It occurred to me this morning that 27 years ago I was just learning to drive a car. So, as logic would have it, that means I have 27 years of driving experience under my belt (I know, I know--you're impressed by my logical and mathematical skills). In those years, I have gotten one speeding ticket, one ticket for making an illegal u-turn, and one ticket for failure to wear my seatbelt (I was actually wearing my seatbelt, but the NJ State Trooper gave me a break on a speeding ticket). Not too bad! I've also spun my car out in the snow twice, rear-ended a lady, been rear-ended once by a drunk driver, and backed into a UPS truck (while driving a police car--long story). Again, not too bad, considering I've driven thousands upon thousands of miles in thousands of hours of driving. I've driven in mountains, in cities, through the desert, in the snow and rain, while sleepy, while sick, while angry, in a hurry, going too fast, going too slow, over bridges, under bridges, while distracted by technology, with a defroster that didn't work, in a car that was iced over, with bald tires, while singing, and while engaged in deep conversations with passengers. Come to think of it, given all of this, I should be dead...or the proud recipient of a revoked license!
But I'm not. One reason is that I've learned some valuable lessons along the way. For instance, the snow spin-outs convinced me not to drive with bald tires, several near misses with pedestrians and traffic taught be the value of paying more attention to the road than to conversations, conviction about texting while driving has led me to save mobile-phone checks for stop lights and destinations, and numerous "off-road adventures" have made it clear that I should stop and rest when I'm sleepy. Praise the Lord for these lessons (and many others) and for his grace while I was learning them!
However, I still have so many lessons to learn. I drive too fast sometimes, I occasionally get distracted by the radio (tuning and such), I have recently stuck my head out of the window (yes, like Ace Ventura) while waiting for the defroster to catch up with my schedule, I probably sing too much while driving, and, well...I have to admit...I still sometimes check my text on the go. Even with all I've learned, I've still not "arrived." And, yes, God's grace is still what sustains me!
This seems very similar to the life of faith, doesn't it? We start our faith journeys like 16-year-old drivers--making lots of mistakes and muddling our way through the driving process, kept safe and secure only by the grace of God. As time goes on, we learn lessons and apply various corrections, but even after many years of "driving experience," we still make bone-headed decisions, and we even sometimes regress in our learning--i.e., we text while driving, even though we've learned that doing so is an "unpardonable sin." Yet, through it all, the grace of God continues to uphold and sustain us. We deserve nothing, but the Lord continues to give, forgive, and caregive in our lives.
Of course, I may reach the limits of my good fortune when it comes to driving. Maybe I'll have a huge accident tomorrow, or maybe I'll encounter that VA State Trooper whose quota of tickets for the month has not yet been met. Who knows. But one thing is for sure: I'll never exhaust God's grace, and he'll always give me what I don't deserve, forgive me of punishment I do deserve, and care for me no matter what I'm served. And it doesn't take 27 years to figure that lesson out!