Back Seat Driver

“Oh, feed me this day, Holy Spirit, with the fragrance of the fields and the freshness of the oceans which you have made, and help me to hear and to hold in all dearness those exacting and wonderful words of our Lord Christ Jesus, saying, Follow me.” – Mary Oliver, Six Recognitions of the Lord

All of my daughters survived the unfortunate experience of having to drive with nervous me when they first got their driver’s permit. Most days it just meant a mom who started talking too fast in a high-pitched voice, pretending to be peaceful and calm, while white knuckling the passenger door. But some days, it meant a full and complete mom melt down that included loud screaming and ranting. Family legend might include a story of my oldest and me ending up in a random parking lot, both in tears, my daughter sobbing that she didn’t want to drive with me anymore. And she doesn’t sob very easily.

My youngest has been more fortunate, experiencing a kinder, gentler version of nervous me, until one night when my freak out led her to back over a curb in an effort to somehow follow my crazed instructions.

I am not proud of this. In fact, I hate it. I always wanted to be more like my dad who calmly sat with me and gave me easy, gentle instructions on how to be a better driver.

Let’s just say I have had to apologize a lot more than I ever wanted to.

Somehow, in spite of my behavior, my youngest asked me if she could drive the other day. I jokingly prayed aloud and asked God to help me be kind to my brave daughter as we climbed into the car. As I pulled the seatbelt across my chest, I said, “You know, I think the reason I freak out sometimes is because I don’t think I have any control and that makes me really anxious. And my anxiety unfortunately comes out in anger sometimes. I am sorry I do that to you.” She smiled and said, “So you wish you had a brake pedal over there just in case?”

I nodded and said, “Yes. Except that would probably be a bad thing because I would be pushing it all the time.”

I took a deep breath as we drove out of the neighborhood and I thought about how a few months ago, my husband, Steve, had driven us home from New York City in the almost freezing rain and how I had fallen asleep next to him after a long, fun day. Terrible, scary things can happen on the highway. Why wasn’t I nudging him every few minutes about his driving? Why wasn’t I worried?

Don’t get me wrong. He will tell you I am often a back-seat driver, but it’s different. I trust him. I know he is an experienced driver. And even though I do tend to be anxious, I don’t worry as much when he is driving.

I thought about this as I read the Message version of Mark 8:34-37.

34-37 Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am.”

I think I treat Jesus like he just got his license yesterday and try to grab the wheel several times a day.

I think part of my struggle might be what he says next:

“Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?”

Reading this version, here are my first thoughts:

  • Why wouldn’t I want to run from suffering? Embrace it? Really, Lord?

  • Self-sacrifice? I am kind of more comfortable with self-focus and comfort if I am honest.

  • I am not very good at following.

  • Especially when I have no clue where we are going.

Lord, when the road feels really bumpy and you seem to be driving a little too close to the edge for my comfort, it’s hard to trust.

But there is something l love about this verse. “What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the REAL you?”

I recently wrote about giving ourselves permission. Sometimes I think I need to give myself permission to stop trying to control everything all the time. To tell myself that I can trust Him. Even when it feels overwhelming or scary and it feels like He is driving 100mph in 25mph zone.

During this Lenten season, I have been praying that I might grow in my trust of the Lord. To reflect on His faithfulness and provision in my life. To meditate on what I know is true. And each day that I white knuckle the handle of the car door and feel afraid, I pray I might share that with Him and grow in my understanding of what it means to follow Him.

As we continue to seek Him during this Lenten season, what might it look like for you to let the Lord be in the driver’s seat?