He said, “Would you like to drive?” I laughed and said, “No thank you.” I was happy to see him and was delighted he was able to pick me up at the airport. My daughter was spending the semester abroad at MacQuarie University in Sydney, Australia. Neil was there at the gate with Sarah when I flew into the Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport.
I met Neil Chenoweth for the first time when I was in my teens. He came to America to spend time with his uncle John. I felt like I knew Neil because I had heard so many stories about him prior to his visit. His uncle just happened to be my mentor and pastor, the Rev. Dr. John Brooks. So when Sarah decided to head to the Land Down Under, I made it a point to reach out to Neil.
The 17-hour flight from San Francisco to Sydney left me a little groggy. I was suffering from jet lag. Neil’s question caught me off guard. Add in the fact that they drive on the opposite side of the road, and you had the making of an unpleasant experience. Saying “No!” was the sensible thing to do. Besides, Neil could get us where we needed to be. He knew the terrain.
You can imagine my surprise when I went around to get in the passenger seat. Neil looked at me, smiled and said, “So you’ve changed your mind and would like to give it a go?” I looked at him unable to decipher the meaning of his words. What was he saying? It was like he was speaking a different language. It wasn’t until I opened the door and looked inside the vehicle that it dawned on me.
The steering wheel was where an empty space for the passenger should have been. I laughed and said, “No. I know better than that. You go ahead and drive.” I went around to the other side. We left from there and the rest is history. That was back in 2008. A lot has changed since then, but every once in a while the memory of that moment outside the airport in the land of Oz surfaces again.
You’ve probably heard the expression, “God is my co-pilot.” Some of us throw out the saying as if it is a badge of honor. We suggest that God is with us wherever we go. We invite him along and let him take over when we need a break or the going gets tough. We let him drive when we choose the time and place. God’s ok with that. He doesn’t force us to accommodate him. He lets us take the lead.
Too often, though, we wait until our life is about to crash. Just like that Carrie Underwood song, we hit the black ice and things spin out of control. Then we let Jesus take the wheel. There is a better way though. It’s to let God drive right from the beginning. He knows the way. He meets us where we are and offers us the ride of a lifetime. All we need to do is step aside and let him take control.
Like with Neil, who knew his way around, God gets us where we need to be. With him we will never get lost. We will always arrive right on time and get to enjoy the ride with those we love. So stop fussing. Life is too short. Leave the driving to the one who knows the way. It’s Lent. Open your Bible, head back to church and get ready to ride. !
The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.