“Calm seas never make skilled sailors.”
I never really understood what they meant in Driver’s Ed, when they said that if you start sliding, you turn with the slide. Being a Colorado kid, I heard it a lot. But what does that even mean?
Because our worst snow storms are measured in feet, and we have many mountain passes with sharp turns, the state really wants its drivers to know that you steer into the slide. It was on every driver’s test. It’s repeated all over. Steer into the slide.
The first time I encountered what it means happened a few years later. I was driving to work after a relatively mild snow storm, and was stuck in traffic. Colorado State Patrol had the road down to one lane as they tried to tow an SUV out of the ditch. As I passed by the accident on to the open highway, I remember thinking, “Man, that sucks”, then hit a patch of ice and began sliding myself. I wasn’t going fast, so it didn’t do anything other than scare me, but I and everyone else behind me decided 2 mph was a fine speed after that!
Sliding around in the snow and ice is now a common experience for me. I’ve learned what “steer into the slide” means. It’s become instinct. Every year, I get to practice it at least 4 or 5 times. It’s most common when I’m trying to stop for a light, and briefly I always wonder if I’m just going to slide out into traffic. But instincts kick in, and I stop with room to spare.
The best way to test a driver? Take them to a Colorado mountain pass in a blizzard. You don’t take them to a flat stretch of interstate on a clear day in Kansas. Anybody can be a good driver there.
The way to test a sailor isn’t in the calm waters off a caribbean island, but in the deadly waters of the Bering Strait.
The test of an IT guy isn’t when everything’s going great, but when 4 or 5 critical things are breaking down at once.
The test of a pastor is when everything is going wrong, not when it’s all going right.
When things are going wrong, our basic instincts kick in. There’s no hiding who we really are. We either steer into the slide, or we flail around and injure anyone nearby.
And so it is with the Christian life too. When it’s all going wrong, instincts kick in. We react with who we really are, not who we want to be.
If the “right instinct” for a Colorado driver is “steer into the slide”—what is the right instinct for a Christian?
The right instinct would be to run to God. Run to the Word. Trust that He hasn’t left you.
The other thing you can do is to run away from God. “God, I just knew that life was too good! I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop! Why did you do this to me?!?”
Run towards Him or run away from Him. I think those are the only options when you encounter difficult life circumstances. So the best way to test yourself, to see what kind of a Christian you are, is to think back to the last time life was hard. Did you run towards God or away from Him?
Don’t hide from the truth. If you don’t like your answer, running away from it isn’t going to help. (isn’t that the problem in the first place?)
If you want to become a better driver, few things will help you more than to go out to a big, empty parking lot, and drive around in circles. Especially when it’s wet or icy. Not only is it a ton of fun, but after a while, you get to feel the physics involved. The physics of how ice/water alters the grip of your tires, the physics for how your car reacts, the physics of steering, the physics of braking and the physics of acceleration.
Pretty soon you’ll know what works, and what doesn’t work. Your response will become instinct. Practice makes perfect.
But what if you’re a Christian? I wouldn’t wait for the rain to fall in your life before practicing running towards God.
Just my personal opinion, but I think reading the Bible every day is a great first step. I’ve tried a lot of reading plans in the past, but they either overwhelmed me with too much to read, or I felt bad when I would miss a couple days. So what worked for me was to read a chapter from Proverbs every day. There’s 31 chapters, so it’s really easy to make it a daily thing. It’s also just a bunch of wise sayings, there’s no plot, so if you miss a couple days, you don’t come back and feel like you missed a major part of the story. They’re also really insightful and point towards God. If you want to start today, just go to any Bible site and lookup Proverbs 6.
From there, you can pick up and read more of the Bible on a daily basis, and begin praying daily. None of these have to be legalistic, and you don’t have to feel bad for missing a day or two or three. The point is to simply integrate God more into your daily life. This isn’t a religion, a list of do’s and don’ts, but an actual relationship. Do things to come near to Him, and He has promised that He will come near to you. (James 4:8)
Just like practicing in the parking lot teaches you about the physics of cars, practicing daily teaches you about the physics of a relationship. After a while of this, you will begin to feel what it means to trust in God. You will know what it’s like to have a Father that is always nearby. You will know what His presence is like, so you can detect it even when times are tough. Learning to trust Him when times are good will help you learn to trust Him when times are bad.
The closer you come to God when things are going great in your life, the more likely you will run towards Him when things are going wrong. Your response becomes instinct. Practice makes perfect.