If you have endured the 1st two installments of this 3-part saga, imaginatively dubbed “Snowmobiling And Spiritual Formation (Parts 1, 2 and 3),” you already know about mine and Adele’s lifelong dream-come-true… to snowmobile during a snowstorm in New England.
You’ve read about the number of more or less standard sorts of similarities between the experience and spiritual formation. In that 1st issue I promised a couple of other articles that would focus on 2 more salient matters God is using to mess with my soul in these days. In part 2 I wrote about the scariest part of the journey and how that is impacting my thinking about my own soul quest.
Now it’s time for the 3rd (and final) issue that God just will not leave me alone concerning: the most dangerous part of the quest was those times when I was driving.
In the previous article I confessed my driving deficiencies. They are not new.
- I failed my 1st driving exam because I rolled through a stop sign (how was I – a mere 16-year-old, peach-fuzz-faced, naive kid – to know my examiner was a legalistic literalist?)!
- The very 1st car I drove was a mid-60’s fire-engine red Pontiac Bonneville. The very 1st time I drove it, I made a right turn into a mailbox that was at exactly the perfect angle for the hood of the car – the mailbox flew 30 feet into the air and my dad (riding shotgun) flew at least another 30 feet!
- It wasn’t long after that when I took the family Dodge Van to the drive-thru window at the bank and discovered, much to my chagrin, that drive-thru is merely code for swift service, not an actual instruction!
- I have even backed over my own son’s foot!
In my case, driving is something of a contact sport.
When I nestled in behind the windshield, gripping the handlebars, straddling the engine of this virtually new adventure craft called a snowmobile I did the “guy thing” – I acted the part! I revved the engine, grunted in concert, smiled widely… in short, I pretended: I have this… no worries!
What I did not do was show any self-awareness of my own driving history or the complete and utter lack of experience I had with a snowmobile. Nope. I kept all that to myself!
That kind of image-management could have gotten me and my sweet wife killed (or, at the very least, broken a leg or two).
While I was driving I had control, but I really was not in control! For this reason, we were never in any more danger than when I was driving.
Robert Mulholland, in his wonderful book Invitation to a Journey, defines spiritual formation as “the process of being conformed into the image of Christ for the sake of others.”
That phrase: ‘the process of being conformed‘ has captivated me. I am not the one doing the forming or conforming. I am the clay – God is the potter. My job is to stay moldable; God’s job is the molding.
This is where the clay hits the fan in my life… when I attempt a claymation mutiny! When I seek to be in control. When I say to myself, God and others, “I have this – not to worry!” Those are the most dangerous moments of the quest of my soul!
So, what does a guy who so often commits such mutiny do with this? It seems I have only a handful of options:
I suppose I could abandon the journey altogether, considering it just too hard… but, like Peter, I find myself thinking, “You alone have words that breathe life to me – where else would I possibly go?”
The opposite swing of that pendulum is to abandon the handlebars… “let go and let God” my youth pastor would have said. I could choose to trust God… stop reaching over and attempting to steer where I want to go. Oh how I would love to stop the resistance and rest in Him more fully.
The more common option (at least in my past) is to allow God to drive so long as He sticks to the familiar highways. In that case I can pass through life under the illusion that God has control while, in reality, I am always trying to navigate my own spiritual development.
The end of that path is Christ formed in the image I project onto Him, not me formed into His Image. This is a dangerous, far-too-frequent, completely unsatisfying default.
They say that every long journey begins with a first step. This is mine – a clash of values. I want to sit in the back and let God drive, yet I often battle to navigate the journey myself.
My snow-bound quest through a New England forest aboard a powerful and new means of transportation created a fresh awareness for me of just how wonderfully risky the faith option is and how wholly dangerous the control option is.
I’ve a long journey ahead of me – but I have taken a first step!