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Rules Of The Road #1: You Can’t Steer a Parked Car

Based on Sweet’s Quantum Spirituality 177ff.

Jackson Snyder, June 27, 1995

Dedicated to Phillip A. Snyder

 

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Soultsunami: Sink or Swim in New Millennium Culture, Leonard Sweet

 

John 14:6. Yahshua said: I am the Road.

 

Mark 2:14-15 (NIV)  As he walked along, he saw Levi of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Yahshua told him, and Levi got up and followed him. {15} While Yahshua was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.                         

 

Matthew 6:{19} Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. {20} But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. {21} For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

First Driving Lesson

   I had my first driving lesson at the age of ten.  My mother packed my two younger brothers and me up in the car and took us to pick up the cleaning.  The cleaner’s parking lot was situated so that you nosed up to the building when you parked.  Behind the parking lot and parallel with the building ran the mighty Blanchard River, afoam with the soap bubbles wasted by the cleaners.  My mother parked the car and went into the building, leaving us behind, and the car running.

   I was curious, and wanted to drive that car.  While mother was gone and my brothers both were in the back seat, I got behind the steering wheel and tried to turn it as though I were driving.  But guess what - it wouldn’t turn.  I tried as hard as I could, but it wouldn’t budge.  Then I remembered the shifter.  I just eased that column shifter one notch, which freed the steering wheel up, and I began to turn it with ease. 

   That was when I learned the first rule of the road - YOU CAN’T STEER A PARKED CAR.  The point is, when the engine is running, in order for that powerful machine to do what it was designed for, it has to be shifted it into gear!

   I found it worthwhile to experiment with the controls of the car to learn a lesson that I would use over and over again throughout my life.  YOU CAN’T STEER A PARKED CAR.  But the downside of the learning experience was that the car, with us boys aboard, began to move - backwards - backwards toward the awesome menace of the steep gully that led downward to the mighty Blanchard River.

   We began to squeal as we realized what was happening.  “Mom! Mom! Mom!”  In a panic, I left off the steering wheel.  The car picked up speed, and seemed to us to be going 70 m.p.h. backwards.  Then, when it our fate seemed sealed, “Mom” popped out of the cleaners, dropped her clean clothes in the parking lot, and ran for the car.  In one fell swoop she was able to open the door, jump in, and throw on the brake only moments before we would have reached precipice and the river.  Through this frightful experience I also learned the first corollary to that first rule of the road: Shifting Into Gear Involves Grave Risks.

 

Levi Was Sticky

   Levi was a young man who really had it made.  He knew how to take advantage of the situation.  His nation of Israel was occupied by Rome, which had set up a taxing system to help finance further military endeavors throughout the world.  Levi collaborated with the enemy by collecting the tax from his countrymen.  Although he was hated and berated by religious and patriotic people, he had it made at 25 - a solid job, a great apartment, and plenty of money to entertain other sinners.  He would retire at fifty with a pension and take it easy after that.  Levi was trying to be a good “company man,” hoping to someday reap the rewards of many years work.

   But Levi had another side, a religious side, as his name implies.  Levi wasn’t interested in the organized religion of the big-bearded Pharisees or the effeminate Sadducees - he didn’t care much about going into the temple on the Sabbath or holy days - nobody liked him there anyway.  Everyone already knew he was a sinner - there was no being a sinner and being religious at the same time anyway, so he thought.

   The fact is, Levi was in rebellion against his own inner desire to know Yahweh and his plan for his life.  He was petrified by the risk of serving Yahweh, even as a Levite.  He was taking the smooth way, despite the fact that his heart was yearning for something more substantial than a decent paycheck, a position in the company and a never-ending party.  In his heart of hearts, he really wanted to be more.

   Despite what it seemed, Levi’s life was in park - and despite his inclinations toward Yahweh and his masked desire to know Him and serve Him, Levi made up his mind to go against his heart and stick to that which had made him a young financial success.  (The name Levi means sticky.) 

 

Shifting Into Gear Involves Grave Risks! 

   When it comes to the ch-rch of today, we find ourselves stocktaking rather than risk-taking.  We’re too poor, some say, to support people who are really, really poor.  We’re caught up in what little we have and what little we do rather than what we might have and what we might be.  We are concerned more about paying this bill or that bill rather than being motivated by the great potential of this Chariot of Fire in which we are now parked, and the might of the Creator, in whom we have our very being.  We may have the shifter in our hands, but before we venture to move it into risk-gear, we’re thinking back to the time we had this little accident or that little breakdown.

