I pulled up to the red stoplight. I waited. It turned green. The car to my right hit the gas pedal and was off. Before I knew it, the car was four or five lengths ahead of me and I was just getting ready to shift into second gear. My first thought was that the driver saw my Mustang and wanted to race. It was a natural reaction to a sports car. He was going to show me who was the boss!
The Walter Mitty in me gassed up the engine, popped a wheelie, and took off like I was flying down the dragstrip in a funny car. I wasn’t going to let a Ford Focus get the jump on me. I had a 300-horsepower V-8 engine that was stoked for racing. The book says it could go from 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds. I had the pedal to the metal and was going to show him that I was the Boss.
There is something about muscle cars that brings out the race car driver in all of us. There is nothing I can do about those people who see me in my car and suddenly see themselves as Dale Earnhart, Danica Patrick or Bubba Wallace. I can do one of two things. I can engage them and let them live out their fantasy or I can control my response to what they are doing.
In reality, my friend in the Focus won that make-believe race because I wasn’t even going to try to beat him. I had learned my lesson years earlier. My first car was a 1965 Mustang coupe. I was your typical teenager. I took on a few rivals back then. It didn’t matter if I won or lost. It was the thrill of the competition. I liked the challenge. I felt invincible and wasn’t thinking about the foolishness of my actions.
When I inherited my dad’s 1969 Mach 1 Mustang, I scared myself with just how fast it could go. I learned that great restraint was a virtue, especially after a couple of close calls. I learned back then that I don’t have to buckle up, peel out and give them a run for the money. I can reel in my ego and let them go. I just laugh now when someone lines up, revs up the engine, and smiles as they take off when the light turns green.
My car today is a 2009 candy apple red Mustang GT convertible. It was a gift and I will tell that story another day. It’s a beauty and I love it. I tell everyone that cruise control is my best friend. I don’t need to go fast to impress anyone. The car does all the talking. As I drove by a church on the other end of town, it struck me that the same should be true of our faith.
When we are walking hand in hand with Christ, our lives should inspire others. The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things ....” If we are following Paul’s urging, people will try to emulate us.
In Paul’s letter to Titus he says, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned ....” Isn’t this what we all try to do? It is integral to the definition of a Christ follower. The truth is that just as my car by its design brings out the NASCAR in people, a Christ-filled life will bring out the best in others and draw them to God.
God has given us the green light. So hit the road. We are in the homestretch. Let the love of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, and glory of God the Father lead the way.
The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.
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