In 1984, rocker Sammy Hagar had a hit song with “I Can’t Drive 55,” a classic rock radio anthem to the age of lowering the speed limit on our nation’s highways. The song’s popularity was helped along by the 1989 hit film Back To The Future, with Michael J. Fox. The lyrics to the chorus of his song are:
“Go on and write me up for 125
Post my face, wanted dead or alive
Take my license n’ all that jive
I can’t drive 55!”
Of course, now, speed limits across the country have been upped to 65MPH in most states I’ve travelled through. Whether or not that makes Mr. Hagar any happier, who knows?
My mom was actually pulled over in our fair city of Harrisburg sometime during the reign of Hagar’s song for driving above the posted 35 MPH speed limit. To this day she says that song is all she could hear in her head as the policeman said “License and registration, Ma’am.” I’m still not sure whether it was getting stopped, or the cop’s use of “Ma’am” that ticked her off more.
I think the general idea of “speed'”can get in the way of trusting God sometimes. In our society, our culture, we want more, and we want it faster.
This past Tuesday I drove my parents to Sunbury, PA, a little over an hour’s drive north of Harrisburg, to remove the Christmas wreaths from family grave sites and replace them with spring blooms of daffodils. Although it’s already March, it had snowed quite a bit, and the wreaths that we were replacing looked more in season than the daffodils that dad plunged into the ground at the grave markers. Despite the fact that spring is less than two weeks away, it seemed as if we were rushing things. And it made me think again on my sometimes desperate pleas to God to give me those quick answers I so wish for.
On the way home from the cemetary I set my cruise control, just enough above the speed limit to feel comfortable that I wouldn’t be pulled over, that I was within acceptable limits. But as we drove over the last mountain pass which rushed over a sharp bend in the road, the cruise control maintained speed, too fast for the turn I needed to take. As we veered to the top to begin our descent with the rate of our acceleration remaining constant and tossing my dad across the back seat as I switched off the cruise, it was obvious that my need for speed was not the wisest choice. As it happens so often in life, I was not paying attention to what was going on around me (sorry mom and dad!).
It’s the same as we enter into this holy period of Lent. Again I’ll mention the idea that Lent offers us the opportunity to give up something we value or crave for the noble idea of making a sacrifice to honor God. But it’s a known fact that most of us, in trying to keep that commitment, fall short of the goal. Only a couple days into the Lenten season, many of us will be admitting that we just weren’t strong enough or observant enough in sticking with the program. We just can’t drive 55.
I need to convince myself that God sees this and doesn’t judge us unfairly. Rather, he gives us another chance. And another. And another. In his mercy there are no traffic violations, no tickets. Just a request to buckle up, and take things slowly and pay attention to what we can discover on our journey.