In last week’s RestDay Reflections, creatively titled “Snowmobiling And Spiritual Formation (Part 1),” I wrote about a dream, 2-hour snowmobiling adventure Adele/I went on during a snowstorm in New England. I noted a number of more or less standard sorts of similarities between the experience and spiritual formation. And, finally, I promised a couple of other articles in the series to sit-down on 2 additional issues that God is using to mess with me these days.
This is the 1st of those 2 issues: The scariest part of the adventure was riding while Adele was driving!
Now, before you jump to any conclusions about just how much of a back-woods “he-man-woman-hater” (Little Rascals reference) you might think I am, you need some background… I trust Adele’s driving.
She is a far more competent driver than I am or will ever be. I am way-too-easily distracted: radio, cd, phone, road signs, other cars, big trucks, billboards:
- the electronic kind that change often and with color;
- the rotating kind that change agonizingly slow;
- the old-school kind that are just standing there, sometimes peeling to reveal layers of prior contracts like a big, public, urban archeological dig;
- even the kind that are actually just advertisements for the company that owns the billboard
I’m distracted by traffic signs – I particularly love the overhead kind that take advantage of the absence of actual traffic information to print something like, “Be careful. Pay attention. Distracted driving is the fastest growing risk on America’s highwa….” – I never quite get to the end of that one, but I’m pretty sure, in the interest of warning me not to be a distracted driver they have just distracted me!
No, Adele is not like that at all. She is profoundly focused when it comes to driving. She keeps pace with traffic without exceeding the speed limit (too much). She drives for the empty spaces when passing (like a good NASCAR driver). She doesn’t play with the radio or climate control switches, adjust the rearview mirror, brush her hair, – she just drives!
We saw this difference between us very early in our marriage so, on a typical trip, she will drive 75% of the time… and I will track important things like how many different state tags or VW Bugs we pass along the way.
You might now be thinking, why, given all these facts, would I write “the scariest part of the adventure was riding while Adele was driving”?
The answer is simple: I wasn’t driving.
I learned something about myself in the wild, snowy woods of New England – if it’s a standard operating procedure (e.g., driving along I-70), I’m perfectly fine sitting back and letting her take the wheel.
But, out there in the unknown of the woods, the winds, the wicked weather,… out where the world was unfamiliar and stretching, I wanted control!
In fact, I actually felt fear while I didn’t have control… and not just fear, but the kind of fear that leaves you anxiously pondering this control-less-ness, strategically wondering how you might recapture control, promising yourself that if you do you won’t let this happen again.
That was a very disturbing reality for me. You see, I know – at a deep, experiential, soul place – that spiritual formation is not something I do… rather it is something God does in me.
Holy Spirit wrote it this way, using the pen of Paul: “God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son.” (Rom 8:29, The Message, underline mine)
Get it? He does the shaping. Some translations say He ‘conformed us’. In short, this shaping into the image of Jesus… the restoration project focused on re-imaging God’s Image in us… is all His doing, not mine!
…which means, among other things, I have to let Him drive on this adventure. And now I know the level at which I resist letting someone else drive on adventure – even when that someone else is God!!
Alright, I’m going to go a little PG-13 on you for a minute… when Adele was driving the snowmobile, her hands turned the handlebars and directed the speed. Depending on the situation, she leaned into a curve or away from a tilt, as a counter-weight maneuver. She set the speed. She set the direction. She initiated the lean.
My role was to sit close behind her, wrap my arms tight around her, lean in the direction she took the vehicle and/or the other direction as required (even if I felt as though I should lean the other way), and trust her. Oh, one more thing: Enjoy the journey.
As wonderful as that sounds (and was!), I’m sticking with ‘scary.’ That’s the word. It’s appropriate. Spiritual Formation is scary precisely because it means letting go of the handlebars of my life (my snowmobile) and wrapping my arms around the driver. It means waiting for Him to initiate the lean and direction of the lean. It means trusting another along adventure. It means abandoning control, and on unfamiliar turf, everything in me seems to resist such abandon!