I started driving school bus this past week–In the middle of the worst Alberta winter in recent memory. I had to get my drive plowed out three times in ten days prior to the first day of school in January. I was nervous. It doesn’t take much for a bus to get stuck. I found that out in training doing a simple turnaround. A wee bit of snow and the bus wasn’t going anywhere until the bus tow truck showed up like a knight in shining canary yellow.
However I was lucky and the roads were good this week and I only had a few minor “lip biting” moments as I learned my route and the idiosyncrasies of certain turnarounds. It was a good week!
This new challenge of driving passengers around reminded me of the first time I had to ferry college students from a base camp in the Southern Alberta Rockies to a drop-off point for white water rafting.
Base Camp was located a 6 or 7 miles down the Dutch Creek Road which is a winding mountain road that at one point has a hairpin turn with cliff walls rising on the inside and a straight down drop-off on the outside. Early in the season before cattle were put out on the grazing leases, my coworkers liked to run that road as fast as they could, trying to beat the “record” time. At the time it was fun and thrilling but looking back, very foolish and dangerous. There were many points on that road you went around corners blind, trusting no one or nothing was on the other side.
Part way into June we had a massive camp of college students that took every available resource we had. It was a string of days that kept our small staff running their tails off. The director came up to me and asked me to ferry a group down to the raft starting point in his old Suburban.
This would be the first time in my life I was to drive more than a couple people. The big suburban with it’s long nose was intimidating, but I wasn’t going to let on that I was a bit unsure about the whole thing–especially in front of hot college guys. I put on my most confident face and took the drivers seat.
They loaded up and I drove down the bumpy and narrow camp trail through the trees to the Dutch Creek Road. I turned east and off we went at a fair clip, trying to make up for lost time during the loading of passengers and their gear–a couple were late having forgot their lunches. Everyone was pumped about going white water rafting and the whole vehicle was bursting with loud talking, laughter and the occasional squeal or screech.
I kept both fists tight on the big steering wheel as I adjusted to the feel of the Suburban as we rolled down the road. There was a lot of play in the steering and I had never driven something with such a long nose, but it careened through the curves rather smoothly and halfway down the road I was feeling rather confident. The hairpin curve was approaching and I let off on the gas a bit to take the blind corner and suddenly there was an SUV only feet away hurtling right for us!
The guy sitting beside me yelled and I reacted by jerking my wheel for the side of the road, completely forgetting the straight down drop-off that was framed by only a thin stand of aspen trees. The nose swung out over the cliff in the gap between aspens, and all I could see was the river hundreds of feet below. I corrected by steering for the road again, thinking in those split seconds that it would be better to hit the SUV than go over that cliff. And somehow, with the SUV fishtailing and the Suburban’s long nose aiming straight for it we missed it’s back bumper by inches! The noise in the back never diminished and I know only the guy beside me knew how close to a major catastrophe we came.
I kept the Suburban rolling forward though my heart was in my throat and I looked over at the guy beside me and he looked at me.
“Better slow down some.”
Was all he said and I drove on at a much more subdued pace–knuckles white and chest tight–arriving safely at the raft starting point. The passengers disembarked, still completely oblivious and totally absorbed in their rafting experience-to-be, and I drove back to camp thinking about every which possible way I could have done things differently. I never again approached that curve with the blind confidence I had prior to that.
That feeling of going forward in blind confidence–either faking capabilities, masking insecurities, or being completely self-assured–made me think of how many of us approach the things of God. We find ourselves in a position of leadership, either appointed by God or man, or by ourselves and we are “driving” others along with us.
I’ve talked about spiritual journeys before, mostly in an individual sense, but this past experience and the one I’m on now, reminds me that we are NOT ALONE on our journeys. Sometimes we are passengers, along for the ride, going forward on the momentum of others. Other times we are the ones chauffeuring and we need to remember our responsibility to those along for the ride with us.
Those who are driving will always bear more responsibility for whatever happens. Those in positions of influence will always be more strictly judged. One needs to be very aware and very careful when in these positions.
Being certain of one’s capabilities is a good trait in most of life, however in the spiritual sense, I wonder if being confident and capable is not necessarily a good thing. So many of us in the church or in our regular lives only do what we are confident or capable of. Sometimes those who are the most confident have a way of asserting themselves and their agenda, and because so many are so uncertain they follow along blindly; oblivious to where they are being “driven”; unaware of the dangers approaching. A hairpin curve and something is blocking the way. Catastrophe for some. A near miss for others.
Better to slow down and remind yourself of those you are driving. Remind yourself that being confident and certain of your abilities is only a good thing if they are centered in Christ and in love for your passengers. Remind yourself of WHO should be in control. Remind yourself that whoever is driving will be held the most accountable, and remember that if you’re the one being driven, you too have a responsibility to stay alert and aware– able to warn the driver when they are out of line or driving beyond their abilities.
Because if you don’t learn the first time on a hairpin curve, you may not have a chance to learn the next time around.