Thanks to circumstances, both good and bad, beyond my control I am driving the first brand new car I’ve owned in over 20 years. I was forced to replace a car I really intended to keep quite a while when it was totaled in an accident in September. To say the least new cars have changed just a bit since 1988. I’ve had my new Toyota Venza for two weeks now and the learning curve for this old dog to learn new technological tricks feels steeper than Pike’s Peak.
The woman at the Toyota dealership who helped me sign my life away spoke truth when she told us that the car was basically a big computer on wheels. And like the love/hate relationship I have with all things technological, this car both amazes and frustrates me. Sunday morning on my way to church I discovered that the car will give me both a weather forecast and a live weather radar map. Since we got our first snow of the season that morning that weather info was both unnecessary and unwelcome. The white stuff falling on my windshield told me all I needed to know about winter’s inevitable arrival.
Some of the most welcome and fascinating things this car can help keep me safe – even when I am distracted by trying to figure out simple things like how to turn the radio off while driving. And yes, I know that’s a no-no. I have no idea how it does it, but this car has a built in way of both keeping me in my lane and slowing me down when I get close to another vehicle. Unless I communicate my intention to change lanes or turn by using the old and often-ignored technology called a turn signal, the Venza tries to steer me back toward the center of my lane. If I fail to tell the car I mean to change lanes it literally fights my efforts to do so like a horse intent on heading for the barn before its rider wants to.
I was talking to my spiritual director last week about some of these gadgets, and I realized that the lane assist and other safety features are much like the Holy Spirit. How God’s spirit works to guide my feet in the direction I need to go is also a complete mystery to me, but it’s real. We can call it conscience or intuition or spirit, but it’s a nudge or push or pull or a closed door that forces me to get creative and choose another direction. Like my car’s guidance system I can choose to override God’s spirit because I have free will. When I change lanes or turn without signaling I feel resistance in the steering wheel, just as I feel a twinge of guilt or regret when I ignore a chance to do something that I know I should do.
There’s one place where this analogy breaks down. If I get very close to someone or something that I’m in danger of hitting, the car actually slams on the brakes and flashes a big red warning sign on the instrument panel. Because we are free agents God doesn’t do that for us, even though there I times I wish she did.
How does God’s GPS show up in your life?
What happens when you choose to follow or not to?