I remember staring in disbelief at the instructions that came with my learner’s permit when I was 15 years old. I had to practice driving for 65 hours? It seemed like an eternity. I was reading this information as my dad drove me home from my learner’s permit test. Luckily for me, I turned 15 several months after most of my friends. They had already filled me in on the reality of this situation:
“It’s a joke, Laura. No one actually does that.”
“Your parents just sign the form so you can go get your license.”
I was going to be fine; this was no biggie.
I vividly remember the conversation that followed with my dad. “I’ll print a log so you can start working on those hours,” he said (as if this was really going to happen).
“It’s just a formality, dad. Everyone says it’s a joke. We don’t really have to do that,” I responded, probably not without a tinge of sass.
“Oh, you’re doing it. It’s the rule, and the practice is good for you anyway.” Dad went back to his business, acting as if I would actually drive the 65 hours (dads, I tell ya!).
The ensuing disagreement was just as you might expect. I insisted this was unnecessary, while dad put his foot down. The next day, he handed me my chart. On the spreadsheet I could fill in the date and how many minutes I spent driving with an adult. He expected 65 hours. Every last one.
Over the next few weeks, ten minutes here and there felt futile. I felt like I would never reach 65 hours. I think I mentioned to him, “Well when I’m 22 I might have enough hours to drive home alone from my college graduation.”
When you’re 15, snippy comments are all you have.
Over the next few months, I kept track carefully. At some point I noticed I was racking up some serious hours. Who would have thought 10 minutes to school would matter in the 65-hour scheme of things? Even that 7.5 minutes to Kroger with my mom made a difference.
These few minutes–here and there–added up. When my 16th birthday rolled around, I had a surplus of hours. I was more than ready to get my license and passed with flying colors the first time.
But something happened through this process that didn’t occur to me until recently, when driving to work.
This rule likely made me a more competent driver, but there were other benefits. For one, I spent more time with my parents, and my siblings too. I went on grocery trips with my mom. I went in to school early with her so I could practice driving. I drove to church with dad. I went on trips to the post office with him, and the bank, and to get dinner for the whole family, and on and on and on. We spent quality time together through this period of waiting.
Though I thought my minutes were futile, I was actually building something much stronger than good driving practices.
Isn’t this similar to our relationship with God?
We all have periods of waiting in our lives. Periods of practice. Periods of learning. Sometimes they seem futile. It seems like 10 minutes here and there will never get us where we need to be. But God uses these times in our lives to build something much bigger and stronger than we can see in the moment.
Periods of waiting can be periods of strengthening, of growing, of learning. We may not see it at the time, but we can look back on these moments and be glad we didn’t rush through, fudging the numbers just to reach the goal.
Months after I turned 16, I was driving my sister to school on a winding road. It was raining. I took a turn too sharply–as new drivers often do–sending us hydroplaning into a tree. After checking that she and I were both okay (and screaming at her to stop screaming–things were a bit chaotic), I called my dad.
“Dad, we are both okay, but there has been an accident.”
Dad later told me I couldn’t have started that phone call in a better way. He came to pick us up, and we went on about our day, unscathed other than some sore spots.
Looking back on that accident makes me think of my 65 hours in the car with my parents. Sure, I learned something about driving. But a new driver acts like a new driver. There is only so much preparation that can be done before a 16-year-old gets behind the wheel, alone for the first time.
But when I called my dad, I knew he would help me. I knew he would understand. I knew he would respond with love.
Does it feel as if you are only “logging hours” right now? Does it seem futile? In several areas of my life, I am.
We wonder if our goal is even reachable, right?
During these times, let’s encourage each other to think about what we are learning as we log our hours. Perhaps He is teaching us something now; something we will be thankful for later. He may be building our confidence, our patience, or a greater understanding of His love.
And perhaps one day down the road, we’ll find ourselves in a tough spot, running into one of life’s trees. When this happens, we will know exactly what to do. We’ll give Him a call and say, “I think I’m okay, but there’s been an accident.” From there, we can count on His help, love, support . . . or anything else we need.
Thank God for those 65 hours.