Teaching driver's ed requires faith

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

July 22, 2016 at midnight
Updated July 23, 2016 at 6 a.m.

Jennifer Preyss

Jennifer Preyss   Advocate Photo for The Victoria Advocate

A few months ago, my sister and I gathered around her new Pottery Barn kitchen table and recalled stories of our teenage years.

We often compare and contrast the parenting changes that occurred within our six year age difference. I always say she got the more relaxed version of Mom and Dad.

While rehashing memories of a time long ago, we landed on a subject that still scares us both to the core - learning to drive.

Our father, who some might describe as high-strung, offered a unique form of driver's education to his three children.

It was military style. Hands on 10 and 2; don't you dare crash the car; and by God, you better make that light.

We both recalled similar experiences of zooming through yellow lights, gripping the steering wheel, while Dad screams from the passenger seat, "Go! Go! Go! Make the light!"

It was an intense driving experience, you might say.

But we all became confident drivers, even though my driving style these days is a little more "Driving Miss Daisy."

As we poked fun at Dad at the table a few weeks ago, I remember thinking how lucky we were that we all didn't become overly anxious or road-rage drivers.

But this week, as I took my friend's son on his first driving lesson, I finally understood why Dad was so intense in the car with us all those years ago.

Rather than come out and say, "I'm about to take you, my 15-year-old in a car on busy main roads where you might kill me and yourself, wreck this car beyond repair or drive into a small child, and that, frankly, terrifies me to the core," Dad's fear manifested as a crazed military general, holding on for dear life in the passenger seat while barking orders at us as we drove around the city.

For all of you who have ever taught a teen to drive, I finally get it. I feel your pain.

Handing over the keys and sitting idly in the passenger seat with no emergency ejection seat or controls, I had to turn my trust over to the inexperienced driver. I had to have faith we wouldn't die.

It was a rocky start. Five minutes into the lesson, he drove up on a curb and nearly took out a fence.

I assured him when I was describing the "soft brake" trick, it will never apply if we're about to die.

"If we're going to crash, hit the brakes," I said, smiling gently, trying to suppress my father's voice in my head screaming, "Hit the brakes! Hit the brakes!"

He smiled back at me and said in the most polite, unphased voice ever, "Oh, OK."

He had faith in me I was giving him correct information. And I had to have faith in him he would heed my advice.

It occurred to me then how entirely out-of-control I was. But it also became easier the more we spoke and communicated.

I learned to trust him, and he learned to trust my instruction.

Earlier fears of him driving my car cooled to minor heart palpitations. And when the lesson ended, I realized how well he eventually did behind the wheel.

It was interesting to realize we could go from complete mistrust with one-another to total faith and security we were both going to be OK.

I started thinking about faith, and how teaching teen drivers is similar to having faith in God. You're the passenger, they have the wheel and you put your life and path in their hands. You can offer suggestions, and attempt to take over, but ultimately you're not in control. You have to have faith.

What's also similar is the more time you spend with the driver, the more comfortable you become being in the passenger seat. The more comfortable I am trusting the direction of my path, and the good intentions of the driver.

Isn't it interesting how easy it is to have faith in others to drive us, even the inexperienced ones, and yet so often we struggle with giving Jesus the wheel? I'd much rather have God driving me around than someone with no experience.

So anyway, I'll be continuing driving lessons with my new student the next two weeks, and I hope we both remember to keep the faith.

So if you see a little red car scooting erratically around town early in the morning, get out of our way. We need to make the light.

Jennifer Preyss is the faith editor for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535, jenniferpreyss.com, or on Twitter @jenniferpreyss.


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