We have a new truck. Actually, it’s a ’93 vintage, Nissan pickup with a groovy navy paint job and the word ‘HUSTLER’ painted on the tailgate. Apparently the folks at Nissan were trying to evoke the success of the AMC Rambler, and some of the more indiscreet meanings of the verb, to hustle, were lost in translation.
Our wine-coloured Ford sedan broke down after getting us almost all the way home from Vernon this summer, so this new vehicle is a godsend. It was cheap, it runs well, and it’ll make our longer commutes less arduous, although the compact cockpit doesn’t quite make my 6’6″ husband very comfortable.
The most important detail about this truck of ours is that it has a standard transmission.
For most drivers, an adventure, and for some, old hat – but for me, the kind of gal that got her license by the skin of her teeth, and then went years without applying that knowledge on the road, the standard transmission is terrifying. Especially in Vancouver’s driving culture, where the cell phone trumps caution every time.
You see, the first question that I asked myself every time I got behind the wheel of our Ford was “What if somebody dies?” A dear friend of mine once let me drive her car from Abbotsford to Port Coquitlam, a route with two bridges, three separate highways, a ferry, and a whole lot of profanity. My friend, in her best Saskatchewan drawl, shrieked, “We are all going to die,” more than once on that particular journey.
But here I am, having mastered the jitters and the over-eager shoulder-checking, getting over the giddy urge to tell cross-town folks that I’m visiting that I DROVE and MADE IT ALL THE WAY BY MYSELF, perfecting my road rage and standard-issue condescension at the terrible parking skills of others, and now I have to learn how to drive a standard?!?!
Seems like a small complaint – but here’s the metaphorical payoff – just when I think I’ve learned something well, especially of the heart, I find myself back at the beginning, albeit via a different entrance.
And I chafe at this constant refinement. I’m an emotional hustler – I like to learn the hard lesson quickly and as painlessly as possible, and then move on. Take my attitude towards marriage, for example. I was kicking myself after the first three months for not knowing everything yet, not knowing my husband well enough, not knowing how to do this marriage thing to perfection. After all, three months is practically an entire semester, and then there’s the final exam, right? After that, you have a degree. A sillier example is grocery shopping – I often wish, as I traverse the aisles, that I could just buy everything needed once, and never have to go back to the store again.
I see this tendency of impatience with one’s own learning curve in my sweet, smart little nephew. We went for ice cream the other evening and I bought him a bowl, and myself a cone. Wrong.
As soon as we sat down, his tiny two year old hands were reaching for my giant cone, and shoving his bowl away. So I let him hold my ice-cream cone, and disaster ensued. His hands were so small and the cone so heavy that he lopped it on the counter, and then in an effort to regain his poise, smashed the top of the cone into his baseball cap brim. The simple fact was that the cone was too big for him – he had to work his way up to it. But he looked around the gelato shop, saw the grown-ups eating delicious cones with aplomb and ease, and stubbornly decided he had to learn how to do the same in one try. The poor little guy got so frustrated, he ended up having no ice cream at all, except for the gobs of it sticking to his raincoat and his favorite yellow hat. Tears and napkins, a distracting lollipop and a quick walk home was that story’s ending.
Life’s most profound lessons are like that, I think. We have to work our way up to them, and when we think we’ve got it down, another layer of knowing challenges us to move even further and deeper.
I have to remind myself of a process more profound, whether I’m in a panic about shifting gears, or devastated at the loss of a friendship that I thought I had mastered.
I have to look to that beautiful verse in the bible, found in the book of Philippians (a letter from Paul, a leader in the early church, to the congregation in Philipi):
“…being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion” (Philippians 1:3).
While I want to hustle along through the heart lessons, pass the course and shred the notes, God is interested in getting at my heart and soul through every angle, testing and retesting until the work is full and complete. He’s not content with ‘good enough’ or ‘that will do’ – rather, He lovingly wants perfection, drawing me patiently towards humble refinement, as a person, as a friend, as a wife, as a worshiper.
So I’m trying to downshift – into patience, into reverence, and into trust. Even in the minutiae of daily life. I will learn how to drive that darn Hustler, but in my heart, I want to become more of a rambler.