The little brown Chevy Vega looked beautiful as the proud young man rounded the last corner and headed for home. He kept that car as clean as anyone could in the dry dusty climate of his hometown. On this day, there was not a speck of dust on it.
The eight-track player which he had installed himself was blaring out the pleasant chords and high tenor vocals of David Gates and Bread, and he couldn’t help singing along with the lyrics of “If”.
“If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?
Though words can never show the you I’ve come to know…”
It may be that he was paying a little too much attention to his singing and not as much to his driving, but when he rounded that last corner, he made a terrible mistake. Downshifting the manual transmission from third gear, he left the shift lever in the neutral position, instead of continuing on into second gear. There was a visible bump in the road ahead. Slowing a bit too much to avoid being jostled, the young driver realized too late that the road also had a small rise in it after he made the right turn. He quickly let the clutch out and stepped on the accelerator, only to hear the motor wind up with no resultant increase in speed. There was plenty of power, it just didn’t get to the wheels.
The car was still in neutral! Frantically, he grabbed for the stick shift, but the car had already slowed to a stop and then began to move backwards, right out onto the main road behind him. The only thing the kid could think about as he rolled the wrong direction was his father’s advice, given as the boy was learning, to always move the gear shift into another gear so there would be power available should an emergency arise. What was his Dad going to say after the inevitable wreck he was headed for? Fortunately for him, although there were other drivers following, they were alert enough to swing around and avoid the rear-end collision he was anticipating. As the last man moved cautiously past, he stuck his head out the window and shouted at the hapless teen.
“Drive it or park it!”
The boy was mortified. It was a blow to his manhood–that much was certain. Finally finding the gear he was searching for, he popped the clutch out and lurched ahead. Like a defeated dog with its tail between its legs, he dropped his head, slouched down in the seat, and made his way home.
It is an odd word. If you look in a dictionary, you will see that the first definition speaks of directing the movement of a car or truck. But this word has been around for almost nine hundred years. Surely it means something more. After all, the way livestock was moved in the nineteenth century was called a cattle drive. They didn’t have cars then.
So we look again at that dictionary and we see that indeed, it does mean more. To drive means to cause to move by force, authority, or influence in the desired direction.
The word applies to more than just cars or cattle, doesn’t it? One drives the enemy back. A basketball player drives through the lane. When a carpenter pounds a nail in a board, he drives it in. A public speaker might drive home a point. The list goes on.
The point is that something other than the object itself is in control. An army drives the enemy and the loser has no say in where it goes. The carpenter controls the location of the nail and the speed at which is it inserted into the wood. The cattle don’t always want to go where they are driven, but the cattleman controls their direction.
In most cases, the person controls the automobile, but our protagonist above seemed to lose that control and he became the driven instead of the driver. He lost his influence, and certainly his authority, over the vehicle.
Many nights as I write, I keep a window open on my computer which alerts me when folks I know post comments and items to a popular social site. Mere moments ago, I was reminded powerfully of one way of driving and being driven which I have experienced many times over the course of my life, as a friend in Australia posted a video of a recent occurrence in New York City.
Instrumentalists from a well-known orchestra brought their instruments and chairs and set up on a busy street corner in concert formation. They then placed a podium in front of them with the words “Conduct Us” emblazoned on the empty music stand. Then they sat and waited. One by one, brave individuals from the street stepped up to the podium and waved the conductor’s baton, astounded at the way the musicians responded to their gestures and motion. When they stopped moving the baton, the orchestra stopped playing. When one lady waved a violist up from his seat, he stood and played until she gave him permission to sit down. He did attempt to sit once before she was ready and she waved him back to his feet.
For the most part, those who stepped to the podium knew nothing about music or how to lead an orchestra. The performance of the musicians was competent, but not stellar, as they allowed folks who had no authority nor sense of direction to control what they did.
I have conducted and been conducted. It is the same as driving and being driven. Oh, I’ll admit that frequently the whole bunch, like a horse with a bit in its mouth, realizes that it can take the power away from the conductor. Then, gripping the bit firmly in their teeth, they plunge on recklessly until they realize the futility of their wild rush and allow the conductor to take back the reins and bring some semblance of control to the whole affair. But, overall, the musicians understand that the power belongs to the person on the podium, who hopefully wields that power for good and the benefit of the entire group. If they are driven by a skillful leader, their performance is enhanced and the sum of the whole exceeds the skill of all the players.
They are driven by their conductor to perform and reach new heights, unattainable on their own.
I wonder–on any given day–what drives me? What drives most of us? Does the term even apply to us?
I would assert that oftentimes it does. I know very few people who are not driven. We usually describe someone as driven if they seem to have to live their life forced by some outside power. But, driven describes every one of us, at least at some time in our life. We often use the term as an accusation, berating the object of our scorn for their lack of self-control. I would submit to you that being driven is not a bad thing.
The problem lies with what really drives us. And the question remains: What drives me? What drives you?
I will not attempt to give an answer here. It would be foolish to presume about what motivates anyone else but myself, and I even fool myself more often than not. I want to believe that I have ceded control to the right driver and am following a path which will lead to reward and success. My problem is that I lie to myself, sometimes worse than I lie to those around me. But, it’s time, for me at least, to examine the inner workings.
It’s time to be positive that the car is in a gear which will move forward when the need arises. It’s time to be sure that the hand on the steering wheel is firm and sure. It’s time to make certain of the destination.
I’m thinking that changes may need to be made. It wouldn’t be wise to put up a sign that says Conduct Me to allow random drivers to take control. There is only one Driver who knows the equipment and the road, as well as having the road map securely in His memory. It’s time to let Him take the controls exclusively.
It’s not a stretch to suggest that we’ll be in Good Hands.
When I think about that, driven doesn’t seem so bad, after all.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
(Colossians 3:23 ~ NIV)
“And only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame;
And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame;
But each for the joy of working, and each, in his separate star,
Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They Are!”
(from “L’ENVOI” by Rudyard Kipling ~ English poet/author ~ 1865-1936)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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