I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was twenty eight. It was right before I turned twenty nine actually, if we are going for profound honesty here. Jared Hunt took me to take my test and I was scared to death. He was a veritable rock, but I think we were both realistically worried I would fail. I know he sat in the waiting area rehearsing a “try again next time” and “you are not a complete failure” speech. The girl right before me came in and loudly complained to her mother about failing right off the bat. She mentioned two things I didn’t even know about. The only two things I didn’t even know about. If that hadn’t happened I also would have failed immediately. Eaves dropping. It’s a skill. When I pulled back into the parking lot after a short jaunt around the block (and an encounter with someone being pulled over by the police into the exact lane the instructor had asked me to get into because, obviously, I was not nervous enough already) Instructor Tatum said:
“Congratulations. You’ve passed your driving test.” Then he said “That’s God’s grace isn’t it?”
He was referring to my key chain, a gold Adinkra symbol which means “Except God” like “except the Lord build the house,” but it was also a moment of God’s grace in every way. I had prayed to have the same instructor I had talked to on the phone. His voice was just kind, and I thought he might match it. He was the instructor I got. And he did.
My score was near perfect. I had failed at turning on my brights as quickly as needed. He said everything else was “excellent.” I parallel parked the car in one try with no adjustments. I have not done that before or since, but Stephanie Gossard’s voice in my head was loud that day. It should have been. She had spent many Saturdays getting up and meeting me at my house by 6:00 AM so we could practice in minimal traffic.
Kaeli took me to get my license on my 29th birthday. Just like that, years of anxiety and fear had been defeated. Or at least received a crippling blow. The thing I genuinely thought impossible for me to attain showed up in the mail days later.
I’ve been a licensed driver for almost a year now.
While this story makes me cry with gratitude over the people God has placed in my life, it is also incredibly humbling. Why am I sharing it?
I share it so when I tell you about the moment, right before Christmas, when I was waiting with Kristen for traffic in the left lane to pass so I could turn into my church, and a car whipped around the corner and smacked into the car stopped behind me, shoving us into the direct path of an oncoming vehicle, you will better be able to understand that:
Thank God the Lord helped me react quickly and swerve off onto the shoulder.
Thank God the shoulder was there.
Thank God Kristen was with me.
Thank God the car in the middle took the majority of the impact I would have suffered.
Thank God my parents were already at the church.
Thank God Tyler and Dad were with us within minutes.
Thank God my vehicle was completely unscathed, without so much as a scratch. (The other two were not.)
Thank God we both were unscathed as well.
Thank God the officer said I had done everything right.
But see, I need you to understand, that’s my fear. That’s the exact fear that has haunted me for a lifetime. That I will do everything right, and something I cannot control will still slam into me and destroy everything. Because it can. At any moment, it can.
I’ve made myself keep driving. I’ve used wisdom, of course, reminding myself to be sure I’m in the proper emotional state to handle it, but I have made myself keep driving. I was obsessed with looking in the rear view before, making super sharp turns, constantly paranoid of being hit, but I had been getting better. The anxiety was nowhere near where it was in the past. Now, here we are again. Making it to my destination with clenched hands and teeth, shaking with fear. I am terrified at every stop that someone who is not paying attention will not notice I am there and run me right over.
I would tape over my rear view mirror if I could. I would. That would help me stop obsessively checking it. But I need to see what’s behind me. So I literally pray without ceasing, and I operate in extreme trust exercise each time I get behind the wheel of a car.
Driving has taught me so much about life. Through this journey the Lord has spoken to me in so many ways. One of which is how I can only control what my car does. I can obey the rules, I can stay in my lane, I can be alert, but I can’t put down someone else’s cell phone or make someone else pay attention, or decrease or increase the speed of someone else’s car. It’s a valuable and hard lesson to learn. I am still in the process of carving it out - in my vehicle and out of it. Here’s another lesson, and it’s the worst part of me obsessively checking my rear view:
I cannot change what is behind me.
Hindsight is twenty twenty, and what’s behind me informs the path I need to take in my future, so I need to check my rear view occasionally.
But constantly looking into the rear view and letting fear and anxiety over the things I cannot control consume me? That’s not helpful. It’s not healthy. And it doesn’t make me happy. Not now. Not ever.
Looking back into your past and letting fear, anxiety, or regret over things you cannot change or control consume you is not helpful or healthy, and it will not make you happy. Not now. Not ever.
Reflection is useful. In the same way looking into the rear view helps me make the safest driving decisions, looking into the past can inform my choices as well. For example, when I look into the past I see how I encountered my worst fear, and the Lord preserved me without a scratch, and I make the informed choice to keep driving even when it can make me feel like I’m going into cardiac arrest. However, my windshield is bigger than my rear view mirror for a reason.
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 3:13-14
It’s a good thought as 2018 disappears into the rear view I think. A good thought indeed.