It was a cold, cloudy kind of day with fresh snow on the ground when I went to take my Driver's Skills test. If I passed this test, I could get my license by Christmas. I was nervous, to say the least, but I reasoned that I had logged nearly seventy hours of driving under supervision, so I should be ready. The instructor took me out to the car and began explaining what the test would involve; everything sounded great, until one little phrase caught me: "if you fail the parking skills portion of the test, we will not go on to the driving skills portion."
In my mind I was thinking, "wait a second... I'm not good at parallel parking, but I can drive okay... can't we test the driving first? I'll be driving a lot more than I'll be crazy backwards parking anyways, right?" Nevertheless, I put the family minivan in drive and headed over to multiple lines of bright, orange cones with white, plastic pipes sticking out of them. "This is probably easy, I've practiced a ton. It will be great!" Umm yeah... not quite... twenty minutes later, I was sitting in the passenger sea, tearing up over the fact that I had failed.
My mom already knew most of the details, but I went ahead and re-lectured her on all the ways I should have done better. Times pulled forward while in parallel parking position: basically 1,000, cones hit when backing in: at least 2... "Maybe I'll never get my license. I am a terrible driver! I always fail." Interesting, apparently my momentary optimism had faded.
As you can see in my embarrassing story, so often we can go from the enthusiastic-optimistic-roses-are-all-red attitude, to “everything is going completely wrong.” The day before I took the test I had prayed, “have your way in this test, Lord.” I had left it in His hands - until my moment of panic - then all the sudden I went back and basically said: “hi Lord, do you mind if I have that burden back? Putting it on my own shoulders will be perfect.”
As my mom drove us home, I began thinking of all the reasons why this circumstance was unbelievable: it cost $50 for the test, my dad will probably be upset, now I have a “record,” and there is a houseful of people waiting at home who were going to ask with bright eyes and big smiles, “did you pass?”
Having a Christ-centered response is a whole lot more than optimism, it’s an attitude of the heart - one that the Lord wants to build into your life, and guess what? He is using all the people in your life and every circumstance to mold you into His likeness. Just as I wished the instructor had tested my driving skills instead of my parking skills, sometimes I allow myself to believe that if the Lord would only test some other area of my life — then I’d pass His test. But if He gave us our way in things, would we really become like Him? Would we be reminded of our continual need and dependency on our Savior?
After I had failed my Driver’s Skills test, there were so many things I could have chosen to be thankful for: I had a very sweet instructor, the road wasn’t icy that morning, I got signed up right away to retake the test, and more. I’m the one who would always go around to family members and remind them, “gratitude is the inner attitude of thanksgiving!” Yet, when a difficult moment came (which was a great opportunity to live what I had already said), I complained and did not overflow with the love of Christ, as we are called to (Jn. 13:34-35).
That test was a lot more than just a test on my driving abilities; I believe that the Lord was testing my heart. Would I still praise Him even if I didn’t receive my desired outcome? I could have, but instead I saw it as something I deserved but hadn’t yet received. My attitude was, “Lord don’t I deserve this? I’ve been learning for a year and a half! Everyone else my age has already gotten their license.” It’s amazing how we can hide wrong motives even from ourselves! I am so thankful that God does not leave me in my sin; He loves me so much that He’s willing to let me fail, feel pain, and go through rough times so that I might glorify Him more fully. How often in your life do you allow yourself to become ungrateful, simply because things aren’t going your own way?
Another thing that happened after I had failed my test was that I allowed my mind to dwell on thoughts about myself, “maybe I’ll never get my license,” “I’m a terrible driver,” “I always fail.” I should have directed my thoughts to Christ and the fact that He never changes and never fails, even when I do. In the moments of failure, discouragement, and pain we prove who we trust, who we believe, who we want to be successful. Am I seeking to glorify myself?
Oswald Chambers once said:
“Thoughts about myself hinder my usefulness to God. God’s purpose is not to perfect me to make me a trophy in His showcase; He is getting me to the place where He can use me. Let Him do what He wants.”
When I try to pick up my own agenda and run with it, I fail miserably, but when I surrender my plans to Him, I can know that He will accomplish His will in and through me. When you and I purpose to do His work in His time and in His way, life changes - it is no longer an aching burden - but rather, a joyful assignment sent from the King Himself.
You don’t have to make my mistake! Ask the Lord to give you His response in every situation - ask that He would overtake you and that His love would be radiated through every fiber of your being. But don’t forget that you cannot have Christ-centered responses on your own strength, or you will fail miserably. Instead of asking yourself, “what would Jesus do in this situation?” Ask the Lord how He would like you to respond. Can you imagine how my Driver’s Test situation could have turned out differently if I had made it my first priority to bring Him glory instead of myself?