In my culture, earning your learners permit and drivers license is a rite of passage. Parents will rib their friends and say to watch out now that their kid is now on the road. Like most of my peers, I got my permit and license as soon as I could. I remember driving my sister and our friends to school, rocking out to Obvious Child from Paul Simon. Once I got to college, I didn’t drive as much, partly because I didn’t have a car at first, and then because I was sharing with my sister some of the time.
I had a full stop break from driving while I was in Kenya, and I got to ride shotgun and as a passenger with a whole bunch of exciting folks. After I got back, I felt out of practice, and came to be like my mother, much preferring to serve as navigator and the set of good eyes searching for the obscure sign.
Some of my earliest memories of my husband are from before we were dating. I would drive him home from lunch after church, because he didn’t have a car at the time. Shortly after that, however, he got a car again, and then we started dating, and I didn’t drive for days at a time, allowing him to take charge and take his slow, methodical way with the road. I notice far more details about our journey than he ever can see since he is such a safe driver, always focused on the road.
We found a good rhythm, learning how to navigate and find our way to places. He served as my driver, as my chauffer, for a good three years or so, until I got a new car. We had decided it was time to find a new car for me, and after considerable research, we got one that met all my requirements.
Funny thing about getting a new car… He doesn’t drive as much now. It seems that our roles have reversed. I thought I didn’t like to drive, but perhaps it was more that I didn’t like to drive the other cars. I like to take charge with my car. I like putting it where I want on the road, how fast I want it and setting my own speed. Somehow I still see the details of our surroundings as much as I did before.
I suppose that I go through phases of being a passenger and being a driver. I spend time getting to know a place, learning the ways in and out, knowing how different routes connect. I follow the path around each new landmark. Eventually I know my way around, learning an area like the back of my hand.
Sometimes it is easier, and sometimes it is much harder. The twists and turns can be unpredictable. The names can change without warning, or be copied five times over for different roads.
Leadership can be a lot like driving. I have seasons when I am very comfortable taking a leadership role. There are times when I know for certain that I am taking those around me in exactly the place that we need to go as a community. Even if the path is rough or the trail gets rocky, I am assured that we are doing good, and we are going well on the journey.
But sometimes I would much rather see where others will lead me. Sometimes I don’t have a clear idea of what is next, and I know that others are much more passionate and have much more experience in this particular circumstance. And like visiting a friend when you come from out of town, it is much better if the friend takes the wheel and shows the way through all the peculiar intricacies of this unique place.
Usually it is much more complicated. Usually there are all sorts of drivers and followers and backseat drivers and passengers and folks who should be driving, and folks who really should have relinquished their licenses years ago. It ends up in a multi-car pile-up. A fender-bender happens. Or the amazing happens. Grace breaks out, and we come to a place where no one expected. And it is better than any of us could have imagined.
I might drive a bit more often than I should. I might be driving when I have a headache or when I am tired or when I am distracted on something completely different than the path I am taking. But I trust that I and those who are with me are following a plan that is bigger than we are. I trust that this journey is not just about getting from point A to point B, but is about the journey itself.
This journey that we are on allows us to move and be flexible. It allows us to grow and try out different positions.
At some point we all should take the opportunity to drive. But the scenery is beautiful, and the we can’t all sit in the same seat. Once in a while, let someone else drive. Look around. Find a new shape in the clouds. And discover this creation around us, on this journey.