When I was about fifteen a friend of mine and I spent a week in Hilton Head with a family we babysat for. While we were there we had the chance to ride Jet Skies. Since neither of us were licensed drivers we both had to ride with someone who was. We didn’t have to let them drive the whole time, but they had to be there.
I had never ridden a Jet Ski, and I had never driven anything. Ever. Not even a go-cart or a Barbie jeep. The idea of being in control of any kind of vehicle terrified me. So I was more than content to let the woman I was with drive while I rode on the back.
After a while though she started to suggest that I take a turn at the helm. She was sure I would have more fun if I were driving. There was no one around to run into, it would be fine she insisted.
After much persuasion, and what I’m sure was some very awkward looking maneuvering to switch seats, I was in control.
For a little while everything was fine. Jet Skiing was pretty fun after all.
Then I got distracted. I started daydreaming about something or other and before I knew it I was headed for trouble.
Daydreaming has always been a problem for me. I couldn’t get my work done in school because my mind would wander off. Someone could be talking to me for who knows how long and would have no idea what they had said because I was a million miles away inside my own head. Even now, more than two decades later, I still have to force myself to pay attention to the world around me.
When I finally came out of my daydream, brought back to reality by the wild shouting of my adult chaperone, I was horrified to realize we were barreling toward the beach at full speed. Following the instructions she hurled at me, I turned hard, and gunned the engine. I willed the Jet Ski to turn.
It was no good.
We were headed for the beach. And not in a fun way.
It could have been a lot worse. We didn’t get hurt and the Jet Ski wasn’t damaged. I was imagining worse. Much worse.
What good is a well-exercised ability to daydream if you can’t add some drama to make things more interesting and get your heart racing?
We ran up onto the beach, and got stuck. Try as we might the Jet Ski wasn’t moving. Eventually the guides for our group saw us and made their way over. By the time the Jet Ski had been hauled back into the water, our time was up. We both rode back to marina with the guides.
I was thoroughly humiliated.
And I never wanted to operate another vehicle.
The dangers of distracted driving are well known. Also well know is the reputation of global positioning systems to give you bad directions. Both can lead to being badly off course. Or worse.
This can happen to us in life too. It’s so easy to get distracted by all of the things this world has to offer. The houses, the cars, the vacations, and whatever else we might get into call us away from living the life God intended for us.
A life that may not include all the amenities we’re hoping for, but will bring tremendous peace and fulfillment.
Even the things we believe are necessary can draw us away from our true purpose. Things like school, housework, and jobs are all important, but we can easily let them become the most important. We can get so busy just trying to scratch out a living that we forget to look to the one that will meet all of our needs.
And then sometimes we just get tired. We exhaust ourselves in pursuit of happiness, and we no longer have any energy to spare for the things of God. Or maybe we just have an exhausting life, and we forget to trust the one who gives us true rest.
Our lives can get blown, or steered, off course so easily. It doesn’t take much before we’re headed for a crash that we can’t control. But the problem isn’t inevitable.
If, as a gangly, awkward, suntanned teenager, I had simply let the experienced driver remain in charge that day in Hilton Head, I would have avoided the whole situation. I have enjoyed myself just as much, or more when you account for some unintended beach time, and I wouldn’t have become the brunt of what I’m sure were more that a few jokes.
The Christian life is the same way. We can get so wrapped up in our own plans, and then when we think God is taking us off course, we maneuver ourselves into control, and tell God to get in the back. We think God must have made a mistake somewhere along the way.
But God doesn’t make mistakes.
We may not understand the path, or be able to see the road He leads us on, but God will never steer us off course.
It’s up to us to trust Him, and let Him remain in control of our lives. We have limited vision and experience. God sees all, knows all, and has experienced all. He is much more qualified to run our lives than we are.
I wish I could say that I learned that lesson all those years ago, but I didn’t. I still fight the urge to do things my way instead of God’s way. I still find myself thinking I’ve got things figured out.
The truth is I’ll never have things figured out. No matter how much I think I know, or how capable I think I am, I’ll never be able to navigate the waters of life without God.
If I would have learned that a long time ago I could have saved myself a lot of worry, fear, and anxiety. Probably quite a bit of embarrassment too.
Not even Jesus Christ the Son of God made his own plans. He didn’t seek to do His own will, but let the Father lead Him in everything.
…I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. John 8:28
For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. John 6:38
Why should we elevate ourselves above Christ? If the wisest man that ever walked the earth didn’t presume to control His own life, why should I? Who am I compared to Christ?
Christ knew that to fulfill His purpose, He had walk the path that the Father laid out. The same is true for us.
If I truly want the power of God on my life it won’t do to just let God be the co-pilot while I maintain control. I have to let Him be the pilot, the navigator, and the fuel that powers the vessel.