Photo by Nextvoyage, on Pexels
When I was in high school, I was riding in the front seat of our van with my mom. My brother was in the middle seat, and we were driving on a narrow highway, the kind of rural road where there’s just enough room for two lanes and no paved shoulder. I don’t remember the occasion for the trip, but I do remember we weren’t far from home – maybe 30-45 minutes. The sky was cloudless, as it often is in the open spaces between Colorado and Utah.
A normal day and a normal drive changed in an instant when the passenger side wheels of the van dropped off of the road and onto the dirt. We drove for mere moments with one set of wheels on the road and the other off, when my mom tried to get the car back up between the painted lines. She tugged on the wheel – not even very hard – to try and right the situation, and we ended up being jerked out of our lane and thrust into oncoming traffic.
There were two semi trucks in the oncoming lane, spaced apart, but not far enough apart for our car to go in between them. I believe one of the drivers sped up and the other slowed down, which allowed our out-of-control vehicle to careen in between them and then back to the right side of the road. We pulled over and found a phone so that we could call my dad, and he told us he had suddenly had a strange feeling of concern wash over him right before we called. If you know my dad, you know he’s not one to worry about much of anything, but he’d had a sense something was wrong, and he had been right.
Later on, in drivers ed, I learned that what had happened in that van was an overcorrection. When you go off of the road, you panic, and your instinct is to jerk the car back up onto the road. You don’t even have to move the steering wheel very hard for it to be too much, and the end result is the vehicle weaving out of control back and forth across the road. You have to train yourself to work against that instinct. The correct response to going off of the road is to take your foot off of the accelerator, hold firmly onto the steering wheel, allow the vehicle to slow down, and gently ease the wheels back onto the asphalt.
When things get off track, our instinct is to pull hard back toward the road. That instinct is ingrained in us, but its one that has the potential to cause us to careen out of control. In our desire to get things back under control, we risk making things worse for ourselves – and for others.
For me, being in control is an idol that has had to be toppled from its high place during the uncertainty of Covid-19. As things began to shut down, and as the routine of daily predictability and security was stripped away, I found myself grasping anywhere I could for something that made me feel like I was in control of my life again. I made menus and to-do lists. I had late night sessions talking with my husband about things we could do to feel more secure, more in control, more at ease.
After the initial wave of uncertainty and fear washed over me and I found a new routine and way of life, I felt good about how I had done. I had mastered that need to be in control of my own life, and I thought I was doing better at going with the flow. But, over the course of the last couple of weeks, I have realized this is far from the case. With the uncertainty of school re-openings on the horizon, the uncertainty of what fall and winter might look like, the uncertainty of how long we can possibly endure what we are going through hanging over our heads, I have found myself taking hold of the steering wheel and trying to jerk my life back up onto the road.
I have lost sight of love and grace as I have dug in my heels and tried to find stability.
I have been so afraid of slipping off track and losing control that I have not be willing to listen to the fears and concerns of others.
I have tried so hard to get back on the road that I’ve overcorrected and caused pain for myself and for others.
I have tried to force my life back into familiar ruts, and nstead have caused my life to spin further out of control.
Our temptation when uncertainty arises is to dig our heels in to what seems immediately important to us. Our instinct is to force our lives back onto the road that is most comfortable for us. But, in that grasping for control, we forget that God created us like the big horn sheep who perch precariously on the sides of mountains. When the terrain is rocky, when our lives are tough, God is there with us. As the psalmist wrote, “God won’t let your foot slip. Your protector won’t fall asleep on the job” (Psalm 121:3, CEB).
In this new season of uncertainty, may we find the courage to hold firmly to the wheel and allow ourselves to slow down and be guided back onto the road. May we be quick to listen, slow to anger, and eager to receive the peace of Christ, which surpasses all understanding.
Lord, I feel out of control sometimes. I am afraid of the many uncertainties in front of me. I am weary of all of the things I do not understand. Give me the courage to allow you to guide me, even when I am afraid of where the road might lead. Amen.
If you are seeking hope and peace during these uncertain times, I want to offer to you my new e-book. It is a free, 7-day devotional, I wrote as I was seeking hope and peace in my own life. Check out Whispers in the Wilderness: 7 Devotions of Hope for Uncertain Times.