I hopped on the interstate, fresh from an invigorating meeting, ready to put the pedal to the metal and get home. I had an hour and forty minute drive ahead of me, so with an energy drink and a bag of pretzels in my passenger seat I was prepared to settle in, set my cruise control at 76 and go.
Yes, I speed. Not excessively, but fast enough. Six or seven over…
And on Interstate-80, many do.
My dad always told me that if you aren’t going with the flow of traffic you are a hazard to other drivers.
So I flow.
I picked up speed coming from the onramp and fell in pace behind a number of vehicles. I set the cruise. I turned up NPR.
And then the tail lights ahead of me started turning red.
And not a trooper that sits in the median and everyone slows down for a few minutes and then keeps right on going…
No, this state trooper was driving, with the rest of us… at 71 miles per hour.
The cars traveling ahead of me gradually got into the right hand lane, directly behind the state trooper.
No one was passing.
And then there would be that vehicle coming up from the left, going 75 or 77 and they would zoom on by only to hit their own brakes, and slow up, and sheepishly get in line with everyone else.
I followed that state trooper for an hour and fifteen minutes, so I had a lot of time to think about how we behave when we think “big brother” is watching. When the authorities are present. When we suddenly feel the need to fall into line and be on our best behavior.
Having just come from a meeting with pastors and the Bishop, I thought about how we do this in ministry.
We may not have speed limits or fines for going too fast, but we sure do know how to stiffle creativity and cause people to fall in line.
Many times I have watched as things were just gaining momentum… Just as we start putting the pedal to the metal with risky new ministries, someone speaks up: you can’t do that. We watch someone else stumble and falter and fear creeps back in and we don’t take the risk. We slow down and take baby steps, rather than charge ahead.
And just like on the interstate… when everyone is going 71 mph, driving in the right hand lane, behind the state trooper… the passion, the energy, the thrill of the open road is gone. We get stagnant. We get in each others way. We get anxious. Brake lights come on over and over again. No one wants to get in trouble… but secretly we hope someone does so that the rest of us are off the hook for a little while. We are constantly aware of someone watching us and it limits what we are able to accomplish.
I’m not saying we need to break the rules… well, maybe… depends on what the rules are!
What I’m really trying to say is that we need to create room and space for risky ministry…. for open and free ministry… for ministry that is okay with failure and taking chances and trying things. We need to not be so concerned with the authorities who are watching and we need to feel free to do something creative and new in our local churches.
Who is going to be courageous enough to drive 73 or 74 and pass the trooper?
These things we try… they might not work. We might find ourselves a bit down the road and have to switch gears. That’s fine! But then, we need “authorities” who encourage and support those who are feeling the wind at their back and the spirit blowing them forward.
At one point on our drive, the trooper slowed down to 68 mph as he found himself behind a semi-truck. But he stayed there longer than he needed to.
One by one, cars moved into the left lane and picked up a little speed.
They weren’t pulled over.
I think that might be called grace.
A little breathing room. Backing off a bit so that others can move forward freely. Flexibility. Awareness. Making space.
The open road awaits.