While addressing a crowd made up of pastors raised in either Mozambique or the United States, long time missionary Heidi Baker asked who had ever experienced true desperation in their lives.
“Who has known starvation?” she asked.
The only hands raised were from those born in Mozambique.
“Who has watched a child die?” Again, only those from the African nation responded.
Baker then asked those pastors who had been through such horrific experiences to pray for the others present.
She believed that anyone who had sought God so desperately would have a deeper understanding of his fullness.
In their position of helplessness, they had thrust God into the driver’s seat of their lives.
They had become passengers, powerless to change their destination and having to completely entrust their lives to him.
It is a concept that makes me ponder where I allow God to sit in my vehicle.
As I am made in his image I know he is travelling within me in some capacity, but I also know free will allows me to choose the seating arrangements.
Looking back, I realise there were many years when I had him locked in the boot – out of mind and unable to influence the choices I made.
Perceiving him as a judgemental dictator, I was free to drive myself along any path I chose and embrace whatever desire I encountered – after all, God couldn’t even see me from where I had confined him.
And when things didn’t go the way I planned I could pull him out like a spare tyre – use him to get through the rough terrain – and then slot him back into the dark recesses of my mind – at least until I needed him again.
Eventually, as I discovered the world couldn’t fill the void within me, I invited God into the vehicle, albeit the back seat.
He became the passenger I could turn to for a chat or some needed advice. It was a convenient relationship – for me at least – as God had no way of reaching the steering wheel.
All he could do was come along for the ride, no matter how sad the journey may have been for him.
However, still not arriving at the destination of inner peace, I finally invited God into the front passenger seat.
I still controlled the steering wheel, but when the road became rocky I could ask him to reach over and help steady the vehicle.
As my trust in his co-piloting skills increased, I would, on brief occasions, allow him to hold the wheel on his own – as long as he stayed in the passenger seat and I could regain control if I thought he was going off course.
And that, it seems, is where I am stuck today. I have never swapped seats with God.
I have never been prepared to completely relinquish the steering wheel and allow him full control of my vehicle.
It made me think of the people from Mozambique and realise I have never been desperate enough.
There have been moments of vulnerability, but the handover has only been temporary.
Living in a comfortable western society ensures that complete powerlessness is a rare occurrence – and never a permanent state of existence.
Ironically, a privileged lifestyle becomes a barrier to my complete submission.
I am like the rich man in Matthew’s Gospel (19:16-22).
I am happy to obey the Big laws… do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery, etc, because I can fulfil them without handing the steering wheel to God.
These do not force me into a position of vulnerability – I can still maintain a sense of control over my destiny.
However, my attitude quickly changes when I am asked to give up everything I possess and become completely dependent on the grace of God.
And this does not refer only to material comfort – Jesus is asking the young man if he is prepared to unconditionally hand over the wheel of self-destiny. Is he willing to trust God in every aspect of his existence?
It is a battle I can identify with. God makes a great navigator and I am prepared to listen to his directions – as long as he stays in the passenger seat.
As for swapping places in total surrender – I find myself stuck on Jesus’ words in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me…” I cannot finish his statement, “…yet not my will but Yours be done”.
How do I make that next step? How do I get to trust God enough to be willing to swap seats?
It’s an on-going discussion I’m having with my co-pilot – but sometimes I think he’s just not listening.