Learning to drive

December 16, 2013

For those of us who drive… no doubt we all have vivid memories of the first occasions sitting behind the wheel of an automobile. Mine was a 1949 Chevy Pick Up. On another occasion I wrote about how significant that truck was to me over the years of my early childhood. We had many cars come and go, but that truck was always there. It represented some sort of consistency in my life. There was a lot of upheaval, but that truck remained a constant.

I’m assuming my sisters had a similar experience to mine. Sometime around the age of 12 or so my dad decided I was old enough to at least begin to steer the truck. Back then most cars and trucks had “bench seats”. What we think of now as “individual or bucket” seats were only found as an option in fancy sport type cars. Anyway my father would have me slide across the seat so the gear shift on the floor was between my legs. I did the steering and he did everything else. It was always at night.

I remember a few things about those occasions. First, it was the most exciting thing I could imagine as a 12 year old… to be actually “driving!” It took me a long time to get the hang of not “over steering”. I would move the truck from one side of the road to the other while my dad continued to tell me to stop steering so much. Occasionally he would violently grab the wheel and steer it out of an impending ditch, or from an oncoming car. Eventually I got it. Sometime around the age of 14 or so he let me actually “drive”…again, always at night. One wonders how clutches survive new drivers. I jerked my share of heads and stalled on too many occasions. No automatic transmission was going to teach me to drive!

On one occasion I came to the inevitable hill with a stop sign. My father had already taught me about using the emergency brake and slipping the clutch. I expertly pulled the brake and began to release the clutch as I S-L-O-W-L-Y released the handbrake. The truck began to drift backward as my father in progressively louder tones said “let out the clutch. Let out the Clutch! LET OUT THE CLUTCH!!!” By that time I had drifted into a ditch on the side of the road. “Why didn’t you let out the clutch?!” he said. “I didn’t want to stall the truck!” was my reply. Well like all of us, I eventually got the hang of all those petals and knobs, and the steering wheel.

But there is something else about that time that is seated deep in my soul. Something that causes me to smile and occasionally a tear to come to my eye. It was the “sitting beside my dad” part. In order to steer the truck I had to mash myself against his side. And he would put his right arm around me so that it wasn’t in the way. My father was not a physically affectionate guy. There were no hugs… nor was there any wrestling or goofing around in that way. Physical touch just wasn’t something he felt comfortable with so it didn’t happen much with his children. Even as an adult I always felt awkward when I would leave his house and he would put his hand out to shake mine. I eventually learned to ignore the hand and give him a hug. As he got older I became cognizant of how frail and boney he became. I always envisioned him as this big strong man. In the truck was the closest I ever was to my father. So close I could smell him. Those were special moments; memorable moments for me; moments I will cherish and carry into my old age. You know there is something inexplicable about being close to folks… whether it’s physically or emotionally. Or, might I add, spiritually. Do you know what I mean? Some friends and family we are “close” to and there are the special few that we are “CLOSE” to… intimate with… Those that we can share our deepest hurts, joys, and failure’s with and they will continue to be “CLOSE” to us.

There are occasions when I feel very CLOSE to God… but not as often as I would like or would want you to think. But on those occasions my life and everything in it seems… “right.” Do you know what I mean? Why is that? I think it’s because on those occasions I am snuggled up close to my Heavenly Father and His arm is around me. I get to steer my life a bit but truthfully, He is the one who is doing all the work and watching out for all the dangers. Truth be told, it’s when I try to do all the pedals, all the knobs, the steering wheel and look out for trouble… well, that’s when problems arise and things are not “right.”

It would be my hope that you have a marvelous Christmas Season. But I pray it is one where you feel the closeness of your Heavenly Father. One where you allow him to do the pedals in your life. One where the knobs do not distract you… because… truth be told… someone much greater than you is in control.

Here is to learning to drive!

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