Driving with my 16-year-old: a surefire way to talk with God
By Christine Stephan
“Do you have any children?”
“I have three sons… my eldest is 16.”
When I say that, that I have three sons, typically the person asking the question looks at me with a bit of sympathy. I’ve gotten used to this “look” and I typically laugh it off and say, “Yup — God knows there’s a special place in heaven for me.”
Which I quickly follow with, “At least I’ve been spared from the teenage-girl squealing…”. To which I can almost always get an, “AMEN!” (especially from moms who have three teenage girls).
Anyway, my eldest IS 16, which means one thing: driving lessons.
And dear God … now I know there is actually a special place in heaven for me, because I may just die in this new venture of parenting.
As I sat clutching the door handle until my knuckles were white (OK — actually blue because at some point I do believe I lost all circulation to my hands) I thought a lot about God — mostly because I was sure I was getting ready to meet him on a whole new personal level.
But seriously — there’s nothing like placing your life (and the lives of the entire neighborhood) in your son’s hands as he controls a 4,000-pound moving object, which is basically a moving fireball if throttled into the right object — you know, namely another vehicle or gas pump or traffic light, or….
Anyway — that will make you grasp the fragility of life in a whole new light.
So, things I learned about God while driving with my son:
- The prayer that God actually answers quite frequently: “Dear God, don’t hit that car!” (This is actually a prayer that works best if you SCREAM it — at least that’s been my experience.)
- God is actually INSANE. I mean — God gave us the keys to the car (aka — freewill and expects us to actually know how to drive this thing called earth). Yeah. Nuts. The God of the universe is actually certifiable.
- We, in church and society, toss the word mercy around way too easily. I’m pretty sure mercy feels a whole lot more like — HOT DAMN — I am still alive after weaving around the girl on the pink bike, the pick-up truck with tools loaded in the back, the woman raking her leaves, and the dog that — thank God! — (there’s a lot of thanking God that goes on) was on a leash … WHEW … I’m pretty sure mercy feels like that.
- Which brings me to grace, which feels like a parking spot. The car is safely turned off and my teenage son is doing a fist pump because he made it in between the two white lines (almost) and I let go of the door handle for the first time in a half hour. Grace. It also feels like a deep breath.
- There’s no brake on the passenger side. Probably you know this, but as you go just a touch too fast down that hill you are acutely aware of this truth. Pressing your right leg into the floorboard as hard as you can while biting your lip does not make the car stop. Life’s scary and there’s no brake. Sorry. But there isn’t. Sometimes you just gotta let other people drive (this is pretty hard for me, because I’d actually like to be in control all the time, which I think makes God laugh).
- Lastly, and I mean that with the utmost respect, God has a wicked sense of humor — because this feeling — on the edge of my seat, afraid I might just lose my life at the hands of another, while all the while being filled with joy, is what life is. This is the kind of life God wants for us: never knowing what’s next and yet always trusting that somehow you will make it around the next curve. Like I said — wicked.
Oh — one last thing — I’m certain God forgives the parent who cusses a bit too much in this whole endeavor … which makes me think God may do a fair amount of cussing as we learn to drive.
Originally posted Nov. 11, 2013, at Tiny Dart Frog. Republished and edited for length with permission of the author. Find a link to Christine Stephan’s blog Tiny Dart Frog at Lutheran Blogs.
You might also want to read:
Doubting mother. Expecting teens. Accidental devotion.
Why I give thanks for mentors
Stress puts more teens at risk