(My newest recording “Living Oaks” is now available! The next few weeks I will be sharing stories about songs on this recording. Find out how to get this recording through this link: http://chrisatkins.net/music)
“There just aren’t enough hours in my day” –
This phrase best describes life for most people in this age. We live compressed, cutting-edge lifestyles that pack as much as possible into every moment. We take ten liters worth of activities and pour them into a two-liter day. We optimistically- and wrongly- assume that everything we have to fit into our daily lives- kids, traffic, work, shopping, school, sports, errands, and countless other activities- will go like clockwork in our daily itineraries. Like a classic” Mission Impossible” scene, our smartphone schedules have been entered so that there is no margin for error, interruptions, or change. We live on the edge of danger with less sleep, more stress, and even more activity in an ever-spiraling cycle that we believe will someday move us to some elusive utopian lifestyle where we can –ironically- finally slow down and relax. We feel angry and helpless as we lose more control over our work, our money, and our lives. The information age that promised to free us has instead made us slaves to our schedules. We continue to accumulate more frustrations and emotions and yet have no one or nowhere to go to vent these feelings.
Add to this volatile scenario the magnificent manifestations of our own personal power— the drivers’ seats of our private personal motorized vehicles. These powerful machines that were initially designed to help get us from point A to point B quicker and more comfortably have evolved into hallowed, anonymous spaces- treasured domains of personal expression, freedom, status, power, and control. To further complicate the situation, there is an ever-increasing number of cars and drivers entering the road mix every year, while road capacity and maintenance hasn’t been able to keep up with the demand and usage. All of us bring our different values, thoughts, experiences, and emotions with us when we enter the cockpits of our cars, SUVs, vans, and trucks. The result of this concoction is sadly apparent on our roads today.
Here are two true stories that illustrate the sorry state of our road behavior:
- After unintentionally cutting him off in traffic, an older woman is honked at and then stopped by an angry young man in an upscale sports car. The man proceeds to get out of his car, and while screaming in rage at the frightened grandmother, punches her in the face. He is later found and arrested, where he is fined and sentenced to jail time and anger management classes. Is this man a street-hardened thug? No: he is an emergency room physician.
- A young father drives to his church to pick up his daughter from a Wednesday youth program. Coming from a side street, he makes a left turn into a long line of cars waiting to enter the church parking lot. He then notices that the man in the car behind him is out of his car coming towards him. Rolling down his window, he immediately is angrily “dressed down” by the man and told to apologize to each and every car behind him for not going to the back of the line. The young father apologizes and tries to explain that this was a simple mistake, but the angry man challenges the young father to come out of his car. What makes this story even more chilling is that there were other children in the vehicle of the young father who were frightened and traumatized by what they saw and heard. This all happened at the entrance to a church parking lot!
Most of us are appalled and disgusted when we hear the many stories of road rage. We can’t envision ourselves guilty of such malicious, violent behavior. Yet each of us should look at ourselves and consider our own driving attitudes and behaviors. Take a moment now and review the following statements, and ask yourself if you can see yourself in any or all of them:
- I sometimes get impatient and irritated with traffic and other drivers, especially when I am late; I blame other drivers for not getting to my destination on time and carry that with me through the day.
- I have at times owned and defended my place in traffic, refusing to yield to someone on the road;
- I have slowed down, moved over, or sped up to “teach” someone a “lesson” whose driving I didn’t like.
- I have not respected other cars in traffic because of my own desire and focus of getting to my destination, regardless of rules and courtesy.
- I am a different person in the car than I am in church.
For better or worse, our driving behavior is an expression of the state of our heart, mind, and emotions. Even Christ followers battle with our old, dying nature that was redeemed at the cross. The Apostle Paul put it this way:
“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched person I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21-25)
In the last verse of this passage, Paul points to the answer to his inner battle—and ours— as we travel down the highway of life. The answer is Jesus Christ! With Christ’s power alive and at work within us, we can overcome the pull of our fallen nature, find victory, and become witnesses to others about Jesus Christ— even in our driving! A few years ago I wrote a song to help me remember to prayerfully yield my driving attitude, emotions, and behavior to God, and it was inspired by the centuries-old prayer written by Francis of Assisi:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring love…”
In the song “Peace Driver” the words were adapted as a prayer for drivers:
“Make me a driver of Your peace, make me a channel of love released…”
(Note: all the lyrics to this song are on my website)
Since I wrote and recorded that song, I have heard from some people who told me they sometimes play it when they are driving. More than a few times I have played the song when I battle frustration on the road. I am also adopting the following P.O.W.E.R. acronym each time I drive:
P – Pray for other Drivers
O – “Open the door” each time we enter our vehicle and invite God to help us to obey and observe the rules of the road and to lead and protect us as we travel.
W – Witness to others of God’s love through our driving
E – Emotions yielded to God and under His control;
R – Remove ourselves from road challenges and games
Fellow Christ followers, I encourage you to allow the power of God to shine through you in every area of your life, including our driving.
God bless you!