but perhaps food for thought on long highway stretches this deepening summer.
--Michael H. Brown