ONCE UPON A time, I thought road trips were boring.
Sitting in the back seat, bored to tears with the books I’d brought and the sounds of my brother’s video games, I’d zone out, daydream and wait for the ride to be over.
Boredom on the road ended abruptly when I got my license. When you’re driving, you have to pay attention to everything. There’s no room for error. You’re behind the wheel of a killing machine, and so is everyone else.
You have to follow directions, make sure not to speed, watch the movements of other cars, drive through bad weather and avoid broken furniture flying out of truck beds. There’s no room to daydream when you’re driving.
The difference between the driver’s seat and the back seat is about being active and being passive. There’s another way to illustrate this.
Ask for Directions
The day after I received my driver’s license, I decided to drive my friends to see a movie. As I pointed my car in the direction of the mall, I realized something horrifying. Although Mom and Dad had driven me there lots of times, I had no memory of how to get there. I had to get directions!
I told my friends about the experience. They all reported similar experiences: getting lost on the way to school or not being able to get home from church or a soccer game.
That’s the difference between thinking actively and thinking passively – working to make things happen rather than letting things happen around you. If you’re not paying attention, you’re going to miss things.
I think we spend a lot of time living in a passive state, sitting in a metaphorical back seat. We zone out. We put our headphones in. We lay back, relax and let others put on a show for us. Sometimes that’s good for our health to have a day or two like that – on the beach, on vacation or hanging out with friends.
The problem comes when we start living our lives that way.
As a particular song says, “Life is a highway,” and it’s going to present you with obstacles: things flying here and there, other people cutting you off and driving in your lane, mislabeled road signs and GPS directions that put you clear across town from where you want to be.
Swerving Around Obstacles
You’re going to need to be awake and alert to get out of a situation like that. People who live passively might not be able to plan for life’s obstacles – big and small – just as people who text while driving are far more likely to get into accidents than people who wait until the car is stopped.
Being lazy might be fun for a little while, but it’s no basis for a real and happy life.
Maybe you feel a little fuzzy today. Maybe you’re doing something simply because your friends are doing it. Maybe you came out of that math class not remembering what your teacher said. Maybe you texted through a family dinner and couldn’t remember the conversation at the table.
Maybe you aren’t listening to yourself or to what God is calling you to do with your life.
Get out of the back seat. Live actively. Grab the keys. Be an alert driver.
Karen Osborne contributes to a syndicated column series for Catholic News Service.