I love cars. I’m the middle child between two gear-head brothers. When other girls were playing “I Spy” on car rides, I was playing “Guess-the-make-and-model-of-that-car-by-looking-only-at-the-back-headlights-or-I’ll-hit-you.”

When I finally graduated from driving mini-vans a few years ago, I bought a cool, fast car. I felt I had earned it after carting my children around the world for twenty years. I was in mid-life and was entitled to my crisis.

So I thought.

Every year I pray about what to forgo for Lent and this year it was sweets. Since avoiding meat, dairy and gluten due to my autoimmune issues this year, I’ve been compensating with sugar (the worst thing anyone can eat). So I prayerfully decided to say good-bye to dessert.

But yesterday I heard that Spirit inspired whisper I often talk about. How do I know it’s the Spirit? I don’t always, but often I do because the whisper is something I’d never otherwise come up with and don’t want to hear. The whisper is unappealing and dreadful. Yesterday the whisper wasn’t about giving up sugar. It was about giving up driving like Mario Andretti.

Car Gauges

Pastor Matt Chandler has a great analogy illustrating why practicing spiritual disciplines like repentance and obedience don’t equate to trying to earn Christ’s love and grace. Chandler, although married for more than a decade, still studies his wife. They still go on dates and retreats. Chandler doesn’t do these things to get his wife to marry him, but to foster greater intimacy with her. Similarly, we don’t read the Bible, go to church or abstain from road rage to get Christ to love us. He already does. We’re already in a covenant relationship with Christ, so although we don’t have to do anything to be in that relationship, we read our Bible, spend time with Him and forgo things, to grow that love even more.

I don’t want to drive in comfort mode (where the imaginary monkeys who make my engine go are half asleep and have no work ethic). I don’t want to drive the speed limit. That’s wasting time. I childishly admit I want to blow the doors off people who cut me off or drive like morons, but now I can’t. I don’t like that. However, listening to God, isn’t about personal sacrifice, punishment or my desires.

It’s about cultivating intimacy with Christ.

What I’ve learned about people pleasing, jealousy and now driving aggressively is people and cars aren’t the problem. They’re indicative of greater heart issues God wants to free me from. When I remember that driving like an octogenarian isn’t a punishment, it changes my attitude. When I can remind myself that driving the speed limit is meant to free me from other things I struggle with, my perspective shifts. And if I can remember Christ died to give me abundant life apart from the car I drive, clothes I wear and the mess I am, I will have gotten closer to getting the point of Lent.