   The saying on the embroidered pillows of the elderly Smucker Sisters of West Liberty, Ohio is as true for faith-sharers as farmers:  “You can’t plow a field by turning it over in your mind.”  You can’t do that any more than you can steer a parked chariot.  “No faces would age, no skin would wrinkle, if no one ever went out into the sun, if no one ever showed an emotion.  But what a price to pay to look young!”  (L. Sweet)  As game show host Monty Hall was heard to say for over 20 years on Let’s Make a Deal, “You can’t make a move, friend, unless you take a risk.”  This is the second corollary to the first rule of the road.

 

On Our Way

   When the Son of Man passed by the tax collection booth where Levi was parked and said, “Follow me!” what must have passed through Levi’s mind?  To heed the command of this drifter would risk his sumptuous lifestyle, his corporate involvement, his love life and fun-life, and everything else he planned for a material present and a secure future.  He might have to suffer some.  It was unthinkable.  The text seems so cut-and-dried, “and Levi got up and followed him” (vs. 14b).  What an incredible change of course this was - what mental anguish - to just get up and walk away from the box of money on the table and all that it represented to him.  Maybe it was Yahshua who first said, “You can’t make a move, friend, unless you take a risk.”

   The problem we drivers of the Chariot of Fire have is exactly the opposite of the problem of the 500,000,000 motor vehicle operators in this world.  Their problem is “knowing where they’re going and going without towing.”  Our problem remains, “getting going without knowing where we’re going.”  The best song that we Saints of Yahweh might sing concerning our journey is by poet Carl Sandburg, “We don’t know where we’re goin’ but we’re on our way.”  We need to be “on our way” every day and leave the destination to the Almighty brain.  Although we want to play it safe and plan ahead - we dare not play it safe.  To play it safe is to be like Levi in the booth – stocktaking: in banking terms, forever “checking out,” instead of “launching out” into the great unknown of God’s possibilities. 

   We rail against gambling from our pulpits - we decry any risk-taking as wrong and immoral.  Yet our Father is a biggest gambler of them all.  For He gambled his salvation, his sovereignty, even his Son on you and on me.  Talk about risk-taking behavior!  Now we must be willing to throw caution to the wind and risk our wager, indeed, risk everything we have and hold dear, on Yahweh’s plan, providence and protection.  We must, like children again, jump on the bicycle and fearlessly allow ourselves to careen down the hillside faster and faster.  We must trust Yahweh enough to move the shifter a notch, even if it means speeding backwards.  This leads to the third corollary to the first rule of the road: The Greater The Speed The More Stable The Vehicle.

 

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Speed Trap

   Speeding, especially when you don’t know where you’re going, is fearsome.  Levi walked away from his future as a Roman citizen to follow an itinerant exorcist.  After following for awhile, his mind on overload, Levi thinks, “Maybe I could make an excuse and get my old job back.”  He’s scared now.  The devil makes Levi feel foolish and frightened for taking such a risk.  Levi taps Yahshua on the shoulder - “Hey, man.  We need to talk about this.”  Yahshua says, “Fine.  We’ll talk about it at your party tonight.” 

   Then Levi thinks, “Oh - he’s coming to my party?”  In a way Levi feels grave concern about having this holy man come to one of his wild parties, you know, with the booze in the fridge, the dirty magazines on the table, and the sinners and whores there.  Even Judas the Butcher will be there.  But there is something else in Levi that tells him, “Everything’s going to be fine - because this man’s going to take charge.”  Levi surrenders himself, warts and all, and allows Yahshua to take his life and his house and his party.  And when he does, his level of fear diminishes and his dependency grows.

   Must we be so adult in our driving?  Must we be so controlling and calculating?  Must we be so “in charge?”  Does controlling a situation or a journey help us dispel the fear of it?   Must we, before taking our foot from the brake, be certain of exactly where we’re going; whether we have a good spare tire or not; whether we paid State Farm this month or not?  Why must we make certain of these things before we shift into drive?  Because we’re such solid citizens of the world system.

