When I turned 15, I took Driver’s Ed. I was a freaky nervous wreck about the whole thing (no pun intended).
Oh, the classroom part was fine (that was back when we’d just take it as a summer school course, with all of our friends, and all the driver’s ed teachers were just our regular school teachers)
When they handed out driving assignments, things really went south. I would listen to my friends whose teachers taught them to drive to McDonalds or Dairy Queen for a cone, or in the least, let them choose the radio station when it was their turn at the wheel. Not me. I got the teacher who hated all teenagers, namely ones learning to drive.
He would get out an actual tape measure when we’d parallel park and make little notes on his clipboard. He’d mark off points if we put on our turn signal 10 feet too early and he delighted in taking us on one way streets to see if we could navigate it like the pros we were not. I remember crying a lot during that month.
It didn’t help that he had a slight lisp (and a bad combover, but that’s not the point). “Wight! Turn wight at the light!” he would bark at me. I was so bent on pleasing him that my brain couldn’t interpret what he was saying. Inevitably I’d turn left… or go straight… and he would slam on his special passenger brake (he loved that thing) and jot more notes.
I was sure I’d fail. My dad would try to help by taking me to the high school parking lot on Sunday afternoons; he’d even set up orange cones and he was infinitely patient. But I’d just end up having a melt down, because I was so discouraged.
On the day of our final test, my teacher took us somewhere I’d never driven before: a four lane highway. The on ramps and off ramps and changing lanes…. I felt like I’d been set up. Never had I felt so helpless and stupid.
I ended up passing the class, with the very lowest score possible. Not a single point to spare. I sat in the car with my mom when she came to pick me up and I sobbed with relief. I couldn’t believe it was over.
And yet, it wasn’t over. Because every time I got behind the wheel of a car, I could hear his voice in my head. “Turn wight!” “4 inches too far from the curb!” “YOU ARE A TERRIBLE DRIVER!”
It probably doesn’t surprise you that I hate driving. I’m still, almost 20 years later, really self-conscious when I’m behind the wheel, though I’m getting much better. The first time someone told me I was a good driver, I was honestly shocked. I assumed all people secretly felt like my teacher, but were just kinder when they rode shotgun with me.
Could it be that the story my teacher told about my driving wasn’t the true story? Could it be that I’ve given him an undeserved voice in my life? Why would I be crazy enough to let someone who had a three-week window into my life shape all that I believed about my ability to drive? It seems so ridiculous, doesn’t it?!
Bob Goff once tweeted, “Be picky about who you give the microphone to in your life. Don’t listen to the loudest voice; listen to the truest one.” Not everyone deserves to have a voice. But we often are far too generous with the wrong people and end up letting others control how we think and feel about ourselves.
What would happen if we graciously took the microphone from those who don’t deserve it? Maybe they are actual people who speak into our lives, or maybe they’re just made up voices we’ve let take up residence in our brain. The pretend conversations we have with people, the negative self-talk that replays over and over, the passing comments we let ruin our day– why do we allow them? How would it change our daily habits if consciously listened to the truest voices? How would it change our confidence? How would it change our worldview?
I could go on… but I’m guessing you get the point. I don’t even need to tie it up with a good Bible verse.
As we number our days, may we be wise enough to hand the right people the microphone. May we see destructive self-talk for what it is— useless noise— and make a conscious decision to step away. And may we strain to hear the most important, truest voice of all… Jesus, who knows our deepest faults and crazy habits, and chooses us over and over again.
P.S. Image is of me, found in my senior yearbook. You know I must love you, dear reader, if I dug this out of the relics. If you must study it, please be sure to notice the archaic computer on the right page.