“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6).
Preachers log a lot of miles on their cars.
Most preachers tend to drive aggressively.
I’m a preacher. My little Camry, one year old this month, shows over 37,000 miles.
I work hard at driving well, but sometimes I wish someone riding with me would point out something I’m doing wrong or a bad habit I’ve fallen into, if they spot such.
Recently, on three occasions recently I found myself riding with pastors as we drove to their churches.
In each case, I did unto them as I want someone to do unto me. That is, I helped the pastor with his driving. (smiley-face goes here)
Pastor one was driving with one finger. The highways were winding, the road was narrow, and the traffic was often heavy. He kept one finger on the wheel.
Pastor two was delaying snapping his seat belt until we were out of the driveway and in the street.
Pastor three was talking with his hands while driving. At times, neither of his hands was on the wheel.
In every case, as far as I could tell, the pastors were great drivers. They had safe records and the confidence of their families when they were behind the wheel. All are terrific fellows and faithful brothers in the Lord.
But each is asking for trouble.
Now, I am well aware that criticizing a friend’s driving is hazardous. We are walking a fine line here and could end up offending a great man of God and injuring our friendship.
But it’s worth the risk.
Too much is at stake.
To the first pastor, who uses only the index finger of his left hand to steer the car, I said, “May I tell you something about your driving? You are a good driver, that’s plain to see. But you are asking for big trouble, my friend. All you need is to hit a pothole or have a blow-out or an animal run across in front of your car. By the time you realize what is happening and signal your hands to grab hold of the steering wheel, the damage is done.”
“I really wish you would put both hands on the steering wheel.”
To the second driver, who delays buckling his seat belt, I said, “I noticed that you and your wife both (she had driven me to church earlier that day) drive away from the house without the seat belt being buckled.” He was quick to say, “I’ve got it on. See?” I said, “I do see. Good. At my house, the car never leaves the driveway until everyone’s belt is in place.”
I was pushing the envelope here, perhaps. Straining at a gnat. And, to be honest, I lived half my life before seatbelts became mandatory, so clearly not buckling up is not to commit suicide. But still. The belt is a safeguard and should be used from the start.
To the third driver, with more gestures than a Broadway actor, I said nothing. I just reached over and gently took hold of his hand in mid-air and moved it to the steering wheel. He laughed and got the point. The next day, when he was into the same let-the-car-drive-itself mode while-I-make-motions-with-both-hands, once again I said nothing but moved his hand to the wheel.
I shudder recalling the times both his hands were off the wheel so he could make hand motions for his conversation–and that was in the dark when no one was seeing them!
Clearly, bad habits take root and thereafter require no logical reason for their existence.
What did I accomplish?
Did I do any good with my friends? I sure hope so. These are great guys and their families need them to live to ripe old ages. The kingdom of God needs their ministries.
Did I offend them? I hope not. I don’t think they were offended. But even if they were, it was worth my gentle rebuke if it saves a life.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend…”
The question before us, class, is “What do you do when it’s clear the person driving the car is doing something unsafe?” And my answer–as you have seen–is “Speak up.” Better to offend (“the wounds of a friend”) than to sit there in silence and let them endanger everyone.
I remember a scary time when I should have spoken up. It almost cost us the lives of our entire family.
My wife was driving. We were returning from the beach and on a two-lane highway made of concrete. I was riding “shotgun,” as we say, and I kept noticing something Margaret was doing. From my vantage point on the right side of the car, I could see the right front tire was getting dangerously close to the edge of the pavement. What made that critical was the four inch drop-off between the concrete and the shoulder. This was an unsafe highway.
For reasons I cannot explain, I watched passively as she drove closer and closer to the edge of the pavement. (Ever since that fateful day, I have screamed at myself in silence, wondering how in the world I could sit there seeing what was happening and say nothing about it. I have no excuse.)
But I know why I was silent.
Margaret did not take my criticizing her driving kindly. She would say I always had to be right, that I was the know-it-all.
That’s why I almost let our family be killed that day.
Suddenly, the right wheel dipped off the pavement and the car was thrown into a frenzy. Margaret jerked the wheel to the left to compensate and the tire blew. Now, the car went into a spin, turning round and round on the highway, covering both lanes. (We must have been doing 60 mph.)
I can still hear my younger son in the back seat calling out, “What’s happening? What’s happening?”
It was a frightening feeling and there was not a single thing anyone could do. The car was out of control.
We came to a stop in our lane, facing the opposite direction from which we had come.
A man came running out of a house to check on us. What he said was even more frightening.
“While your car was spinning around on the highway, an 18-wheeler passed you. You almost bought the farm, folks.”
God was with us.
We pulled the car off to the side, put the spare tire on, and continued on to Meridian, Mississippi (90 miles from home), where we bought a new tire.
I drove the rest of the way home. Margaret was understandably so unnerved by this, she would not touch the steering wheel. In subsequent discussions, she revealed that she was unable to tell where the right wheel of the car is at any given time. So, we actually had lessons–practice sessions in the mall parking lot–on gauging the location of the front tires of your car.
I wished a thousand times I had spoken up and told my wife what she was doing that day and how it was endangering everyone. Hopefully, I could have found the right words, words not accusatory but definitely to the point.
Speak up, friend. You might save a life. You might save a whole family.
It’s the ultimate act of love.