At fifteen and a half I passed the drivers permit test with flying colors. The state granted me a learner’s permit. Elated, I could not wait to start learning how to drive. Not just for freedom, but also because I was a year ahead in school and all of my friends already drove.
Both my mother and my father took me to parking lot after parking lot to practice. At one point, they deemed me fit for the real road. I can only assume my mad skills proved what I knew as truth, I was ready. In hindsight, I picture my parents attempting to decide who would sit in the passenger’s seat that day. Did they draw straws or play rock, paper, scissors to decide who would take me out on the streets with other cars for the first time? If so, my mom lost*.
One clear day the two of us loaded into that sleek early 2000s two-door Grand Am that would become my first car in college, and we headed out of the neighborhood. I felt invincible, which no one wants a new a driver to ever say. I, Elizabeth Steinocher, would soon add “driver” to my skill set. Looking back now, I can only imagine the fear that pulsed through parents veins as they handed the keys to someone who’s diaper they changed or who they watched take their first steps.
I proceeded to wind through the suburban neighborhood as we approached the exit, also known as the real road. With what I can only recall as great and defensive caution – don’t worry, that caution has since turned to offense because not everyone can drive with a defensive mindset – I approached the road. The actual road, not a parking lot. This moment waited for me. This moment moved me from relying on others for what felt like everything and pushed me closer to self-sufficiency.
About to cross the invisible barrier of pseudo driver and enter the world of real driving, white faced my mother reached her arm across the car to my side with one hand as she clinched her seat belt with the other. Her voice shaky, she uttered these words verbatim. “Ok, you can do this. I know you will be fine.” Her voice grew firm and lowered as she proclaimed the words I still hear as I drive today, “Just remember, if you hesitate, you will die.” She then inhaled with the agony of an overacted death scene, turned expressionless to face forward, exhaled like one would after Gravity ends and said, “ok, now you can go.”
What? Now. Now? Now, I can go? As cars appeared from at least half a mile away, I wondered. I wondered if I could push the gas pedal in time so that we did not die as we entered the road. I thought about hesitating, and then dying. I froze. I thought more about hesitating, wondering if I hesitated and then I hesitated as I feared death. Unable to move forward I gawked at my mother as my knuckles turned white and my palms began to drip sweat.
These words still to this day haunt me and infiltrate my life in many ways with their twisted sense of wisdom. In life (and I guess in driving?), if we hesitate we will die. My mom’s point, she only wanted me to drive with confidence. She wanted me to know when to go and then go. She did not want me to get my car halfway out on the road, panic, freeze and die when oncoming traffic slammed into me. This now makes sense.
We need to live our lives remembering, “if you hesitate, you will die.” The demands and layered choices life asks of us should be approached with the mentality my mother attempted to articulate to me in that pivotal moment of my life. If not, fear will paralyze us. We will live in the fear of wondering if _____. Wondering if the option in front of us makes the most sense. Wondering if this is the best move or if another would set us up better. We will fear the uncertainty. We will never make a move. We will sit paralyzed and paranoid at the entrance to the road hands clinched on the wheel but never moving forward.
If you hesitate, you will die. If you see an opening, go. Use wisdom, but go. Otherwise you will sit in the same place anguished. A life paralyzed by fear waiting to pull out onto the road but never going, we are better than that. God calls us to do much more than that. God calls us to live in freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Feels cliche and simplistic, but sometimes we want to overcomplicate truth. With the Lord there is freedom. As we seek Him, there is no need to hesitate.
After wiping my sweaty palms on my pants and a bout of nervous laughter with my mom about what she just said, I lumbered my car onto the road. Over time I practiced and obtained my license. I did not hesitate. But still, if you drive with me you will hear this very story, and race car noises because I get bored while driving and like to keep life interesting.
Just because we conquered a fear once does not mean we conquered fear. I still spend a little extra time sometimes wondering if I hesitated before a turn. We must always check ourselves and dig into and unfurl the grip fear holds on us and our lives. God calls us conquerors. He defeated fear. Our lives need to start reflecting that victory.
*I apologize to my mother. I did not warn her I was telling the “world” this story. She always tells me she is leery one day I will become a stand-up comedian and skew her stories a bit making her look bad. Sorry mother. The story is just too good not to share. But the good news, I am no comedian. Love you.