Rearview Mirrors

Every time I get into the car with my son now, I look at the rearview mirror a little differently. I remember the awesome opportunity to look back with gratitude, and look forward with hope. And, of course, I put on my seatbelt.

One of the most exciting and frankly terrifying times I have experienced as a parent is getting in the passenger seat of the car as my son took the wheel. 

Let’s be honest, there’s so little we can protect kids from in our streaming culture. One TikTok quickly leads to another, and YouTube has taken us all down some strange paths. But putting a 4,000-pound machine in the hands of my teenager? That’s a whole other level of terror. 

With much of the classroom work out of the way, it was time to put the book knowledge to the test and take the road. What a sense of new learning! New freedom! And perhaps a little “life flashing before my eyes” sentiment as well. 

I’m happy to report we made it through the initial drive and, subsequently, many others. Now with only the final driving test ahead of him, he will soon be a proud holder of a state-issued driver’s license.  

Learning to Check 

As we had many practice driving sessions together, I found it fascinating to observe his pre-drive routine and sometimes the mid-drive adjustments. 

At first, he was quick to get the car started, put it in reverse to get out of the driveway, grab the wheel, and get going! There may have been a time or two when we almost hit the side walls of the garage or backed into a bike (thankfully, not a person) behind us, as checking the rearview mirror was not an initial part of the routine. 

But he got better over time and consistently checked not only the side mirrors but the rearview mirrors to gain a proper perspective of where he was and if there was anything to consider before moving forward. While driving, especially on the highway, he has become very good at being aware of what is going on around him, noting what is behind him through the rearview mirror. 

Also, he has learned that although it is helpful to check the rearview mirror, spending too much time looking behind can impair the ability to look forward, which is also dangerous! 

From the Passenger Seat 

Through these experiences with my son, I have reflected on how these actions and learning experiences apply to life, especially from a spiritual perspective. 

First, from a passenger’s perspective, it is quite difficult to give up control of a situation that you seem to largely have controlled your whole adult life. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous and a bit scared turning over the keys to my son the first time he ever operated a vehicle. As we approached higher speeds and other vehicles, there was a feeling of powerlessness that washed over and sat in the heart…and stomach! 

Sometimes I ask myself how often I feel that way in my own life? This is not an easy feeling to encounter or deal with, but I  know I have had it before and will likely again. 

The truth of the matter is that these feelings are real and happen to all of us. Although we learn in the Bible that God is in control (Proverbs 19:21) and we need only to trust Him, I know sometimes I struggle with having the faith to trust. 

But even when I’m double-checking sightlines from my passenger seat in the car, God provides us with the faith we need to keep going forward. Sometimes all we need is the prayer, “God, give me the faith to even begin to look to you and trust.” That can be a good start. 

Looking Back 

And let’s be honest. How many experienced drivers still remember to always check their rearview mirror when backing up? 

I suppose that in life, perhaps the younger we are, the less likely we are to look in the “rearview mirror” and try to learn from past events. The drive to move forward and forge ahead is certainly strong, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, as we journey through life, no matter how many years we’ve been at it, there can be good in pausing, looking back, and seeing what we can learn from a past experience. 

Oftentimes, God can teach us things through experience, and many times it is only after the experience that we fully understand what that lesson was and where God intervened. Appreciating God’s intervention and, ultimately, His glory, is so often highlighted from a hindsight perspective. 

Taking time to pause, reflect, and review what He has done in our lives can give us just the energy we need to move forward. It can also provide the wisdom we need to move forward. James 1:5 says it best: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” A very comforting reality! 

Focus Forward 

Although looking in the rearview mirror has its benefits at some points in life, there are others where focusing on the past too long can be dangerous. 

While driving, if my son focused on what was behind him too long, the situation (a stopped or slowing car, for example) in front of him becomes much more of an issue than anything behind him. 

How true it is that when we dwell on what has happened in our past without regard for what is coming in our future, we can sink into so many “what if” questions and scenarios of our lives. Like everyone else, I have regrets in my life and painful Facebook memories of things that have happened to me, or that I have indeed caused. Learning from these hurt points is certainly a good strategy. At some point, moving on is a good strategy, too. 

Although there are many thoughts about how to best move on from our past, the real ingredient that helps us to do that is hope. And it’s the hope in Jesus that is truly the best kind. 

This hope not only shows us that when we arrive at another challenging situation, but we will also have the same God there to help us through it. It also reminds us there is an eternal road trip with Jesus in our future. One day, all the obstacles on the road before and behind us will be removed, and we can crank up our playlist without any complaints about the volume. Now that is something to look forward to and focus on! 

Every time I get into the car with my son now, I look at the rearview mirror a little differently. I remember the awesome opportunity to look back with gratitude and look forward with hope. And, of course, I put on my seatbelt. 

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