One great thing about having seven grandkids is that I'm able to watch kid's movies over and over again. There's a movie about talking cars they enjoy watching. It's called Cars. It involves a hot-shot rookie race car called Lightning McQueen. He is living life in the fast lane until he hits a detour. He ends up stranded in Radiator Springs, a forgotten town on the old Route 66. There's not a Baptist church in Radiator Springs, but he does meet some quirky characters that help him discover that there's more to life than trophies and fame. I relate well to the conversations of the cars because they represent life lessons with laughter on a ten-year-old level. I relate well because that is how most people describe my articles.
Let's imagine you're a car. First, take a look at yourself. Do you stay washed and shiny? I have a friend who drives classic cars. When I am with him, people surround us to see the car. People really are impressed with something that has been that well taken care of. Do people notice how well you take care of yourself? You say, "Wait, God looks on the inside." That's true, but He says that man looks on the outside. Maybe there are not many cars in your church lot because you represent God's car and you may not have that classic look.
How about maintenance? Do you have regular, scheduled times when you change your routine, tune your body, and even replace some faulty personality traits? How about tire pressure? I've discovered that most pastors don't have a blow out — it's more like a slow leak. You just wake up one Sunday and you're flat. Regularly scheduled maintenance will keep your car running for many more years.
Now, let's go driving. Cars have different gears. Low gear is slow, for the hills in life. It keeps you from going so fast you wear out your brakes. It's the gear for relationships. Fast lives produce fatigue which produces irritability which, in turn, leads to indifference that can appear to your family as if you don't love them. Remember the sign "Drive Slow — Children At Play?" Children need time to play pretend games and time to ask questions like, "Does God have a dog?" and "Is hell hotter than Texas?" Make sure you use your low gear.
Now switch to "Drive." Most of life — with proper maintenance and good conditions — will be spent in Drive. All good drivers know when it is time to slow down. Most wrecks occur when the car is going too fast for conditions.
Maybe the most important gear is "Park." Cars cannot run forever without refueling and neither can you. We have to stop to refuel. You don't slow down to fill your tank — you stop. Part of life is meant to be lived in Park. Take a break. It is surprising to me the number of pastors who never get away. Go to the beach; look at the ocean. See the big things of God. When I see the big things of God, it reminds me that I'm not so big and important after all. I can relax.
God created the world in His eternal rhythm. In that rhythm He rested, and in that rhythm you need to rest, too.
Of course, the gear we all love the best is the passing gear — especially men. I remember one of our family's first road trips. My wife asked if we could stop at the next rest area. I responded that we could as soon as we passed a Chevrolet that had passed me twenty miles before. I needed to pass it again. Passing gear is for those times when you need a little extra effort — when we have a deadline to meet or, for a pastor, when the weekend is coming. You can't drive all the time in passing gear because it will wear the car out. I have seen some shiny, great-looking cars that have been driven so long in passing gear the engine overheated and is now ready for the cinder blocks. Save passing gear for the real emergencies in life. You'll be glad you did.
There is one more gear. I hesitate to mention it, but it does serve a legitimate purpose. It is "Reverse." It is not meant to be used often. Normally, you shouldn't be looking back since that's not the direction you want to be going. However, every now and then you will be in a situation that, in order to go forward, you'll have to back up. Don't overuse it but make sure you're able to reverse when the need arises.
Cars can also be used for trips, so here's one last lesson for the road. I travel a lot — many miles a year in the car. Most of the time my wife drives. I've discovered that she's a better driver. I can still arrive where I need to be but without driving myself. I have a partner. I'm tooting my own horn, so you won't miss this last lesson. The trip of life is all about partnerships. Wait a minute Charles, your analogy breaks down. Race car drivers drive alone just like pastors. You're right, but if they forget the pit crew, they'll eventually have to call the tow truck. In the race of life, it's more important how you treat the pit crew than whether you win the race. Why? Because God decides who gets the last trophy.