A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Dave's Deep Thoughts - Car Racing & God's Grace

Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.

A 1969 Chevy Nova.

A 1969 Chevy Nova with a radio.

That was it.
And I loved it.

It was my first car.
A teenager's first true "home of their own."
Now I am not obsessed with cars.
To me, they just get you where you need to go.
Even as a teenager, I felt that way.

Point proven by the time
drove to school,
and came home on the school bus,
because by the end of the day
I had forgotten that I had driven to school.
How many teenagers can say that?

But I was proud of my first car.
And the same could be said of Jerry Johnson *
* (name changed to protect the guilty)

It was a fall night in 1974.
I was out on a date with KarenThompson*
*(name changed to protect the frightened)

We were traveling on a stretch of road known as the flats,
a long flat stretch where you can see for a mile.

It was getting late.
Karen and I were returning from playing tennis.
In my rear view mirror,
Jerry came storming up behind me
at a speed my car could only dream of.

He pulled along beside me,
and yelled something not so nice about my beloved
1969 Chevy Nova with a radio.

Jerry's car looked like a rocket.
It had flaming decals on the side,
a turbo something on the hood,
a sound system that rivaled that of an athletic stadium,
and a muffler that sounded like a sonic boom.
The fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror were obligatory.

Following the derogatory comment
about my 1969 Chevy Nova with a radio,
he blasted off.

As a highly mature 17 year old,
I realized that the only mature thing to do
was to try to catch him.
So, I floored it.
(children, do not attempt this at home)

I gained ever so slightly on Jerry,
but he decided to go into warp speed
and disappeared into the night.

I let up on the gas,
prepared to receive my shaming from Karen,
when I noticed that the car was still accelerating.

This was not good news for Karen
who in the last 20 seconds decided that I was an idiot
and that she would never date me again.

The problem was......
(well actually, there were several problems)
the problem was that we were headed straight for town.

If I had only been a mature 18 year old,
I would likely have realized
that I could have shifted the car into neutral,
and thus avoided this most unpleasant situation.

I decided instead, to make a sharp left turn onto a rural road
to avoid barreling through town.
The good news was that we were not going to invade a civic boundary.
The bad news was that we were soon to cross the state line.

Besides transporting an underaged teenage girl out-of-state,
there was news that was actually worse.
I knew that there were two sharp turns ahead.

I decided not to tell Karen about the two turns,
because she was crying.
What I decided to do was to brake.
My 1969 Chevy Nova with a radio was confused
as to why I was accelerating and braking at the same time.

I am pretty sure that Jesus was mentioned
(in a good way)
a few times during the next few seconds.

With Jesus' help,
and with Karen's high pitched screaming,
we were able to make it safely through the turns.
(safe being a relative term)

We were now headed down a hill toward a small village,
which was by the way, out-of-state.
There was also a narrow bridge ahead.

I think it was Jesus that yelled
"Throw it into neutral!"
but thinking upon it,
it might have been Karen doing the yelling.

Either way,
it was a good suggestion.

As I threw the car into neutral,
we drifted into this tiny out-of-state hamlet.
Perhaps because it was out-of-state,
or maybe because it was after 11pm,
it appeared that everyone had gone to bed
as there were no lights on in the houses.

That soon changed
as my 1969 Chevy Nova with a radio
began backfiring and emitting thick exhaust fumes
that filled the valley.

As the people of the tiny hamlet opened their doors,
the smoke and backfiring created a scene
from a civil war re-enactment.

Law abiding men were protecting their women and children
as they ventured out onto the "battlefield."
Karen was sobbing uncontrollably,
and I was pretty sure that I had wet myself.

It was in that experience
that I learned several things.....

1) that out-of-staters (and parents) have great compassion
 for teenagers who are crying,

2)that racing Jerry Johnson (or anybody else)
was something that I would never do again

3)that taking responsibility for my bad judgment
was a part of growing up


4)that Jesus is faithful to all of His promises

We all make bad decisions from time to time,
often made spontaneously with little thought.

And often, those bad decisions can lead us into bad situations.
I was fortunate that my decision didn't cost me or Karen our lives that night.

What mattered the most is that given a second chance,
I have learned to make a much better decision.

I am so grateful for the patience of parents
and for the patience of God.
It's because of that patience that each of us
has the opportunity to continue onto the likeness of Christ.

Karen actually continued to date me.
The car repair service found out it was one tiny nut that fell off the throttle
(cost of the nut,  45 cents)
Jerry continued to challenge people to race him throughout our senior year.
(I respectfully declined.)
I kept my 1969 Chevy Nova into my 3rd year of college.
And the radio still worked!

Thank you Lord,
when you protect us from ourselves. 

And thank you for second chances!

"As a result, we are no longer to be children,
tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine,
by the trickery of men, by craftiness and deceitful scheming;
but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him,
who is the head, even Christ."
                   Ephesians 4:14-15

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