Foot Off the Brake! Hands Off the Wheel!

September 20, 2022 • Barbara Kennedy

I am going to confess something here that none of my friends know about me. I have a car wash phobia. I know- how crazy is it for an adult, life-time car owner to be afraid of going to the car wash? For many years, I managed to avoid the whole issue. My husband loved keeping the cars sparkling. My daughter was always ready to give me a hand. My son-in-law too volunteered. When my husband passed away though, I had to face the fact that this is just one of those tasks I could no longer pass off to somebody else. One gray winter day, I looked at my white car that was appearing pretty grimy and imagined somebody printing “wash me” with their finger on the back. Immediately I headed off to the carwash. As I sat in my car at the entrance to the building, an attendant barked at me, “Foot off the brake! Hands off the wheel!” I didn’t remember that from previous visits but I paid attention. While my car was being pulled through the dark tunnel of flapping strips and sprays of water, I began to think about what that employee had said. It hit me that what scared me about the car wash was my lack of control. He must had read my mind and knew I was itching to at least prepare to steer and brake. I hated the idea though, that if I did that, even the slightest little bit, it could cause damage to my car and even affect those around me so I kept my hands and feet in place. Giving up control is a powerful thing and I do not always manage it well. I knew those Crew people had a reliable system in place but still, trusting was hard for me.

As I drove home in my newly clean car, I thought about how faith is so much like the car wash. Just as I had to trust the Crew people to keep my car in place on the rails and not to send me headlong into another vehicle, I have to trust in God’s wisdom to help me when I feel that I am going off the rails. I would say that though I do have a strong faith, when problems arise, I usually feel that I have to fix them myself. Of course, I pray too but I think I rely more on my own powers. Sometimes this causes me to miss answers God is trying to provide and I end up with a lot of anxiety. Adam Hamilton in his book Unafraid talks about how to find a balance between being proactive in difficult times and still trusting in God. He writes that you take the measures you can to deal with your problems. For instance, if you are sick, instead of worrying constantly, go to the doctor, have the tests you may need, follow the treatment plan but trust that God will guide you and be with you whatever the outcome. Then you LET GO. This philosophy has been a great comfort to me as life gets in the way of my life, as I often think of it. I am working on turning over problems to God once I have done whatever I can, but this is not easy.

Control is the number one safety measure for us all. Many of us feel more secure when we are the one at the wheel of the car. Fear of flying is often caused because passengers have no control over the plane and must put their trust in a pilot they cannot even see. We all want to put on the brake when life seems to be moving too fast but, we cannot steer or hit the brake on a plane. Faith is all we have in that situation. When I think about it, there is something very ironic about trusting in the unseen in a plane or a car wash yet not being willing to turn our worries over to God who we know loves us and has promised to take care of us.

I still struggle with control today, but I understand it better since my wake-up call at the car wash. I am always going to have some white-knuckle moments in life. I will never fully leave worry behind, but I am making progress. When life gets tense, I remind myself, “Foot off the brake! Hands off the wheel!” May this work for all of you too.

Blessings on you all

Barbara Kennedy