Minivan Theology

One of my previous jobs was a delivery driver for a home health care company.  I used to joke with friends that I was a drug runner, completely legal of course.  It was a great job as I spent minimal time in an office and warehouse and the majority of my day driving. Today’s post is inspired by one set of drivers that I came across quite regularly while delivering and still do from time to time.

The Wreckless Minivan (or SUV) Mom.

Granted, I witnessed all sorts of reckless drivers and moms driving in minivans are not all reckless.  But, the women recklessly driving a large passenger and cargo capacity consumer vehicle brought me much confusion and consternation while driving.  With few exceptions, they were some of the most careless, speedy and impatient drivers on the road.  To make matters worse, they would generally be driving this way while carrying the precious cargo of their own children and probably a few of their kids’ friends.  One specific example comes to mind where I was waiting in a turning lane to turn left across oncoming traffic.  As I was about to turn, a minivan full of passengers whips around me to make the same left hand turn in front of me. I resisted the strong temptation to tailgate them and non-verbally express my frustration.  When the anger and frustration subsided, I started to really be confused by the whole situation.  What would cause someone to drive that recklessly with a minivan full of passengers, most of whom I assume were family?  What was so important that they were choosing to not only put their own lives at risk but also the lives of everyone else in the vehicle? It just seemed crazy and reckless.

I was recently thinking about this situation again, mainly because something similar happened, and my seminary trained mind began to think about theology. I asked myself how often we “drive” similarly with our theology and religious practices. Do we care for and transport our Christian family with a similar recklessness?  Do we just want to get people “in the van” as quickly as possible so we can move on?  What about the other cars and passengers around us?

Sometimes I feel like we treat our theology and religious beliefs or practices in essentially the same way.  We get a bunch of people in our “van” who share our beliefs and then speed our way down the highway of life. We feel safer in the van because it’s larger than all the other cars on the road.  We wonder why no one is driving as fast as we are and essentially see everyone outside the van as an obstacle to get around, hindering our forward progress. They are obviously wrong, if they were right they’d be driving like me.  Or, even better…they’d be in my minivan.  Don’t they know we’ve got important places to be?  We’re on a mission from God.

The problem is, it does not seem that Jesus ever thought this way.  It was the Pharisees who were recklessly throwing around their theology.  They would blow by people without a care as to why they might not be in the van or why they were “driving” slowly.  Jesus never sees other people as obstacles to get around.  He always pulls up alongside them to see what’s going on.  Jesus stoops down towards the woman caught in adultery, he approaches the woman at the well, he calls Zacchaeus down from the tree, he appears to Thomas and Saul, he calls Judas and Matthew to be disciples, he pulls a sinking Peter up after he walked on water, he also forgives Peter and then cooks him breakfast, he forgives those who crucify him and tells the thief next to him that he will be with him in Paradise.

Jesus isn’t driving a minivan trying to get people in and avoid obstacles and make it to his destination on time.

He’s driving a tow truck.  Pulling over whenever he needs to in order to help others who might be having problems.  He’s not avoiding people as obstacles, he’s looking out for them.  He’s also not trying to get them into his van using candy or some other kind of trick or “stranger danger” method.  He’s looking under the hood, figuring out what they need and putting them back on the road again.  If necessary, he will also give directions to the lost. The goal is not to get people “in” per se, but to help them get going again and headed in the right direction.

So, next time you find yourself annoyed that someone is going slow or preventing you from getting to your destination, take a second and maybe try to understand what’s going on in their car.  Next time your find yourself frustrated about another person’s theology, questioning their “personal relationship with Jesus”, or quietly condemning them to hell, take a second to “pull over” and see what’s going on.  Maybe there’s more to the story than what you see and what you feel.  Maybe, just maybe, when you see things from their perspective, from behind their “wheel”, you’ll understand how they got to where they are at.  Maybe you’ll finally see the dents in your own car or discover that your headlights are out.

You might even discover the problem is more with you than with them.

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