Professional driver. Do not attempt.

All my life, I’ve always wanted to be somebody, but I see now I should have been more specific. (Lily Tomlin)

Costa Rica 019
Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica. Careful: slippery.

Living as we do in a world fraught with potholes and dangerous curves and slick surfaces, how come we aren’t born with a warning stamped on our tiny butts?

I guess babies don’t come with a warning because the PARENTS theoretically are supposed to know what to do with them, but isn’t that one of the great misconceptions of all time: that grownups know what they are doing anymore than kids do? The older I get the more I realize to my dismay that life is pretty much a mysterious mess of dangerous curves and slick roads to everybody all the time, no matter how old or experienced they may be. That is both a comfort, and a bitter pill to swallow.


I doubt that my parents’ or grandparents’ generations were any more with-it than my own is. But it sure seemed like they were. I really thought I would have known stuff by now. But, as my favorite soul-tortured rocker-slash-theologian says “I look around at the friends I used to turn to to pull me through / looking into their eyes, I see they’re running too.” ( Jackson Browne, “Running on Empty,” 1978.)

Clare baby
Professional driver.

You know those “professional drivers” whose disclaimer we see on every single grab-life-by-the-cojones car and truck commercial? I think the advertisers are just trying, as always, to make us feel inadequate, to reinforce our flaws. I don’t think those drivers even exist–any more than do the ads’ perfectly airbrushed, beautiful human beings–except in Mad Men-produced fantasies. (Hence the disclaimer.)

And this, my friends, is the Great Lie. I offer it just in time for your year-end reflections and New Year’s resolutions. The Great Lie originated in some ancient, unknown source like the fires of Mordor, and it translates roughly thus into English: “Everybody has their shit together but you.”

Don’t you believe it, honey. It’s just not true. Furthermore, the Lie does not come from God, who made us and continues to make us. Once we recognize the Lie for what it is–once our eyes and ears and minds and hearts are opened–we can start seeing the actual God’s Truth everywhere. And the Truth is this: you are not alone. God tries to reassure us in myriad ways: through movies, books, songs…and especially in the company of other broken human beings. Some of us find this Truth reinforced in a worship community. When we share our brokenness with others we are reassured that we are not alone on the road. Here is a lovely song about this very thing, from folk duo Over the Rhine. May you find it a nice bit of encouragement.

Good luck with those New Year’s resolutions. If you must make them, go easy on yourself. 

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