As the Psalmist writes Psalm 25, he is in part of a pattern in the Psalms that are part of a litany or liturgy that might have been read in the Temple revealing the pattern of repentance, sacrifice, and learning. Psalm 25 is especially about learning seeking God’s guidance in knowing God’s ways and paths. For the Psalmist, the way to learn begins with offer himself in whole to God because he wants to know God’s steadfast love and mercy. All of this is part of a journey of faith.
I was thinking about life and journeys and learning this week and a car came to mind. Maybe because I watched my first NASCAR race this past week. I wanted to be a NASCAR driver at some point in my search for what I wanted to be when I grew up. Can you imagine me as Danika Patrick in my Go Daddy race car zipping around the Indy Speedway at 200 miles per hour?
I had lots of questions about the NASCAR race. Like, what all the boxes on the TV were telling us. “How a driver could keep the car within the proper speed limit in pit row when the car has no speedometer?” “How quickly you can get out of your car when it catches on fire?” “How a team can learn to change tires in 11 seconds when Walmart takes 2 hours?” “How often the cars have to make a pit stop?” “How much a car costs and who owns the cars?” “How a driver can tap the bumper of the car in front of them without wrecking?” I was told that the driver has to know his car well, maybe become one with his car, to drive 200 miles an hour with 25 other cars so close to you. After 20 minutes of 100 questions, I asked, “Are we really going to watch this for another 400 laps?”
So, here’s my car analogy. It’s kind of along the lines of the Jesus take the Wheel song or the saying if you let the devil ride he will want to drive. I want to think of us driving a car. In a sense being one with our car which is our life. We are driving our life. Think about these things about driving with me for a bit and see if you too see the analogy between driving and traveling God’s path.
My niece is learning how to drive. When she and my mom were here in March, my niece, Felicia, wanted to drive my car and show me that she was a good driver. So, I let her drive my car around town and out in the country. She adjusted her mirrors and the seat and buckled up. She gave me her cell phone and turned down the radio and we were on our way.
As we were driving, my mom was reminding Felicia of her instructions and helping her navigate the road. My mom taught Felicia that we square our shoulder up to the shoulder of the road before making a left hand turn. Felicia was taught how to eye up the car with the lines on the road to make sure she stayed in her lane. I was thinking about all the things my mom was teaching her and how all of these things are now second nature to me. I have to assume that mom taught me to drive the same way she is teaching Felicia to drive.
I think that’s part of the way we learn God’s ways. People in our lives teach us the ways God would like us to live. As we become adults, those ways become second nature to us. We don’t have to think about whether or not lying is a good thing to do. We don’t have to think about sharing what we have with others. We know these things because the adults in our lives taught us and we teach the kids in our lives these Godly acts. These rules of the road help us stay in our lane and not hit other drivers as we travel our path.
I don’t know how we got anywhere before Google Maps or Mapquest. I do remember going to the AAA office to get a trip tick. The people there would give you a map highlighting the roads you needed to take to get to where you wanted to go. But, you had to know how to read a map. Now, we have apps like Google Maps. In Denver, I would just type in my address and choose the public transportation directions. The app would tell me where to go to the closest bus stop, what bus to take, what time the next bus would come, how to walk from the bus stop to my destination and my estimated time of arrival. These apps are much easier to follow than to read a map.
We can think of our Bible as our map. Most importantly, someone taught us how to read. And, for many of us, someone has been reading the Bible to us since we were little ones in Sunday school. We hear the Bible read on Sunday mornings during worship and Sunday school. We read it at home and in our devotions. And, we have people who help us interpret the Bible. Part of my job in teaching and preaching is to help you understand what you read as it is relevant to your life. And, we have study Bibles with notes to help us understand. Our Bible teaches us the paths of righteousness and the way of the Lord.
Our car engine is important. We need fuel and oil for our engine. It requires care and maintenance. All the lights on your dashboard tell you what the engine needs when they light up. We hope that the warning lights don’t come on because that could cost us money to repair. Our car won’t go anywhere without our engine working properly.
I think of the Holy Spirit as our engine. Our life runs on the power of the Holy Spirit. She warns us when something is going wrong in life. We need to heed Her warnings. We need prayer and worship to keep us in tune with the Holy Spirit.
In the summer, on bright sunny days, I like to get in the car and drive nowhere in particular and take the long way through the back roads to get there. My old dog, Kravitz, used to like to go with me on these trips because we’d end up at a McDonald’s for an ice cream cone for him. I roll down all the windows, turn the radio up really loud, and cruise down the road. I often drive too fast down the middle of the country roads. This may be a lot of fun, but its probably not safe. We should be careful not to be reckless with our lives.
Now, about those proverbial soccer moms driving minivans toting kids and gear across town. My mom drove a minivan. Do you remember those yellow warning signs you could get to hang in your car window that said things like baby on board? My mom had one that said Mom’s taxi. That woman put so many miles on her minivan carting my brother and I around. She drop me off at one place, take my brother to another place, drive back to pick me up then back to pick up my brother. And, we’re not talking around the town. She was driving the equivalent between Bethany and Decatur to Harristown back to Decatur back to Harristown and finally back to Bethany. All the while she wants to make sure we had snacks and we’re arguing.
I know parents can relate to trying to drive while there are kids are in the back seat wanting McDonald’s and arguing and playing with their DS and listening to music. Mom is trying to get wherever on time, trying to pay attention to the road and not be too distracted. We can’t forget the ever threatening, “Don’t make me turn this car around.”
I think there’s a couple things we can learn here. We have to be careful about how much we’re driving after things that may just be taking us in circles. Doesn’t it sometimes feel like we’ve been on the road too long and we’re just tired and need a break to rest?
And, there are a lot of distractions in life. We have to be able to manage all the voices vying for our attention and still be able to pay attention to the road. We have kids and family and friends that need our attention. There are billboards and the radio and such trying to draw us into all the things we might think we need. And, we still have to remember where we’re going and how to get there. We need to take time travel alone and just listen to the guiding of the Holy Spirit.
Our co-pilot might help us along the way, depending on who is in the seat. You might have a back seat driver who’s annoying you telling you how to go, what to watch out for, or commenting on how fast you’re driving. You might have someone who is actually helping you remember the path. You might have someone who is just good company for the journey.
I think we now find ourselves back to Jesus Take the Wheel or the Devil riding along. We have to be careful of who our co-pilot is. There are times when we need a companion or friend and there are times we need Jesus to grab the wheel and get us back on the road.
When we’re reading our Bible, paying attention to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, remembering what we’ve learned about God’s ways, ignoring distractions and praying, we can be sure we can keep our life on the path of righteousness with Jesus as our co-pilot. We all know our ultimate destination.
I know it may seem like sometimes we’re lost or not going in the right direction. We want to trust God’s leading but want some assurance of where we’re going. The road may seem rough. Unfortunately, that seems to just be part of this life in a broken world where it can be sometimes difficult to find or hear God. Sometimes, we have to just keep driving through the rain and snow or pull over to let the storm pass.
May the road ahead be good and the sun shine lighting your path. Amen.