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What Bad Driving Taught Me About Grace

Julia Cheung

What Bad Driving Taught Me About Grace

This video tempted me to break the law.

It’s a video of me and my church dance team performing on a Sunday morning. Immediately after dancing at church that day, fresh from the glow of a paparazzi-like shower of congratulations, I left the building to drive my son to a birthday party.

My team had worked on this piece for four months. I had worked twice as hard as everyone else—my natural lack of coordination demands that much. “God, use our dance to bring the joy of the Lord and to give You glory,” we had prayed before performing.

But I am just as naturally un-coordinated as I am naturally prone to glory-hogging.

It had been thrilling for a life-long klutz like me to be decked out for the first time in hip-hop gear, all hard-core and ready to rock the stage. And how thrilling it had been to look out from the stage to see a row of loved ones at the back of the sanctuary—filming! So although it was only a short drive to the birthday party after church that day, I was impatient to gloat over the video of our recent dance success. Itching to relive the moment, I caved in. When a red light freed me to take my hands off the wheel, I picked up my smartphone (just touching a phone while you’re driving is illegal where we live)... and I clicked play.

My “celebrity” glow crashed to a humbling halt. The corner of my caught not one, but four police motorcycles flashing blue and red in the lane right beside me.

But I’m a dance superstar today! Can’t you see how hard I worked on my eye-make-up today, officer? No deal. The officer handed me a write-up of my traffic violation and kindly quipped, “Next time, if you know you won’t be able to resist the urge to check your phone, just leave it in the backseat.”

God disciplines those He loves. He must love me very much because my dizzying heights of vanity are always accompanied by parallel crashes of ego.  Discipline is grace.

***

I started driving in 1996, with much of it on the snow-covered roads of the Canadian foothills. Until 2009, I had been accident-free for 13 years. But God eradicated any impression I may have had that my superior driving record was in any way related to superior driving ability. Between 2009 and 2011, my bad driving caused 3 at-fault accidents.

I kid you not. Maybe it was something about turning thirty. Maybe God just decided to remove an invisible barrier of protecting grace. That would explain why, when I was still in driving school, my driving instructor had hyperventilated so often. Now that I think of it, whenever I had the wheel, his foot did often hover very close to the emergency brake that all driver-in-training vehicles have installed on their passenger side.

Those three at-fault accidents between 2009 and 2011 mediated God’s voice to me, loud and clear.

When God removes the invisible safety net, you can clearly see that a safety net was truly there all along. I am now grateful for the road safety I used to take for granted. It turns out I am indeed not a good driver. It turns out that I am actually distracted, anxious and clueless behind the wheel. And now that I know this, I am ever more grateful for God’s protection.

Protection is grace. For if I had received justice instead of grace—if I had actually received what I deserved for my bad driving, then I would probably be suffering under very high insurance premiums or a revoked license. Instead, all three times, no one was injured. All three times, it was my fault. All three times, God’s grace covered the financial shortfall. Protection is grace.

***

But a lack of protection is grace too.

The funny thing is, each of the three accidents happened while I was going out of my way to serve others. When the first accident happened, I was driving my son as a volunteer for his school field trip while caring for my elderly grandmother, who was in the passenger seat. When the second accident happened, I was doing a favor for a single mom, a good friend whose husband had just left her for another woman. I had baby-sat her son, and I was driving him home. The third time, I was driving my two new foster sons and my son to church.

These are the kinds of circumstances that make you want to shrivel up in fear. “That’s it!” I could have said. “I’ve had enough. I refuse to drive. And I won’t volunteer, serve or help anyone anymore.” In a world without God, you believe the lie of a causal interpretation of events. In a world without God, the pattern of three accidents hammers out one equation:

Helping others + Driving = Car accidents

But grace is not causal. Faith beckons me to trust God’s grace and to view driving as a grace to be shared. I know that I am His daughter. I know that He has my good and His glory in mind. This is the ultimate grace. And so, each accident has taught me something new about being alert, being focused and being patient. Each car accident has given me a new measure of gratitude. Each car accident has strengthened my resolve to obey God and to serve others.

***

You would think that after all these lessons, after seeing God provide in such miraculous ways, I would have learned better driving habits. But no. I can be still impatient, still vain, still rushed and distracted while driving. I am so glad God has a sense of drama. Four flashing police motorcycles was a whimsical wake-up call. “Don’t glory-hog, my daughter,” He gently tells me, “I saved you for more than this.”

Julia Cheung Headshot Julia Cheung is a cultural analyst and journalist of relationships, always on the lookout for stories of beautiful misfits. She lives in Vancouver BC with the loveable motley crew of her pastor husband and two preteen children.  She is a bundle of antitheses, a lover of truth, a teller of tales,  a too often emotional egoist and a fervently curious anti-narcissist. You can find her online at wifeinredemption.com.

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