Pt 2: No Straight Lines

Not Your Average Teacher

This is a true story.

I had a driver’s ed teacher who was no joke. A tall and lanky guy, Mr. F was all business with his reflective aviator glasses, light blue corduroy pants, and drove what we believed was an original Humvee that very well could have still had the attached machine gun mounted on the roof from a tour in the battlefield. He was not your average drivers ed teacher.

One particularly snowy day, Mr. F decided to take us for a little spin… literally. Being the first driver of the day he told me to drive to a large parking lot that was near us in town and head to the back. We backed up against the curb and he said, “Take your foot off the pedal and keep the car going straight.”Confused I did so and at that moment, Mr. F reached his long lanky leg over the center console and slammed the pedal to the floor. We immediately went into a sideways spin, which I corrected (thank you very much), and we started careening across the parking lot at a very alarming rate of speed. I can still remember his calm but stern voice, “Don’t touch the break. Don’t touch it.”

Finally after a few moments barreling down the parking lot like an Olympic bobsled team, he took his foot off the pedal, brought his lanky leg back to his side, slammed on the passenger break and yelled, “Cut the wheel to the right!”. I’m sure you know what happened next; we started into a spin which would have made any amusment rider jealous. I remember looking at Mr. F in the middle of this, almost in slow-motion, he was perfectly calm. He was so calm in fact he might as well have been drinking a cup of coffee with one hand and looking at the sports section of the newspaper with the other. Meanwhile, me and the rest of the teenaged drivers ed participants were silently praying that that car just wouldn’t flip over as we crashed into the rapidly approaching wall.

More Like a Feeling

I am proud to tell you I stopped the spinning car that day, saved our lives, and maybe even impressed Mr. F. I learned a lot of things that day but one of the most poignant lessons that I learned was something that could not be taught but had to be felt. Life is best learned while living and living is best done while learning.

Life is best learned while living and living is best done while learning. Click to Tweet

Let me explain. You know what was really unhelpful that day? Parking lot lines. I promise I wasn’t thinking about how I could, in an organized manner, find a safe resting spot for the car – I was just thinking about living till dinner. You know what else would have not been very helpful? If one of the three people in the back of that car in the middle of the spin said, “Hey Greg. This is pretty stressful and I really don’t know much about how to stop the car but I do have a really nice parking lot that I know of that you could come to and we could talk about it.”.

On the flipside, do you know what was helpful? A confident, calm, and strong mentor in the front seat. Up until this point I had heard about sliding in the snow, learned about it in the classroom setting but I had not experienced it yet. Mr. F knew the feeling well and knew something else even more important; I needed to feel it too.

Experiencial Download

If we think of our discipleship methods in the church, many stop at the “information” stage. We gather Sunday to learn more about God and then we gather for a small group to hear more about God, what He has done, and how we are doing in light of it. This is all good… very good. Yet something is missing in the process – a Mr.F.

The difference between Jesus and the church today is Jesus took it to a level we often don’t take it.

Jesus spent time discussing the Kingdom of God, the nature of God, the plans of God and people were amazed or disturbed. The difference between Jesus and the church today is Jesus took it to a level we often don’t take it. Ever wonder why Jesus called the disciples to, “Come follow me”? Why not just teach them at the temple, answer any questions they may have had, and send them on their way with a few worksheets to fill out and a chapter to read until next week? He and Mr. F knew the secret of any good teacher/mentor; you need to experience it.

Where To Now?

Today, even over 15 years later, when I am driving in the snow and start slipping, I remember the  way I learned to handle to car that day and the days after. The days in the classrooms talking about it, the videos seeing it, and the discussions about what I might do were helpful but no where near the galvanizing and staying power of experiencing it had. Our structures were helpful but not what I needed at that moment. In the same way, discipleship in the church needs to reform to help people not only know how to talk about making disciples but actually making them. This will take some reform, a lot of purposefulness, and a whole lot of trust that God is the Great Discipler and will use every moment and every spin to teach us a great lesson; God is best experienced not only when we are experiencing Him and but when we are helping others experience Him too.

This is Part 2 of a 3 Part series. Click here to read part 1 or part 3 

Greg Smith

Blogging about faith, life, church, and everything in between.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Send this to a friend