White Station Wagons and Tractor-Trailer Trucks (or Trippin’ with Jesus)
As I drove to work this morning I passed by a little boy going to work with his mother. He was sitting next to her in the front seat as they cruised down the interstate toward their destination. He was staring in wonder at the other cars on the highway, especially the tractor-trailer trucks. He was simply in awe.
This little boy wasn’t satisfied with just watching, he wanted to encounter the trucks, so he was making motions directed at the drivers of such trucks. I’m sure you’re familiar with these motions. I did them when I was little. Most of us did. Let’s repeat the motions. Take your right arm and form a right angle at the elbow with your hand facing the sky. You must have the correct hand posture in this motion; nothing less than a fist would do. To begin the motion, maintaining the angle at the elbow, pump your fist up and down violently and repeatedly.
Apparently this motion summons a sound.
The sound of the horn.
The sound of the horn is a coveted sound when you are five years old. Especially the sound of a large motor vehicle.
I sat watching this young boy repeatedly, and without success, pump his fist at the large trucks that passed his mother’s car. He was pouring affection and energy out on these large motor-driven contraptions, entranced to somehow provoke a response.
He forgot something. Maybe he didn’t realize it. Maybe he did, but he just didn’t care:
The car he was driving in had a horn.
Yes, three feet away from where this five year-old boy sat was a button that was controlled by his mother that fired their very own horn. All he has need to do is ask, and there would sound the horn.
Forget they were driving a small, white station wagon[i]. Forget that tractor-tailor trucks are second only to Jesus when you’re five. Forget all that. His mother controlled a horn, and for some reason, that wasn’t enough. His affection was being poured out on those who were oblivious to him.
I feel a little bit like the boy.
We all make a journey in life. And we’re all making it in some version of our own small, white station wagon. I find myself way too captivated by what appears to me to be large tractor-tailor trucks making the journey around me. And all too often, I find myself pouring out my affection on them.
Really, affection is quite a commodity isn’t it? A highly coveted commodity by God, himself. Jesus longs to be the central object of our affection.
And yet, I realize that my affection is often spent in manipulative ways. I spend it in other places somehow hoping that if I pump my fist long enough and hard enough, that those other trucks might blow their horn back at me.
My affection has become a commodity spent to get something in return.
That’s pretty sick.
A favorite writer of mine once said that love is not economic[ii]. You don’t spend affection expecting to get something in return. That’s manipulation.
Jesus was once asked what the greatest commandment in all of scripture was[iii]. There were a lot to choose from. Some say He had command of thousands of different scriptural commands to pull up at that point.
Jesus simply responded with “Love the Lord with all your heart”. He tacked on a second one “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Then Jesus concluded his answer with two different responses “all the law and the prophets hinge on these two commandments” and “do this and you will live”.
Now, we are obviously called to love our neighbor. No doubt about that. But, what does Jesus begin this answer with? “Love the Lord”. Loving God is primary command of the God of the Bible.
To live we have to love who is inside the car first.
Jesus highlights a significant truth in His answer: that how we distribute our affection affects every facet of life. When God is not the primary recipient of our affection, then we are not really alive. When are not making Jesus our central affection, every other relationship becomes infected.
Let’s not forget that we are journeying with the Lord in our car. To begin to live, to really live and not just breathe, we need to start looking at Him and letting Him be the central object of our affection.
Too often I feel like my affection has been spilled out of the window towards what appears to be a tractor-trailer truck journeying somewhere near me. Too often Jesus has exactly what I’m hoping to get from them.
I think God wants to take a road trip with us.
The best road trips I took in college were incredible, not because of where we went, but because of who was in the car. During those road trips, my friends and I loved each other through the journey. We laughed, slept, and ate in the car and it was beautiful.
It was life.
And life begins when we realize that our car has horn, that all that we’ve longed for and needed can be found three feet away in the other seat.
That’s real life.