May 24, 2006

The Driving Gene

1515 page31 caphose who know me know that I did not get my father’s driving gene.
My dad loved to drive—especially at night. When he, my mom, and I went on a trip out West many years ago to visit my sister and her family, we left at 8:00 p.m. Then we drove all night. My dad said it was because there were hardly any cars on the road; and with their lights on, those few cars that did pass were more easily seen.
My sister got Dad’s driving gene. She can drive a 17-hour trip from Virginia to Florida without batting an eyelid (figuratively speaking).
My lack of this familial gene is apparent in the fact that two to three hours is the usual life cycle of my driving stint at any one time. If my husband’s family has a driving gene, he didn’t get it either. Needless to say, we fly whenever possible.
Some of my earliest memories of my dad were of his driving. I’m the youngest of four children. When we were growing up, money was tight. The word “vacation” wasn’t a part of our vocabulary. The closest thing to it was when Dad and Mom would pack us four kids into the backseat of the car, take us to McDonald’s or Burger King for a meal, fill the tank with gas, and start driving. We didn’t always know where we were going. Daddy loved to intentionally get lost just so he could figure out how to get himself “unlost.” The trip was usually over when the gas tank was close to empty.
1515 page31For some, this kind of “vacation” may sound boring. But we just enjoyed being together with Mom and Dad. And when you don’t know what you’re missing, you don’t know what you’re missing!
When I went off to boarding academy, Dad’s driving gene was still functioning full-tilt. When a special program took place at which I wanted Mom and Dad to be present, they would drive the four-hour trip to Shenandoah Valley Academy, stay for the day, and drive the four-hour trip home. Occasionally they would stay in a hotel overnight, but it was cheaper for them not to.
Once when a friend of mine, Al, was going home to see his parents, he let me ride with him because I lived only an hour from his house. My parents drove up early that evening. We all had dinner at Al’s house. Then Dad drove me the hour home so I could see some family for about an hour, drove me back the hour to Al’s house, then drove the hour back home.
My dad’s driving gene has spoken to me many times over the years about my heavenly Father. For most people, if they knew that my dad was going to drive eight hours in one day just to spend four or five hours with me, or if he was going to spend four hours on the road just so my family could see me for an hour, they would have probably told him it was irrational. It just didn’t make sense.
If my earthly father would be so “irrational” in order to spend time with me whenever he could, how much more “irrational” is my heavenly Father. He died in order to be able to spend time with me—for eternity. Totally irrational in many people’s minds.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . . . For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Cor. 1:18-25, NIV).
I know I didn’t get Daddy’s driving gene. But my hope is that I spread some of his and my heavenly Father’s irrational love to those around me.
Bonita Joyner Shields is an assistant editor of the Adventist Review.