The Art of the Brake

Last week, my oldest daughter took her drivers permit test.  Unfortunately, she passed.

And its not that I’m not looking forward to her driving.  I’m just not looking forward to her growing up. But alas, that’s the aching plight of every parent, isn’t it?

The driving part I’m actually cool with.  I like the sight of her behind a wheel.  Mostly because I know how huge a life step this is for her and her excitement to take that step.  And I’m laid back enough to actually both enjoy the journey of teaching a teen to drive and hopefully also help to set her at ease as well.

The other night I took her to the biggest, emptiest parking lot I could find. We filled it with imaginary cars and navigated our way through the invisible traffic.  We started off with the first-things-first checklist like seat position, mirrors, seat belt, and all that good stuff.  Then, when everything seemed to be in order, I said some pretty terrifying words: “Okay, now with your foot firmly pressing the brake, shift from park (that’s that big “P”) to drive (that’s that big “D”).  She did just that and as far as I could tell, we were both still alive.

“Okay…now slowly, ever-so-slowly, painfully slowly, I want you to slowly, real slow-like, lift your foot off of the brake pedal.”  She did and we slowly (that was on purpose) began to creep forward.  Technically speaking, my daughter was driving our car.  And yep, we were still alive.

While other parents might have instructed their new driver to move their foot to the accelerator, I did not.  Mostly because acceleration was something I was entirely disinterested in at that moment. Instead, and after a long journey of 10-15 feet I said, “Okay…now slowly apply pressure to the brake pedal.”  With the slightest jolt, we came to an immediate stop.  And so we tried again: release the brake, apply the brake…release the brake, apply the brake.  Its not that I was afraid of the gas pedal, its just that my priority for teaching my daughter how to drive was to first get her to learn the art of the brake.

We’ve lost that art form in our culture today.  We seem to constantly be full-throttle, never-stop, ever-faster, and busier-is-better.  But from what I can tell, we’re reaping exactly what we’ve sown. We’re burnt out, we’re worn thin, we’re frayed inside and out, we’re impatient, we’re irritable, we’re self-centered, and we’re unrested.  We’ve lost the art of the brake.

Where are your heart, mind, or emotions thread-bare today?  Where is rest a forgotten art form?  While your defense mechanism might throw up the wall of “things just have to be this way” or “I’m just going with the flow of traffic”, let me challenge you to look deeper than defenses.  Look to where you lost the brakes and find a way to regain your ability to come to a full and complete stop.

Indecision and its repercussions.

They say “Indecision is the key to flexibility.”  Image

45 minutes.  My wife claims that’s how long I wavered between 2 pairs of sneakers in a shoe store the other day. I had tried on 5-7 pair and had narrowed that lot down to 2.  But that is where my affections began oscillating.  Back and forth I’d look at one pair, enamored with their bright splendor.  Then to the other pair, equally infatuated with their magnificentness.

I wouldn’t consider myself a “shoe guy” as in I don’t own a bedroom full of shoes.  But when its time to buy some new kicks…well…let’s just say I take that decision to the hilt of “life or death” decision-making.  I know that’s ridiculous but I own my ridiculosity.

And while riding the pendulum of shoe decisions is awfully fun, I’d like to take a swing at a conviction I have.  And this one’s going out to anyone willing to listen.  Especially you “church-goers”.

If you attend a local church, then do so.  By all means, make yourself available to serving that local church. Don’t engage when you’re willing, but disengage when you’re unwilling.  Or busy.  Or checking out the church up the road.

(Parenthetical paragraph: The apostle Paul told his protege Timothy to “Preach the Word. Be prepared in season and out of season…” That expression “in and out of season” is better translated “when its convenient and when its not” or “when you feel like and when you don’t”.  I know that was one missionary/church planter to another, but I believe we’d do well to heed the principle here.  It’s 2012 and we’d rather be entertained then edified. We’d rather be flimsy than faithful.  We’d rather see what we can get than see what we can give.)

Don’t try it for a while and then head up the street to another local church because they’ve got something you’d like more at the moment. Don’t approach your involvement in a local body of believers as if you’re bellying up to the Sizzler meat buffet and take a sampling of whatever suits your fancy from week to week.  Stop putting one foot in and one foot out.  Its fine for the hokey pokey, but truth be told: you’re aiding in the demise of your own spiritual health. 

At our church (local body of believers in and followers of Jesus), we tell people: “If you’ve come to Southside looking for the perfect church, you can look no further. Not because this is the perfect church, but because it doesn’t exist. So look no further.”

No joke, I JUST got a text message from someone who has attended our church in the past, has been gone for a while, and was asking what’s going on for students these days.  Before answering her question, I asked my own.  It went a little something like this: “Where you been? We’ve missed seeing you!”  The response was quick: “At the other church.”  They went on to say that “the other” church does one thing well and they like that, but we do something else well and they like that too.

Am I the only one who sees anything wrong with this “flavor of the month” approach to local church involvement?  I might be.  I remember a conversation I had with another local youth pastor years ago. We discussed how students float from one youth ministry to another; perhaps that meet on different nights of the week.  “I think its great.”, he said.  

But what ever happened to commitment? Whatever happened to “this is my church and I love my church”?  I’m not saying that one church is better than another; heavens no.  I’m saying there’s so much more richness when we seek out a place where the risen Jesus is proclaimed, God’s Word is honored and taught, and where God’s Spirit is alive and well leading His Church forward—and PLANTING yourself there.

No local church is everything to everyone.  I don’t even mind that there are 10 church buildings within a few miles of the one I attend.  What I do mind is when Christians waver between churches like I wavered between shoes.  “I like how these feel, but I like how those look” is easily interchanged with “I like how he preaches, but I like how they do worship music.”

I’m not about competition either. I don’t want everyone in my county to go to my church.  I want the gospel to go out, the good news to be spread, I want people to find, fall in love with, and follow Jesus. I care far less about the name on the front of the church than I do about the God who is the Head of the Church. And I know there are extenuating circumstances that keep people from regular attendance, but nothing except self-centeredness will keep people from committing themselves to serving at one local church.

Just as I did after those excruciating 45 minutes, let me beg you:  pick one and stick with it.



By the way…


I went with the Adidas.