Aim High In Steering

I may have written about this before on Prevailing Winds, or maybe on Moscow’s Vision 2020, but events of this weekend bring the idea to mind again, and I think it bears repeating. It all started in high school, when I was 15 and 7 months, clamoring for my driver’s license and suffering through Mr. Brown’s teaching of the Smyth System of driving.

The Smyth System, developed, I suppose, by someone named Smyth who was a better driver than I turned out to be, was composed of five points, the first of which Mr. Brown drummed into us every day during Driver’s Ed. At Cholla High School (that’s pronounced “CHOY-a,” by the way), Driver’s Ed was taught during the same nine-week period as Sex Education, for which Smyth presumably had a system he chose not to share with teenagers.

The first of the hallowed five pillars of Smyth System-driving was “Aim High In Steering.” Smyth, channeled by football coach Brown, taught that drivers should never guide their vehicles by simply peering over the hood, focusing only on the road directly ahead of them and puttering along oblivious to things far and wide. The good driver was an aware driver, confident in her observation and analysis of the road ahead — not just that part of the road over which her metallic copper ’73 Maverick 4-door was cruising, but the whole grid of intersections, driveways, lights and fellow drivers around us. Nothing surprised the Smyth System driver; every unsignaled lane change, every driver backing out of his driveway into traffic, every sudden yellow light had been anticipated. Smyth, bless his methodical little heart, knew that only by looking up from our own car could we safely guide it through the maze of drivers who didn’t benefit from his careful tutorials — the last four of which I’ve completely forgotten.

But I find that “aim high in steering” has stayed with me because it’s a wonderfully effective way of doing life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. It’s easy to meander through life — or slingshot through life — focused on ourselves and those things that are directly in front of us. Sometimes it’s because we’re in distress, and our problems are so consuming that nothing apart from them gets our attention. Other times, we’re wrapped up in prayer, worship, and fellowship — skipping through life with our eyes correctly turned on Jesus, but wrongly focused on “Jesus-n-me, just the two of us.” Either way, we aren’t “aiming high in steering,” and we miss opportunities to serve others.

So how can the believer incorporate Smyth’s admonition to look up, look far, and look wide into her walk with God? The first step, I think, is to determine that there are things all around us that the Lord wants us to notice. It’s very likely, every day, that there are people walking downtown among you who need something — a light of their cigarette, an opened door, an encouraging “good morning!” I can’t count the times when something seemingly insignificant has turned into an opportunity to minister, and while it’s true that I’m a pretty outgoing woman, it’s equally true that you, too, can learn to anticipate needs — even if the thought of striking up a conversation with a stranger fills you with dread. The world is full of hurting souls, and you walk among them. Decide, then, that what you might do matters.

The second step is to develop some street smarts — that is, cultivate your ability not just to see, but to observe, to understand. An example this weekend illustrates my point.

I’ve been on retreat, staying at a hotel in Moscow, since Wednesday afternoon. I prayed that while I was taking this time to really hear from the Lord and work through some of the painful events of the last several months, the Spirit would lead me to minister something, in some way, to someone. Yesterday, I noticed a young woman and a toddler drive up to the hotel in an old car — “beater” would be generous — crammed with laundry baskets filled with clothes, photo albums stacked on the back seat, a couple of suitcases, and grocery store bags filled with food. This didn’t look like a fun weekend getaway; years of ministry experience with women in crisis and with the poor has given me a strong dose of street smarts, recognition that tells me when there’s a problem. I was able to offer some help to a young woman escaping an abusive home and heading to rehab. God had answered my prayer.

And yet, Lilly (not her real name) was going to be at the Super 8 regardless of whether or not I was there. And nothing about me is remarkable in any way; God graciously used me yesterday and will use me again, just because he dearly loves Lilly and every other hurting person in my path. But I have cultivated a desire to “aim high” as I go through life, and with it comes the gut-knowledge, the street smarts, that he uses through me. I choose to walk with eyes opened and aimed high; I think that’s an imperative for all of us. And if the requirements and culture of your Christian fellowship keep you so busy, or so pure, that you neither recognize symptoms of hurt around you nor understand the need to address them, you’re in the wrong place.

That leads to my final point — it’s one thing to determine that there’s a world around you that needs a touch from the Lord and that he would often have you be the one to bring it. That’s a given. But I guarantee that you can skip, mope, or sprint through life without ever making personal contact with strangers. You can plan your route and navigate your Self so that the roads you travel are filled with people just like you, people whose needs are minimal, whose presence comforts you, and whose walk is just like yours. In that sense, you can choose to live out your Christian life on auto-pilot, cruising around a track so uniform, so uncluttered, that you need barely to keep your eyes open. You can have that, if you choose, and I can assure you that you’ll never be bothered. In fact, the safest possible course to choose, in driving and in life, is to set aside the Smyth System and ask the Lord if you can just keep it in neutral, idling in the driveway and never needing to look around, look far, or look up. A car in neutral, never leaving the driveway, is at no risk of collision, no risk of being slammed by the unanticipated or cut off by the unaware.

But there are Lillys all around you, if you’ll just look. The Scriptures say they could be angels to whom we minister unaware, or they could just be poor souls, wandering and waiting. I pray that none of us would ever be so focused on looking at Jesus that we fail to see him, and serve him, in the needs of those around us whose hunger, distress, loneliness, and poverty daily call to us — if we’ll just look around and walk with our focus not just On High, but on high.

One Response to “Aim High In Steering”

  1. Ashwin says:

    Of course we have the poor amongst us. It is by looking at our Lord that we can see them – for we will then see with His eyes and feel with His heart.

    And do you know what your last post sounds like? I reproduce the relevant verses here:

    Luke 18:9-14 (NIV, from http://www.biblegateway.com)

    9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10″Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about[a] himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

    13″But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

    14″I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    Please take this as a caution. You need to stop spitting on Mr. Wilson’s congregation. Do something else. Pray about it.

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