Do you remember riding a bumper car? To celebrate the dog days of summer, I continue with the amusement park theme. Who doesn’t love the bumper-car ride. I have found that people either love them or hate them. I love pitting brother against sister, cousin against cousin, daddy and daughter against mother and son. From the perspective of a ten year old with long braids and dimples, Ocean City NJ, has the very best bumper car ride.
I used to fall into the LOVE bumper car category until that one time. And sadly that one time has infected my memory. Now, if you ask me, I am ambivalent at best.
But my bumper car experience was not a waste. Without much of a stretch, I’m reminded of some spiritual lessons experienced from the seat of a bumper car.
Having Control is a myth
I remember waiting in line for the bumper car ride that first time. It looked so fun and not that hard. You push a gas pedal and turn the steering wheel. How hard can it be? But then there was that one time. My bumper car, that my daddy named Edna, had a mind of its own. It took about 4 rotations of the steering wheel to turn 15 degrees. And the gas pedal seemed possessed. It would inch along and then speed with abandon. In spite of what little control I had, Edna did manage to slam into a few other cars which helped me to forgive her just a little bit.
God and His control
I love that God has control of my life. Honest. At least when he agrees with me and when He wants to go the same direction I’m going. Often, when I’m feeling a bit generous or maybe a bit uncertain, I will even present Him with a couple of acceptable options. He is so patient. He allows me to strive and strive and strive. Eventually, circumstances beyond my control, force my head to turn. Desperate now, and even demanding, He graciously hears my cry and forgives me of my arrogance. From God’s perspective, what a folly. I imagine to Him my life must look like a bumper car ride.
Remain connected to the power
I’m a pastor’s wife. It was not my calling. In fact, I resisted marrying Doug, because I didn’t want the job. In the end, since God and Doug apparently teamed up, I had no prayer of resistance. Even though my past includes plenty of rebellion, I have consistently gone to church. My motivation was sometimes suspect… Because I’m the minister’s wife and I want my kids to learn about Jesus. Or if I dare to admit it, I want others to think I’m a good person. Because it will make me feel better or perhaps I have nothing better to do. But church attendance is worth something? Right?
Fill up the tank, I’ll take it from here
I love my VW. I fill up its gas tank and it runs for me, where I want to go, for a long time. Similar to how many view their weekly (or monthly, or occasional) visit to church. Fill up the God tank, and I’ll take it from here.
Bumper cars, on the other hand, run on electricity. The way I remember it, the pole on the back leads up to the ceiling which carries the electrical connection. If the pole doesn’t touch the ceiling at any point in time, the car doesn’t run. Do you think maybe, that is what Jesus knows works best? To stay connected continually? Not just a quick fill on Sunday morning?
John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
You need others
This, the most painful lesson, and the reason that my view of the bumper car ride was forever changed. Edna, my dear Edna, got stuck in the corner. That same corner had about 6 disconnected, non working cars that just sat there, dejected. Edna, with a mind of her own, trying to lap another working vehicle, got off course and drifted to the corner. Nothing I did seemed to help. I bumped into the non working vehicles to redirect my course. No success. Then tried to get the attendant’s attention. No success. I kept turning the wheel and pressing the gas. No success. It was a blue car driven by a pimply teenager, who had earlier rammed me, that came to my aid. He bumped from behind, then from the side and eventually caused Edna to be back in the game. In that moment, I hated that I needed him.
I’ve got this
To think about it now, and how deep seated my control issues are, makes me laugh. But seriously, isn’t that the American way? I can do it, myself. I can pull myself up by my boot straps. With enough education, with enough strength, with enough ingenuity, I can do it. I – I – I! Such pride.
The Body of Christ
Through this “season of circumstances”, one of the most beautiful gifts the Lord has caused me to see in full living color, is His Body of Christ. We need others. The prayers, the investment of time and talents, the millions of kindnesses have humbled me. And through you, that collective you, I see Him.