We have a new driver at our house.
Once Lilly turned 14—the legal age to learn to drive in Kansas—she started studying the state driver’s handbook. She took countless practice tests online and passed the official permit exam on her first try.
She’s handled herself (and the family minivan) well during training drives with Randy. There’s nothing very exciting about these excursions—they’ve mostly just circled the mammoth parking lot of a mostly vacant mall near our home, over and over again. But Lilly understands that it’s only through practice that driving becomes intuitive, so the repetition doesn’t seem to bother her.
Although she can still get impatient when someone else is driving, she has the makings of a very good motorist. And as her mom, I’m very grateful for that.
Her lessons remind me of my own experience learning how to drive. It didn’t go so well at first. The driver’s education teacher actually told me that the two special ed kids in our class were going to learn how to drive and so was I.
I’m not kidding—he really said that.
While I’ve never forgotten those demoralizing words, I can’t remember what it was about driving that stumped me so. But apparently, my inability to catch on posed such a challenge that the teacher called my father for some advice.
Not surprisingly, my dad understood my learning style better than the teacher did. He also understood the mechanics of teaching teenagers how to operate automobiles, having successfully accomplished this task with my five older siblings.
He took me out to a place where there was a curve in the road. He made me get out of the car (a regular-sized van, this time) and look to see how close I was to the shoulder. Instead of mere inches away, as I had thought, I was a good three feet from the edge of the road.
I was misjudging the distance, and that was impairing my driving ability.
Once I figured that out, I never had a problem again. (Well, not until he tried to teach me how to drive his old Rambler with the stick shift on the steering column, that is.)
My point is this: Sometimes, dads just know how to get through to their daughters when no one else can.
Many years later, around the time when my world first started turning dark for days at a time each month, I had another enlightening conversation with my dad.
When you are going through something that you know is not going to last forever, you have to put yourself on autopilot, he told me. Just do what you need to do and remember it will get better eventually.
This bit of advice, offered from the depths of my dad’s own experience, has been an emotional and spiritual lifesaver for me in the years since.
Sometimes, through no fault of my own, I go through deserts or floods or even earthquakes that leave me with little strength, few reserves and no answers. When that happens, my only good choice is to keep doing what I know is right and trust that joy will, indeed, come in the morning.
Are you with me here?
I keep praying—even if those prayers are short and mostly comprised of other people’s words. I keep reading the Bible—even if all I can manage is a single verse a day. I keep attending church—even when I don’t feel like it or don’t seem to be getting anything out of it. I keep helping, serving and giving—even if it’s only to take my mind off my own struggles.
Some people may refer to all this as going through the motions, and maybe they are right. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Often, it’s a matter of spiritual survival.
When the dark time passes, I can take myself off autopilot. Until then, though, I’m not wasting my time. Just like Lilly as she circles parking lots during her driving lessons, I’m building up faith and endurance for the next stage of my life’s journey—wherever that might take me.
P.S. Linking up this week with Angela Parlin at #RaRaLinkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Lyli Dunbar at ThoughtProvokingThursday, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Missional Women and Grace & Truth.