When I was younger, whenever I was sick with a fever I would have the same nightmare. Two cars would be driving towards each other, then they would suddenly go up on their back wheels and keep driving towards each other. I would just be watching this scene replay over and over in my head, going "No, you can't do that!"
In the light of day once the fever was gone, I could laugh about it. But while I was sick, it was a truly terrifying nightmare! It haunted my childhood.
The reason I think this dream was scary is that it represented a complete lack of control. The cars were doing things that were impossible, and yet I could not stop them, no matter how hard I tried. And it just repeated over and over; I was a helpless spectator.
Even as an adult, whenever things feel like they are getting out of control in my waking life, I will have car dreams. Not the same one anymore, thankfully. These days I'll be driving and the brakes won't quite work, or I can't quite control the steering wheel, or I'm going just a little too fast but can't stop.
Its a common dream motif. And it's all about control.
No wonder as Christians we sometimes use the image of Jesus taking the drivers seat in the car that is our life. It represents giving over control of the direction and speed of our lives.
And yet, while we might say this is what we are doing, how many of us actually do give him the wheel and sit back?
Instead, it's more like an episode of Keeping Up Appearances. We sit in the passenger seat and make sure Jesus sees the potential problems and hazards.
"Watch out for that tree."
"It's on the other side of the road...."
We like to make sure God is aware of all the potential problems that could arise from his plan for us.
"You do know that it's pretty much impossible, right?"
"So was walking on water."
Now, signing up to follow God's plan for our lives is a good thing. The problem with the 'Jesus in the drivers seat' image is that we view Jesus driving as if it relegates us to a passive role. As if we are meant to just sit in the passenger seat and watch the scenery pass by. Or take a nap. Or, when we feel like things are going wrong, we consider ourselves carjacking victims.
So that's where this metaphor really falls down.
In fact, get rid of it all together. I've never liked cars anyway.
Pick your metaphor - but make it one where Jesus is walking beside you. Holding your hand even. Or running beside you in a race. I don't know, be riding on his shoulders if you want.
Just don't make it about 'control' because we most often associate that with who has the power. And it becomes a struggle, with us always trying to take it back.
But you know what, when we lay down ourselves for Jesus, he doesn't take it as an opportunity to wrestle our power from us. He already is all powerful - he doesn't need ours. Instead, he gives us back our new selves, and we walk with him.
We walk with him, like Adam and Eve in the garden before the fall. He is a father, a friend, a constant companion. We can completely put our faith and trust in him.
Have Jesus drive and you take a nap if that's what you need right now. But I'd rather get out of the back seat and walk with him in my life, and have his guidance and his hand to take.
I want to live my life with him, so I am not just waiting to reach a destination, but I actually live a changed life along the way.
How about you? How's your life right now? Do you feel like a passive passenger in your life? Or is it more like a runaway car?
Have you thought about this 'Jesus at the wheel' metaphor before? What metaphor would you use to better describe it?