Rector's Ramblings - October 5, 2023
Last month I replaced some portions of Donna’s front suspension after the original parts began to fail. In the process of making those repairs, I damaged one of the fragile speed sensors. I suspected I did it as soon as it happened. Once the car was reassembled, there were immediately a series of warning indicators to let me know it was unhappy. That little speed sensor has an outsized job on a modern car. Those sensors are an electronic “eye” of sorts that are able to measure the rotation of your car’s wheels, telling the car’s computer if one of them is not spinning at the same rate as others. It plugs into the wheel hub, and the other end connects to the car’s ABS computer.
Without a properly functioning sensor there was no cruise control, lane departure assistance, anti-lock brakes, traction control, or emergency braking assistance, all of which require working speed sensors. Every single one of those features has its own warning indicator on the dash and a written safety warning on the information screen suggesting you go immediately to your dealer for service. The car wasn’t really dangerous to drive in that condition. It was as safe as driving cars when we were teenagers before most of those technologies existed. It just meant we had to remember that we couldn’t rely on certain technologies to make up for lack of attention or planning behind the wheel.
All those safety features are great when they work. They have saved lives, which is why they are increasingly standard on new cars. Nonetheless, it is still possible to drive without them, as we proved when it took me several weeks to make the final repair between hurricanes, covid, and a busy schedule. It’s fixed now, and everything is back the way it should be. I feel better that all the things are working as intended. There was always the unknown behind the wheel, which could have left us needing one of those features. Thankfully, it’s a non-issue now.
At times, it seems like a lot of modern life is designed to eliminate risk and danger in ways we never imagined when we were younger. I’ve heard plenty of laments about kids who don’t get to have outdoor adventures “the way we did it in my day!” Or the summertime experience of mom kicking you out of the house to go outside and play, and not expecting you to get home until the streetlights came one…and without cell phones and GPS trackers, no less! From bike helmets to car seats, we do raise our kids differently. It’s not just the kids, either. At the other end of the spectrum, we take help from things like shingles vaccines and the fall sensor setting on our iPhones. Pretty soon we’ll see the air bag vests that can prevent a broken hip when someone falls. They are coming. We don’t raise ‘em like we used to, and we don’t age like we used to, either.
The skeptics will say we’re all just too afraid these days we should all just lighten up. “Triglycerides, schmyglycerides, pass the bacon!” Others might admit that since we know better, we can do better. Why live with preventable injuries, illness, or death if we can avoid them, right? Most of us are somewhere in between, picking and choosing the level of mitigation we build into our lives depending on our own preferences and inclinations. We must choose when we’ll go without some support available system or technology, aware of the risks, or not.
As I think about this in terms of our faith life, I see some parallels, even if it’s not an even comparison. Instead of new insights and technology that we choose to do without, I see the opposite on display with lives of faith. We know from centuries of experience that a connection to the Holy improves life tremendously. It won’t necessarily prevent car accidents or illness, yet a regular practice of encountering God makes a huge difference. We’ve all seen or at least heard of the studies that have proven that prayer improves recovery time from illness, right? Going through life without a regular prayer life or sacramental practice can be like walking a tight rope without a net. You’ll probably be fine, and if all goes well you won’t need the net. If only for purely selfish reasons, though, why wouldn’t you want to have the net there, just in case?
Our faith isn’t about risk mitigation, any more than we think it’s ecclesial fire insurance. Instead, our faith life is about the richness and the fullness that comes with experiencing the holy presence of God, affirmation of our purposes in life, and assurance of the grace and love that frees us from fear. A religiously grounded life is not intended to box us in or manipulate our emotions and behaviors, it is all about seeing beyond the things just in front of our windshields. It’s about a bit of perspective, courage, and hope when the warning lights on our dashboard start flashing. Your doctor will tell you lose weight and eat better, or else suffer the consequences; the car will beep at you, and the police officer will tell you to wear your seatbelt, or else suffer the consequences. Your priest doesn’t have any particular consequences to scare you with. We don’t preach a fear-based gospel, but understand our response to God as gratitude for God’s care for us.
I am not going to say, “Go to church, or else!” I’m just going to invite you to keep coming to church. I’m not going to say, “pray, or suffer the consequences!” I’m just going to help provide opportunities for prayer and going deeper. I can’t even promise you that by doing those things that you won’t face less illness, grief, loss, or dangers untold. But I can assure you that you’ll find healing, wholeness, abundance, and freedom from fear. As for saving lives? Salvation is at the heart of the whole endeavor!
All those little safety features running in the background going down the road don’t prevent all accidents, but they prevent some, and minimize others. That’s more than enough for me.
Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and
prayers, and dispose the way of your servants towards the
attainment of everlasting salvation; that, among all the
changes and chances of this mortal life, they may ever be
defended by your gracious and ready help; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.
Photo Credits: Dashboard via Dreamstime.com subscription; Kids playing is in the Public Domain