My birthday is a few days away. I won’t say how old I’m turning, but it does mark a full quarter-century since I came of legal driving age in the States. In a bizarre symmetry, I’m working toward getting my license again, this time in Ireland. Now I won’t deny that, in the last 25 years, I may have picked up a bad habit or two. But I’m generally a safe and competent driver who does things by the book.
Turns out the Irish book is a lot different!
Now, I won’t talk about bad habits like resting your hand on the gearshift, playing the music way too loud, or steering with your knees while you open a can of soda. But here are three things that were specifically taught to me when I was learning to drive in America that are well and truly not OK to do on the Irish driving test:
- The hand-over-hand steering method
- Looking over your shoulder to check blind spots
- Braking to a stop in neutral
Breaking old habits is hard! I’m thankful that, before I have to sit with a tester, I have time with a patient and competent driving instructor.
It’s also interesting to see the effects of stress on this process. I can find myself doing quite well with the Irish way of driving… until something unexpected happens. Then it’s a quick step back to the old ways! For example, a couple of guys stepped out in front of me during a lesson the other day. I was (rightly, I’d say) more concerned with not running them down than on observing #3 – something I didn’t even realize until my instructor pointed it out. It’s the same mechanism in the brain that occasionally leads me to forget which side of the car to get in when I’m in a rush or thinking about something else while I’m approaching. (Yes, even after a year!)
In some ways, it’s not unlike living out our daily lives. We may have old habits or behaviors or even patterns of thought that we want to change. But change is hard. And change is especially hard during times of stress. A pastor friend used to talk about times in life when you should HALT – when you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. These are circumstances that make us more susceptible to falling back into our old ways. Of course, God is bigger than our circumstances, so our challenge as disciples is to stay in prayer – probably to pray all the more – when we’re under stress. Unfortunately, that isn’t always our first instinct. Don’t feel bad, for it wasn’t the first instinct of the Twelve either:
When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Luke 22:45-46 (NASB)
Three things. First, being aware of when we might be more temptable, when we might be more likely to fall into sinful patterns of thought and action, is a way to be smart about our walk. Second, we can be thankful that God is more like a driving instructor than a tester. Rather than a clipboard and silent evaluation of all our faults, He is there with a gentle reminder so that we can learn to practice good habits along the way. Third, we will do well to remember that ours is not a struggle for willpower in the face of difficulty. It is a challenge to trust God in the midst of temptation, stress, and trial. He will work in us through the indwelling Spirit to enable the kind of life to which we’re called.
For more information about the Christian walk, the Irish driving test, or what gifts to send for my birthday; hit me up! Meanwhile, what habits do you find hard to break?