   Have you seen the poster that depicts a frog perched dangerously out on a limb?  The caption reads, “All progress has resulted from those who took unpopular positions.”

   It’s all a matter of the fear of risking what we have already.  But once we garner the courage to turn the key and shift into drive, we no longer need that key.  Fear often gets us to begin trusting Yahweh.  Fear can give us a “kick start” from a dead stop.  Fear is not the opposite of faith, as some suppose.  But complacency is.  Apathy is.  Lethargy is.  In the presence of fear, faith may leap ahead at great speed.  And the greater the speed the more stable the vehicle.

 

Go to Gypsy

   My Dad was an itinerant building contractor for years.  When I became a teenager, summer would come and he would command, “Follow me.”  I didn’t like to hear those words, because it meant going away for weeks at a time and working incredibly hard on some construction project. 

   One day when I was 17, we were finishing up a construction job in west central Ohio.  Dad had just bought a new car, a 1969 Ford Cortina.  His last command to me before he drove off in the big truck was, “Get in the car, drive it to Gypsy, Pennsylvania, and meet me there.”  I replied, “But...but....”  Too late - off he went.

   I thought it would be great fun to drive that little car across country, despite the fact that I had no driver’s license.  (He knew that.)  But then as I got into the car for the first time, I saw that it had a five-speed stick shift.  I’d never driven a stick shift before, and had no idea how to get it going.  Fear began to race through my mind.  Here I was, in the middle of nowhere, no money, no map, no drivers license, in a brand-new car that I didn’t know how to drive - yet there was the mission - “Go to Gypsy!” - and the implication was, “Get there any way you can.”  I sat there for a long time in deep fear.

   Soon, I realized what I had to do.  I learned that the darn thing wouldn’t start until you pushed down that left pedal.  Then every time I left off that pedal, the thing would stall out.  This went on for a half hour.  When I eased the pedal up, I started going backward.  This reminded me of my first driving experience.  I pressed that pedal down, turned the key again, and this time I moved the shifter around, let off the pedal, and the car didn’t move - “that must be neutral!”

   Finally I figured out how the gears worked, and started off for Gypsy.  My first obstacle was a steep hill, which I managed all right, until I had to stop for a red light at the top.  I put on the brake, and the car stalled out.  I sat there for a ten minutes trying to get through that red light.  Finally, a kindly trucker, who made a living at shifting into drive, got out of his truck and drove me up the hill.  By the time I made Gypsy, I was an expert at driving a five-speed compact car.  Faith leaped through fear.  (My brother wrecked this car a month later at Dad’s command.  He had no license either.  A failure is just one more step toward success.)

   Friends, let the fear of the unknown propel us to great faith in Yahweh’s providence!  Once we realize that we’re crash proof in his hands, we may overcome our fear, get out of park and into drive, and fly!  Of course, there will be roadblocks, U-turns, potholes, bumps, red lights, back alleys, and blind alleys, as well as wide, down-hill boulevards and jet plane pilots.  If everything’s coming up roses, we’re probably on the wrong road.  If we can just get that shifter out of park and into gear, then get up a little steam, we’ll stabilize, fear will subside and Yahweh will prevail unto the completion of our mission.

 

We Wouldn’t Have Known 

   He prevailed in Levi’s life after the latter decided to follow Yahshua, no matter where Yahshua would take him, no matter what it would cost.  Yahshua changed his name - from Levi to Matthew, from “Sticky” to “Yahweh’s Gift.”  The early historian Papias tells us that Levi / Matthew wrote an account of the life of Yahshua, a gospel that now exists under his name almost 2,000 years later called - The Gospel According to Matthew.  Had not Levi shifted from park into risk-gear at the tax booth, we would never have known Yahshua’s incredible teachings in his Sermon on the Mount, one of which is

Matthew 6:{19} Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. {20} But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. {21} For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

   So what do we do since now we’ve got the engine of our own little Chariot of Fire cranked up and in gear?  What’s the plan now?  Well, the plan is utter simplicity.  It is the same plan Bill Vucovich advises anyone to use to win the Indianapolis 500.  He says, “It’s not so hard -- you just push down the accelerator and turn left.  And then drive like you-know-what, man!”  And this brings us to the final corollary to the rule of the road #1: the ultimate law of all hope.  The fourth corollary is, “The road’s last turn will be the best.”  Amen.

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