The other day I was driving home for a work trip to Lake of the Ozarks. The picture is of the view from my windshield at dusk. Driving over the years has been some of my best thinking and reflecting times, where I talk with God, dream about future plans, admire His rich creation, and at times show my deepest emotions, whether they be joy, grief or anger.
My dad taught me to drive his old Chevy Truck coming home from baseball practice. It had a three on a tree standard transmission. I’d grind the gears, lurch at the stop signs and negotiate the curves on highway 248 with Dad barking at me to “Slow down!”
He helped me get a yellow, 1975 Fiat, a small, four door uglier than sin car, standard four-speed. I took the car with Dad to take my driving test in early May 1980. I still hadn’t gotten use to the tighter clutch on the Fiat and flunked the driving portion. However, my friend, Ed McFarland, went with me the next day to Ozark to take the test again in his automatic Chevelle, where I passed the test and was able to take my girlfriend out to prom that Saturday night!
Living 11 miles from Branson, driving was an important marker in my life. It brought independence, adventure, and freedom. There was no smart phones or internet back then. Isolation gave way to connection. I worked weekends at McDonalds. I no longer had to have my dad pick me up from baseball practice or games. It was a joyous season of my life.
I totaled me Fiat early that summer on highway 160, losing control on a curve and flipping the car end over end after hitting a tree. Miraculously I was relatively uninjured other than stitches in my knee from hitting my mounted 8 track player. My Dad helped me get a black, 1970 Camaro a couple of weeks later, a much cooler car!
Cruising downtown Branson with friends was a ritual for many of my friends back then. I cruised sometimes, but I paid for my own gas so limited my excursions. For me, my favorite part of driving were the treks to and from school. Those 20 minutes were times of reflection, dreaming and enjoying my music.
After going to Young Life Wilderness camp in Colorado the summer before my senior year, I began a relationship with God. Driving was special times for me during my senior year to talk with God and listen to Christian artists like Amy Grant, The Imperials and Phil Keaggy. I remember listening to the song “My Father’s Eyes” from Amy Grant and crying thinking that the God of the Universe wanted me to call him Daddy.
Over the years as an adult, times of driving have been some of my most sacred moments of reflection, prayer, and introspection. I’ll never forget a few years ago driving my son’s car to California. Those two very long days on the road, seeing the variety of landscapes in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, and reflecting on my son, were deep and strengthening ties to my walk with Christ.
It seems my more honest and deep emotions come out when driving. I remember breaking down in tears while driving after my Mom passed. I remember the joy of driving the first day after proposing to Jodi, thanking God for such an amazing life-partner. I have yelled at God in anger over injustice in the world, over fights with my earthly Dad, losing a job, or not getting a job.
I’ve had many different types of cars and trucks over the years: My 1975 Fiat, 1970 Camaro, 1980 Capri, Volkswagon Rabbit Truck, 1986 Chevy Cavalier, 1989 Pontiac Grand Am, and so on and so on. Each vehicle shares memories on the road with me traveling back and forth to Warrensburg while in college, getting run off the road on F highway within days of getting my new Cavalier after college, driving the Grand Am through two odometers, going over 300,000 miles for its lifetime. Memories driving with my wife, driving with the kids, and many memories driving alone in my thoughts and in conversations with God.
Time seems to slow down while I’m on the road. Various landscapes, dawns and dusks, lightning, snow showers and enveloping fog bring back memories of my travels. In all those memories, I sense my truer self rises forth while alone and on the road.
In my Dad's later years we talked with him about him not driving anymore. He always resisted. I understand better now how hard that was for him. A year and a half ago I couldn't drive for over five weeks after passing out while driving and ending up having an ablation surgery on my heart. Those weeks not being able to travel on my own were difficult.
Today I drive a 2007 Vibe with chipping paint and 281,000 miles on the odometer, all ours. It takes me all over the state in my position with Young Life. This summer my wife and I will drive our 2018 Rogue to Colorado and California on a shared journey, then possibly to Florida later this summer. More memories to be made while bound in space and time. I wonder in the new heaven and earth what will be our mode of transportation? Will it be cars, our own bodies now able to fly…or our own thoughts transporting us instantly where we want to be?
More things to think about as I hit the road today!