Isn’t it just amazing what people do in their cars nowadays? For a lot of folks, their car is just a mobile office. You see women in business suits talking into one of those ear-piece things and fiddling with their palm pilots. You also see guys in pickups who have got a cell phone in one hand, and with their other hand, they’re searching through all the envelopes and receipts that are scattered across the dash board. All of this is going on while everyone is traveling down the road at 65 MPH
Then there are all those folks who use their cars as portable boom boxes or home theaters. I have to admit that I’m no longer surprised when I’m sitting at a stop light and I feel the bass line coming out of a stereo system five cars away. But I still haven’t quite gotten used to sitting at a stop light and watching “Oprah” in someone else’s vehicle. I always wonder if they keep watching “Oprah” after the light changes.
Of course, there are those whom a car is just a traveling bulletin board. Actually, Austin seems to have more than its share of these kinds of folks. They cover their vehicles with stickers and decals that are designed to let everyone else know how they feel about Bush or Kerry or Jesus or Darwin or Nine Inch Nails. Trouble is, I’m never exactly sure what I’m supposed to do with that information.
I think the reason we do so many things in and with our cars is because we see driving time as wasted time. Sure, we are going from one place to another, but we are also just sitting there, and so we feel like we ought to be able to put that time to better use. To borrow a phrase from St. Paul, we want to redeem that time, and so we do office work or display our political and cultural convictions or just entertain ourselves.
I feel the same way about driving, and so I also use my car for more than just basic transportation. But for me, it’s a chapel on wheels. Now, I don’t burn candles, and there isn’t an altar in the back seat. But I have discovered that driving is a really good time to pray. Most of the time, I just pray for the folks that I see on the way.
Like the other morning, I had to drive downtown. I’m stopped at a light and right next to me is this older couple in a big late-model car. She’s driving; they’ve both got on those over-sized, wrap-around plastic dark glasses; there’s a handicapped emblem hanging from the rear-view mirror. I figure they’ve got a doctor’s appointment – or maybe they’re headed to Wal-Mart to do a little shopping. I ask Christ Jesus to watch over them and grant them good health and many more years together.
As the traffic starts moving, there’s a guy who’s cutting in front of folks, changing lanes like he’s on a Nascar track. There’s lots of honking, and even some yelling and a few hand gestures. I ask Christ Jesus to keep him and everyone else safe.
When I get downtown, I’m once again sitting at a long light. On my left is a young woman who has both hands on the steering wheel; she’s staring straight ahead. After a moment, she lays her head down slowly on the steering wheel and she begins to cry. The light changes; she wipes her eyes and starts driving. I ask Christ Jesus to give her strength and heal her sorrow.
That’s what I do when I’m driving. You might want to try it as well. After all, at 70 miles per hour, prayer is a whole lot safer than trying to keep up with what’s going on at the office; it’s not something you have to advertise with a bumper sticker; and you can do a lot more good by praying than you can by listening to the stereo or watching the television.
Because, really, it’s when we are out on the road that we begin to truly understand how all of our lives are connected. We pass by each other – sometimes rapidly, sometimes ever so slowly – and we realize that we are all on this big highway together. So what better way to use that time than to commend each other to the One who is the end of each and every journey, and to pray that we all make it safely home?