“Driving the Difficult Driveway of Life,” by Gene Boyington

Message given at Durham Friends Meeting, January 19, 2020

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Good Morning, Friends.

There are lots of ideas about guidelines for the speaking part of worship and our oral ministry to ourselves and others. Here is a specific one and a general one:

Specifically, Never give Gene the microphone.

Generally, here is a four-part one with a title like those quartets that were ubiquitous back in 1940s and 1950s popular music:

This is an old Quaker guideline for being heard and appreciated in Meeting. I call it the 4 “S”s, or Three Sues and a Syd😊 (Su, Su, Su, Sd):

  1. Stand up (to be recognized);
  2. Speak up (to be heard);
  3. Shut up (to be appreciated);
  4. Sit down (to be invited to speak again).

**This could be enough of a main message this morning, but try and stop me from telling you my:

  Backing-out-of-the-driveway story.

In this story, there will be no names mentioned to protect the innocent, the guilty, and the pretty good relationship of the two!

My driveway (pause), with which some of you are familiar, slopes slightly upward into the yard. It also bends slightly to the right as one proceeds up the incline. It’s not long enough to drive in, then turn around somewhere, then later drive out. We have to drive in and back out. Or we have to _back_ in to be able to _drive_ out. But that requires forethought and determination.  Harried from our time away, we are in a hurry to get resettled into the comfort and calm of domesticity. So, we drive in.

Later, when a new errand calls, we usually are (again) in a hurry, now to do what must be done in the bigger world, we must back out. It is easy, when backing out, to forget the slope and the bend, then wind up slightly to the north side of the driveway, or to have a midcourse correction and oversteer into a slightly southerly position toward the road end of the driveway. Straying off the northerly side of the driveway is problematic for the rock border of the flower garden – the rocks are taller than the clear space under most moving vehicles☹. [It has happened.] The southerly side usually is not much trouble, as straying off the driveway would take one only into the lilac bush. [It, too, has happened.]

The aforementioned innocent, and guilty, have survived (so far) all the trials of navigation of the driveway. They _are_ still enjoying that pretty good relationship😊.

But recently, there was a snowstorm with a lot of pretty wet snow, after which the newish snowblower broke most of its shear pins, and the replacements would take a week to arrive. So, the innocent (or the guilty, we don’t recall which) shoveled a vehicle width path in the driveway to permit traveling – in the bigger world.

Later in the day, it was time for one of those travels. The innocent (or the guilty, depending on one’s current frame of mind) cranked up the car and began to back out of the driveway in the appropriate fashion. OOPS, quite completely stuck in the un-shoveled portion on the southerly side of the driveway, not quite into the lilac bush. [innocent and guilty worked together (with help of four-wheel drive truck) to extricate the car and get the innocent (or guilty) abroad in the bigger world.

How did this happen? Whichever (guilty or innocent) had this occur under their respective drivership, the other has had hardly ever such an occurrence. How does each of them negotiate backing up – in this driveway, in other driveways, out of (or into) parking spaces? Could there be a difference that is significant?

After much introspection by innocent (or guilty), there was this thoughtful conversation by both:

When you back out of the driveway, where is your right foot?

[Long pause] On the gas.

[Long pause] Problem?

Yup. Brake, poised at the top of the brake pedal’s travel. Let the car back down by itself?

Uh-huh. Then, there is more time to watch where the vehicle is going, being ready to apply the brakes, if needed.

OK, that’s good😊

Remember the slope? If we are backing uphill, we need to apply gas; downhill, be ready to brake. The car’s automatic transmission will power it backward ever so slowly, if we are on a downslope, or it might just roll.

Reflecting on this tale of woe and resolution, one might ask oneself:

“Am I a foot-on-the-gas person?

“Or am I a foot-on-the-brake person?”

“Do I know when to steer … with my foot on the gas, when to steer … with my foot on the brake?”

“Is there more I could know, and can learn, about making conscious choices?” 

Somewhere in the Bible, there is a statement about freedom of choice. Elsewhere in the Bible is commentary and implication about what God gives us along with this life opportunity, how we use what we are given, and the responsibility we have to make good, useful, and effective choices.