Thursday, January 26, 2012

Learning to Drive

It must have been quite an ordeal for my father ("Pop") teaching me to drive. I seem to have no natural aptitude for it whatsoever--all those times I stepped on the break instead of the gas, or vice versa ... And that time he was teaching me his rule of thumb for how far to stop behind another car at the traffic signal:

Pop: It should look like the tires of the car in front of you are gently resting on the hood.
Me: I can't see the hood.

Or that one time ....

Pop: Just choose one lane and stay in it.
Me: There are two lanes here?!

I only failed the driving test once. I ought to have failed the second time, too, as evidenced by the fact that a week after getting my license I totaled my car.

So anyway, I always joke seriously about what a horrible driver I am.

The other night I dreamed I was in the backseat of a van, doing something on my laptop. I looked up and there was no one in the driver's seat. I was thinking the van could actually drive itself better by following the ruts in the road, but eventually I got anxious and decided I ought to get behind the wheel.

At first the dream struck me as just another joke about my complete lack of skill as a motorist. But I've been realizing, it's really about how often I let other people take charge and refuse to be a leader myself. It's so much easier to let someone else set the agenda, make the decisions, take the initiative. Let them go out on a limb. Let them be responsible. In fact, at times I'm so afraid of taking charge, I feel safer with no one in the driver's seat at all.

I complain in private about how my denomination wastes obscene amounts of paper; I lament the fact that so many congregations, so many pastors are just going through the motions and have no vision, no fire, no Spirit; I observe the lackluster sermons, boring liturgies, and vacuous songs used in worship; and sometimes I daydream about preaching great sermons and developing a great liturgical program, and implementing strategies for bringing congregations to life ... but to actually do any of that would take a great deal of initiative; it would mean taking risks, it would mean making a decision and committing myself to a mission on the basis of personal conviction--not because anyone else expected it, or had told me to do it, but because I believed in it.

When people ask me how I envision my first call, I usually tell them I'd like to be an Associate Pastor--Teaching Pastor, or Pastor of Family Ministries, something like that. Just start out somewhere, get some experience, and kinda go from there.

But I'm realizing now, I am not satisfied with my own answer. I don't want to just get a job, learn to meet expectations, and fall into a routine. I don't want to be just sitting in the backseat working away at some little project. No; it's time to learn how to drive.

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