In July 2007, I started to drive the speed limit. At the time, I wasn’t driving extremely fast but I did speed. However, in high school and college, I did drive really fast (did you know a 1983 Toyota Tercel shakes when you approach 80?). It wasn’t a speeding ticket or an accident that changed my habit, but rather a conversation.
On July 2, my family was driving home and stopped to pick up fireworks from a store along the highway. At the time, the boys were only 5 and 8, so we were just looking for smoke bombs and sparklers. One of my sons asked about the big fireworks. While we talked about safety first, the final response by my husband was, “Well the big ones aren’t really legal, but everybody does it, so the police don’t care.”
He was absolutely right.
I have heard this phrase many times, usually referring to socially-accepted rule-breaking and “white” lies. A daily example for most of us is probably speeding. Anything within 10 miles of the speed limit is considered socially acceptable. But as I thought about it in the context of what my children were hearing, I thought of how many times they will hear the same phrase from their peers or others trying to influence them.
I began to ask myself, “Is it OK if ‘everyone’ does it or if authority doesn’t enforce it?”
Every person should place themselves under the authority of the government. There isn’t any authority unless it comes from God, and the authorities that are there have been put in place by God. – Romans 13:1 (CEB)
This passage in Romans 13 has been used to justify many unjust laws and civil policies. It would be a separate conversation for us to talk about how I view a Christian’s acceptance of and submission to civic government. That’s not discussion I’m having right now. Instead, I couple this verse in Romans with one in Hebrews:
Rely on your leaders and defer to them, because they watch over your whole being as people who are going to be held responsible for you. They need to be able to do this with pleasure and not with complaints about you, because that wouldn’t help you. – Hebrews 13:17 (CEB)
The writer of Hebrews wasn’t referring to our governments but our faith leaders in this writing. The combination of these verses (and others in Scripture) is what informed my decision to drive the speed limit. We are all under different types of authority. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, his lordship comes first. My response and submission to government, a boss, and mutuality in relationships is informed and governed by my submission to Jesus Christ.
If my words, actions, and lifestyle choices aren’t consistent with the faith I profess, what does this really say about me and the God I worship? Those who observe me shouldn’t have to ask, “What would Jesus do?” but should be able to see the love and truth of Jesus in me. I should be a living example – the hands, feet, and mouth of Jesus.
When it comes to driving and speed limits, these are enforced by a human authority but submission is consistent with biblical principles. There is mutual respect, a yielding of rights for the common good, and an attitude of abundance that comes with driving the speed limit. For me, driving the speed limit was a rejection that just because everyone else is doing it – or because you won’t get caught – it’s OK. It was a tangible way that I could submit to the authority I’m under and be a witness to my children.
Here are some things I’ve learned in the Slow Lane:
It’s easy to go with the flow or daydream, and find that I’m speeding again. I use my cruise control ALL THE TIME. I get better gas mileage but it also keeps me from speeding. I don’t plan to speed but as my mind wanders or I’m having a conversation, I find that I use traffic to set my pace. It’s easy to fall back into sin or areas that distract us from God. Unfortunately there is no cruise control for life. I try to be good soil, but I encounter rocks and thorns every day that threaten to stunt the roots of my faith or to choke the fruit of the Spirit.
People (and life) will pass me by. When I first started to drive the speed limit, I sort of felt “less than.” Did people think I was a timid or incapable driver? Sometimes it felt like life was passing me by: Is there nowhere important I need to go? What am I missing by taking a longer route? But over the years, I have gotten comfortable with this. People can judge me as they will, but I made – and continue to make – this choice of willful submission. I used to always be in a hurry; cutting my schedule so close everything had to go right for me to arrive on time. But I’ve learned to allow for more time. Driving in the slow lane has decreased my anxiety and made me a safer driver.
Sometimes I’m afraid. Have you ever driven in Chicago – in a WORK ZONE? The flow of traffic is usually 70-75 near Chicago and the speed limit is 55. Except, of course, in a work zone, where it is 45. I would drive in the far right lane, which was also one of the truck lanes. I often felt like I was taking my life into my own hands on the many trips I had to make to Chicago over four years of seminary. I would also be angry that the speed limit was set to 45 and there was no enforcement of anything close to this. About a year or two after I began to drive the speed limit, I was travelling through one such zone with my sons. As the trucks were passing us (after bearing down until the last minute and then not giving us much room as they passed), Youngest asked from the back seat: “Are you driving the speed limit Mommy?” I answered, “Yes, I am.” He responded, “Good girl!” Tension continued, but fear was gone.
I’m not alone in the slow lane. I don’t want to discount that God is always with me. It’s an amazing thing that the Creator of Life is present in my everyday moments. It’s more amazing that Jesus Christ would want to take up residence in my heart, despite the darkness that still resides there. But what I learned, is that there are others who have also stepped out of the fast lane. I’m not alone in trying to live my life based on an eternal timeline rather than the limited, temporary lifetime that the world wants me to believe in.
Pray for us. We’re sure that we have a good conscience, and we want to do the right thing in every way. – Hebrews 13:18 (CEB)
I will not judge you if you pass me on our way to church. This is a choice I made for myself. There are some things we all do as Believers: read the Bible, pray, worship, but there are others that are unique for God’s call on our lives in our time and place. As we enter these last weeks of Lent, I encourage you to consider where God may be calling you to willingly submit to the authority you are under and spend some time living life in the Slow Lane.
The next two weeks are a Sabbath from Seven. Many of our group will be gone over spring break and therefore cannot meet. We decided it was more important to continue in community rather than just to continue because of the calendar. Our focus these two weeks will be on reflecting on what we’ve discovered the last four weeks, planning for the last three weeks (waste, shopping and stress), and learning to practice increased mindfulness of self, time, relationships, and possessions.