When I turned 16, I fully believed my parents would make all of my dreams come true: I would wake up with a bright yellow Miata parked outside with a bow on it. Top-down, Guns n' Roses blaring, I would race off to pick up 15 of my closest friends. Precious.
Reality was slightly different. My cheesy parents had wrapped my actual gift four box layers deep (using two rolls of tape). When I finally found the end, there was my gift: the keys to the first car my mom had bought herself when she graduated from college. A 1973 Buick Apollo. At one time, it had been cherry red with a white top (not even a convertible--RUDE), factory equipped with an 8-track tape player, and no AC.
For all of you car people reading this, it did, however, have a V8 engine, 350 horsepower, and enough room to actually hold 15 friends-because seat belt laws were looser in the 90s, and also, cars from the 70s didn't really have seat belts.
**rocker of the original mullet**
For you non-car people, it was a tank. First of all, cars built in 1973 were solid metal: that was the safety feature. Who needs seat belts when the hood and the trunk are equally as long as the middle. Even if I had been in a ten-car pileup, there's a good chance nobody inside would even feel the impact.
**in the 90s, you didn't realize your eyes were closed until weeks later when the film came back from the Wal-Mart**
My parents, always a fan of the nerd prank, had also wrapped up a bright yellow hot wheels Miata. It had hot pink seats, which I had not even considered a possibility. The enneagram 7 in me was willing to concede that it was funny and make the most of my drag race car.
I do not understand kids today who are not sitting at the courthouse the morning of their birthday, ready to take their driver's test and fly the coop. I love my family, but driving off on my own was the most fun thing I could imagine doing on the actual planet. Even if it was in the Buick. Bye pride. This still feels like freedom.
I was a few months into my driving expertise when I hit my first car. I rear-ended another safety-equipped bronco (the OJ kind). It happened to be my dentist who loved me. He checked. Damaging either of our vehicles was a joke, so he told me to be more careful, and we went on with our day. I didn't confess this wreck until after I was married, and they couldn't take my car away. True story.
A few months later, with my dad in the front seat, he noticed how odd I looked when I was driving. "Baby, what are you looking at?" Me: *possibly* with all the snark and eye roll/shift of an indignant teenage girl, "Ummm…the road. Daddy: "but WHERE on the road?" I proceeded to educate him on how I used the ridge that ran alllllll the way down the center of the hood of my car and line it up with the white line that keeps me on the road. I keep my eye on that, and if I get off, I know I'm not staying in the lane.
He looked at me as confused as you may feel right now. "What??? Baby, that's miserable. When you're driving, you don't look down; you look up! That's how you see the big picture; that's also how you enjoy the ride."
Don't you love those moments when you didn't even realize you were miserable until someone shared a new way with you?
So I looked up. At first, it felt like I would lose control of the car. I'm sure I jerked that wheel back and forth until I trusted myself to live without the sense of security I had invented. I had to intentionally take my focus off of the tightrope I had deemed my safety zone. I had to learn to trust this adjustment in my vision. Before I knew it, my shoulders relaxed, and I settled back into that vinyl seat. Suddenly, I realized how people could change the radio station now that I wasn't consumed by keeping the ridge on the white line.
I needed someone to teach me how to let go of the bondage of perceived control. Not only could I enjoy the ride, but it made me a much better driver. After I settled into driving with my focus up, it hit me that my first wreck happened because, in my obsession with keeping the ridge on the white line, I was too distracted to see the CAR stopped in front of me. And I crashed.
What's the thing in your life that you have your eyes locked on? What are you afraid to loosen up your control over or even look away from? What safety lines are you convinced will be crossed?
So you habitually obsess. Maybe you don't even recognize it as a burden anymore; it's just become your natural posture.
Here's the thing…..that kind of focus steals your joy and leaves you vulnerable to the real dangers ahead. Today, I want to be like my daddy. I want to notice that you look miserable in the very thing that offers you freedom. I want to ask you what you're looking at? What is holding all of your attention captive? I want to tell you, "Look up." The road is beautiful! The journey is the plan. There will be danger ahead, but you will see it coming and be equipped to adjust, brace, warn, and avoid when you are looking up. Look up. Fix your eyes on Jesus. The Christian life isn't miserable. It's a long drive on a country road or a drive along a beautiful coast. It's a drive towards snow-covered mountains or a drive through the ever-changing desert. The scenery is fantastic. The way He makes Himself known in nature is there for you to ponder and delight in! Look up.
I think God looks at us like my daddy did when we are "in control." "Baby, look up. Yes, I see your incredulous attitude. Yes, I hear your 5 minutes of experience in the world. Yes, I know this is new. Yes, I know you will feel uncomfortable. Yes, I know the plans I have for you. Yes, I'm right here instructing you. No, I will never leave you. Look up, child. The path is secure. I have planned out where we're going. I know the stops on the way. There will be snacks. Yes, I know where there is danger ahead. I will teach you, I will warn you, and I will equip you. It's going to be such a fun road trip. I can't wait until you see where we're going, though! That's the best part!"
**This picture serves no purpose except to show you how weird my childhood was. What teenage girl doesn't triple braid, knot her hair, turbo curl her bangs, grab the cordless phone and a hard IV bottle, and head outside to fill up the battery wells...Bless my heart."