As we neared the fair grounds, the houses on the side streets had lawns decorated with parked cars. Big signs that said, “$10 parking” adorned their mailboxes at the road.
“Mom! Can we buy a house here? What a business asset the front yard would be!” Christine (age ten) said. I can’t remember how I responded, but she concluded, “But I would only charge $9.”
Such an entrepreneurial-kid! (Thanks to Robert Kiyosaki’s books.)
The NC State Fair has become a family tradition that began two years ago: It was then that our newly arrived 10-week-old puppy was too new to be left at home, so she rode along. Her presence only increased the excitement in the car (which didn’t need more excitement!) on our debut to the event. The State Fair, advertised to us for its deep-fried Oreos and Twinkies, (as if they needed hot oil to add to that “nutrition”!) with rides (which didn’t pass the two engineer-parents’ safety factor), stilt-walkers, Blue Grass bands, and the like, was sure to be a fun family day. Our children floated in excitement, while we tried to contain them in the Ford Expedition for the thirty-minute ride to the state capital’s fair grounds. My husband Chris opted for the N.C. State University football stadium parking lot with shuttles, instead of someone’s front lawn.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of cars were neatly arranged in diagonal rows. A yellow-vested worker guided us to the next relatively empty section, where Chris took the liberty of choosing a spot further away from all of the opening car doors. Our truck’s doors opened like an explosion, opposite of the slow speed by which our children (and dog) unloaded. Chris came to my side of the car, barking out the normal arrival parental questions: “What’s taking so long to get out?!” “Why would you take your shoes off for such a short ride?” “Did you even bring shoes?”
Chris was bent over helping the youngest (age six at the time) tie his shoes, when suddenly the tone and urgency in his voice changed.
“HEEEYYY!” he yelled at a Toyota Corolla that slowly went by, barely missing Chris’s foot!
That’s when he and I noticed there was no driver in the car!
Some people, who were assumedly already riding the shuttle to the fair, had walked away, leaving their car in neutral. The car was left on its own, silently drifting through a parking lot of families, heading for sure disaster. It was going slowly enough that Chris grabbed the door of the driver’s side, only to discover it was locked. Emergency mode was striking my heart as I tossed the puppy back into the truck and told the kids to sit tight. I ran alongside the passenger door of the runaway, realizing it too was locked. Our comfortable jog was becoming more of a sprint as the car, going slightly downhill, gained speed. Realizing there was no way to stop the car, (My heart is racing at the memory, just typing this.) Chris began focusing on trying to save the people in its path. “UNATTENDED CAR!” he yelled from his jog. Somehow I felt the need to translate the words for the average fair go-er, and I began yelling from my side, “HEEEYYYY! GET OUT OF THE WAY! THIS CAR HAS NO DRIVER! THIS CAR CAN’T STOP! GET OUT OF THE WAY!”
(Yes. My poor husband has taken much heat in our humor-filled family for his best-selling-author-ish choice of words, “unattended car!” since we were in a parking lot…full of “unattended cars.” But, I digress…)
A family, standing outside of their Jeep Cherokee (probably asking their kids where their shoes were), jumped out of the way before the silent killer passed. Fortunately, there were not many people in the path of the car, since it entered the parking section that had been filled hours earlier. We ran beside the car, yelling and working up a sweat, as it coasted to its final destination – crashing into a Honda Accord whose owners would be in for a not-so-fair ending to their day at the fair.
Driving away and laughing that day, thankful to have avoided what could have been a serious situation, I wondered how many times my life has been like the unattended Toyota Corolla. I have strolled through days (or years!) in neutral, allowing the grade of incline of my surroundings to determine my speed and destination.
- The time at a job I just kept doing, afraid to change anything…
- The times I was in a crowd of ladies, and I just kept listening, avoiding disagreement…
- The times I allowed smoke from a conflict to be seen in the distance, without checking on the source of the fire…
- The time I was done with college and said, “Yay! Now I never have to read another book!”
When we look around, “unattended lives” abound:
- People who worship their dog or TV, rather than learning how to get along with others. (Even the bumper stickers quip, “The more I know people, the more I like my dog.”)
- Families who have never made an effort to keep a budget call out “unfair!” at anyone who has money.
- Millions who stopped their learning once the government stopped requiring it (when they turned 16) and still get to vote.
- Married people who think that because they wear a ring, they deserve loyalty from their spouse, so they no longer strive to please the one they married.
Attending to Life
How do we get life out of neutral?
Learning a little Latin and Greek with my homeschoolers has brought word meanings to mind: some for real, and some I just totally make up. (smile!) However, I did learn somewhere in there that “a” is put at the beginning of words to mean “opposite of.” So therefore, “attending to” would mean the opposite of “tending to.” In other words, the only way to make our lives go in the opposite direction of their fleshly tendencies (sin, laziness, etc.) is to attend to them.
An “attended life” is one in which someone…well…has the car in gear!
- Determines a direction in which to aim, and then runs toward it. (Run the race set before us, to obtain the prize in Christ Jesus! Heb 12:1 )
- Reads the right books, listens to audios and associates with people who are directionally correct. (And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. – Heb 10:25)
- Understands that education is a lifetime adventure. As Orrin Woodward says, “Education is a lifetime assignment. It expires when we do.” https://twitter.com/Orrin_Woodward
Don’t get me wrong; life has many crashes, that are “accidents,” too. I would be wrong to say all bad outcomes are because we let go of the wheel. We cannot control negative outcomes, only our efforts toward positive ones. As my father always taught me, “Do your best; angels can do no more.” Too often, I have looked at the smoke rising from a crashed day in my life and thought, “I could have avoided that.”
I suppose in order to drive, we must press on the pedal. :)
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.” – Phil 3:12
“An unattended car may be dangerous, but an unattended life can be tragic.” – Chris Brady. https://twitter.com/RascalTweets
To paraphrase Ann Graham Lotz, “It’s painful to watch a Christian who has a saved soul, but is living a wasted, [unattended] life.”
Press on [the pedal], my dear friend!