You told me to leave
And so I will go
But all the wheres and whys and hows
I do not know
For all I see, I will die out there alone
As I stand in the dark
With just enough faith
Not to run home
You’re not making sense
But I’m beginning to understand
That You’re making me
Who I always should have been
As the dawn breaks
Over the horizon
You and I walk
Hand in hand
This still doesn’t make sense
But I am beginning to understand
I have a September birthday, which means that I could have been either the youngest in my class or the oldest. As it happened, I was the third from the youngest in my high school class, meaning most importantly that I was already into my junior year before I received that much-coveted of teenage possessions, a driver’s license. My friends had been driving for some time before me. In fact, I had for the last part of my sophomore year bummed rides off one of my best friends so that I would no longer have to ride the bus, a.k.a. the Twinkie, as we called it. (In a rural farming community, with racial diversity being at a minimum, the name Twinkie came from the fact that it was a big yellow tube with white stuff inside.)
I remember many driving lessons from various people as I came closer and closer to that pinnacle of my teenage years. One of the experiences I remember best was my first driving lesson with a manual transmission. As a child, I remember sitting in the passenger’s seat “helping” shift while my grandfather (who henceforth will be referred to as Pop-pop) drove, but this time I was sitting in the driver’s seat and it was finally my turn.
Driving is a daunting task in and of itself. Add to it the complication of trying to clutch and shift gears at the same time. Let’s just say that I learned how to stall a car in just about any situation.
Pop-pop, thankfully, was exceptionally patient with me. He picked a wide open parking lot in which there were no other vehicles, again thankfully, and took me step by step through the process of driving his little gray Chevette. It was a tedious process, full of a lot of stops and starts, but as the afternoon progressed into evening, I was developing some proficiency at the task and was even able to start the car moving up an incline without rolling backwards too much.
Pop-pop all the time would give me simple directions. We made countless laps around that parking lot. Starting, stopping, shifting up, shifting down, learning to let the engine do the work of slowing the car down, etc. Before calling it a night, Pop-pop lined me up with one of the telephone poles in the middle of the parking lot and said, “Go straight ahead.” He then promptly began examining something out the passenger-side window. Thinking nothing of it, I began my approach, and as had been my habit all night, I waited for him to tell me my next set of directions.
The telephone pole approached. All the while, Pop-pop examined what I was beginning to think was an imaginary object, not saying a word. Not sure what to do, I started to get anxious. Surely he did not mean for me to hit the pole. Surely he would tell me to turn at the last second.
Keep this in mind: I don’t think that I have disobeyed my grandfather on more than a handful of occasions in my lifetime. While he is not a cruel or harsh man, he has always commanded my respect and has always proved to be trustworthy in what he has told me. So with this mindset of rigid obedience and unwavering trust, I continued toward the pole.
He did not tell me to turn. So at the last minute, I slowed to a rather jerky stop and managed to stall out the Chevette right in front of the pole. A little stunned, I looked at him, and after finishing his rather lengthy examination of what I was sure was an imaginary object, he said, “Good job.”
Good job? I didn’t even know what I had done. I had just decided at the last second not to hit the pole because I didn’t want to damage the car. Then he followed up with what at the time seemed very obvious: “You didn’t hit the pole. I just wanted to see what you would do.” I wasn’t mad; a little confused, but not mad. It was all quickly stored away as a memory, because there were much more important things to focus on, such as a double bacon cheeseburger and chocolate milkshake from the diner on the corner. Grandpas can be really cool like that.
It was not until very recently that I discovered the lesson in that memory. Pop-pop, in his ornery Arkansas way, taught me something that has proven to be much more valuable than knowing how to drive a stick shift. He taught me to trust. Not just him, because I knew that he would never do anything to hurt me, and that he would never intentionally do anything that would put me in harm’s way unless he believed that it would make me better in the end. Instead, he taught me to trust myself. I made the right decision: I didn’t hit the pole.
There was nothing wrong with his directions. Everything he told me was right. He just chose to let me make the important decision. He trusted that I would make the right decision. Even though he took a risk that I might freeze and hit the pole, he was willing to risk it for the chance to prove how much he believed in me and how I could make the right decision.
Lately I have been in a situation in which all I know is the direction I am heading. I haven’t received any instructions to turn or stop. Sometimes I start to get a little anxious that I might be headed for something dangerous, or that I will make a bad decision when it comes to crunch time. I have reason to fear this, because I do make bad decisions, but I believe that I am being set up for another chance to prove that I can make a good and right decision. Maybe more importantly, the lesson is that I am believed in and trusted to make important decisions.
Let’s face it: Life isn’t all a training ground. Eventually, we have to take up the adventure and put our training to work. It is during those times that we discover what we are made of, whether or not we can make the clutch decisions. Even though we haven’t all had a practice run at a telephone pole in a little gray hatchback, we can all believe that we are believed in and trusted to make good decisions. Sure, we’ll screw it up sometimes; we might even freeze up or panic. But that doesn’t mean that we weren’t believed in any less. All it means is that we know what to do next time. The only question that remains is, will we do it?
The second thing I learned from that memory was this: Don’t change course without direction. We are pointed in a certain direction on purpose. If I had decided to change course prematurely, I wouldn’t have this memory. If I would have taken things into my own hands, being proud of myself for being smarter than my Pop-pop and avoiding the danger, I would have missed the point of it all entirely. If I can trust myself to make a good decision when it comes to an obstacle or pitfall, then I just need to continue on the course I have been put on until I receive new directions. It is all a matter of trust: Do I believe that the One giving me the directions can be trusted, and does His trust in me move me to believe in myself enough to trust that I will make the right decision?