In yesterday’s post, I compared the concept of oxen yoked together with a more modern day example of being a part of a caravan. While aspects of the example are fitting, the picture has a critical flaw -- it is stressful to be in a caravan, not restful as Christ promises if we abide. It occurred to me that the person who is most at rest in a caravan is the passenger in the lead vehicle! He doesn’t have to worry about keeping everyone together, and since he is with the lead driver who has declared that he knows the way, the passenger can simply sit back and enjoy the trip. Even the passengers in the follow vehicles feel a measure of stress because they know their driver doesn’t know the way. As a driver in a caravan, you are with your leader, but if you are a passenger assigned to the first car, you are in the same car as your leader. In John 15:4, Jesus doesn’t say, “Abide with Me,” He says, “Abide in Me.” (emphasis added).
I’ve been trying to piece together a picture of the rest that comes with abiding in Christ, and it took my son getting his learner’s permit this week to help me connect the dots. As my son got behind the wheel for the first time, I could tell that his “stress-meter” was peaking in the red zone. He was excited to have his permit and be granted this new privilege, but as he put his hands on the wheel for the first time, he also realized the huge responsibility involved in driving, coupled with the fact that he had no idea what to do. He had proven he knew the rules of the road, but he had zero knowledge of how to operate a vehicle.
I sat in the front passenger seat right next to him, and began to explain the dashboard, turn signal, wipers, etc. I touched and pointed to everything as I explained. After he turned on the car, I had him pause and think through all of the steps he would need to take before entering traffic. As we pulled away from the curb, I could sense his rush of excitement, but his knuckles were the whitest I’ve ever seen them! I kept up a constant stream of instruction mixed with praise and reassurance. The first stop sign produced a sudden jolt. He nervously apologized, and I chuckled and told him it was just fine, and he was doing great. His first trip was one mile in length, and involved stopping, turning, and learning how to stay straight in the lane. We even laughed together when I had to say, “turn, turn, Turn, TURN!!!” and when both of our heads jerked back when he began to proceed after a stop sign.
Sitting next to him in the car reminded me of the Matthew 11:28-29 passage which tells us twice that it is being near Christ that provides rest. “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me.” My son is learning how to drive, and that requires me to be near him -- coaching, guiding, instructing, and reassuring. We are in the car together. We see, hear, and experience every aspect of the trip together. He has been watching me drive his entire life, and knows that I have the knowledge and experience to teach him this new skill. He listens to my voice and does everything I say because he trusts me.
On our second outing, I was still very vocal in pointing things out as he drove. At times, I was quiet for short periods, and noticed that he was talking to himself. He checked in with me constantly to ask, “Was that ok?” and “Who has the right of way here?” After one particularly smooth turn, he said, “Hey, that was my best one yet, right?!!?” I noticed that as we circled our small town, his knuckles began to be ever-so-slightly less white! The more he drove and got the feel for things, the more he began to relax. It is my nearness and constant conversation with him, coupled with hands-on experience that is already beginning to bring him rest and the reassurance he needs that he can do this!
Here is the mystery and joy of abiding. We have all heard the metaphor of letting Jesus “take the wheel” of our lives. We want and need Him to be in the driver’s seat, taking us where He wants us to go. But He also wants us to learn from Him! He has tasks for us to accomplish with His help and guidance, and this is when He lets us take a turn behind the wheel. Our lives are marked with sudden stops and jerky, tentative starts. Sometimes we need to make a turn, but don’t know what that feels like or how to make it happen. He is right next to us gently saying, “turn, turn, Turn, TURN,” I imagine with a smile on His face and gentle reassurance in His voice.
I just love this picture of abiding. As my son’s teacher, I know he can do it. From my son’s perspective, he knows he can trust me. So it is with the Lord as my teacher, and me as the student driver. The mystery of abiding is allowing Jesus to be the driver of my life, but understanding that He wants me to learn from Him as I accomplish the plans He has for me. The best way to learn is to be near Him, constantly talking with Him and checking in for encouragement and direction. He is in my car (life) with me, and will guide and direct my path, every step of the way. He knows the way, and I just need to listen and obey. He is gentle and humble in heart, and I know that He loves me…
…and that brings me…