It dawned on me the other day that I am a “backseat driver.”
I am the kind who doesn’t mind (and even prefers) that the driver is the one in control of the car. But even as the person not behind the wheel, I sometimes find it hard to forsake driver-like vigilance. I like to see what’s coming.
There are two kinds of this kind of backseat driver. Both watch out for what goes on around the car. But one is compelled to warn the driver about what he or she sees coming, and the other isn’t. I have been both.
The one who warns the driver doesn’t want to control the car. But he or she also doesn’t trust the actual driver — not wholly, anyway. He or she may want to trust (because goodness knows it is a relief to relax, which is a passenger’s privilege). But he or she may not trust because of a bad past experience, or narcissism (“I can see better than you can [because I am better than you are]!”), or because his or her particular driver isn’t a good one. This kind of backseat driver is also annoying, frankly. No human wants to be this person’s driver. And most drivers take this person’s commentary personally, unless the driver knows the root of this person’s distrust and is able to empathize with him or her.
The backseat driver who isn’t compelled to warn the actual driver also doesn’t wholly trust the driver (if he or she did, he or she would not, in fact, be a backseat driver). This kind definitely wants to trust the driver. This kind also would like to cash in on his or her right to revel in the relief that comes with knowing you are in good hands. So while his or her driver-like vigilance wavers — sometimes he or she trusts, other times he or she doesn’t — this kind remembers to reflect on some things.
Like the fact that as a passenger, whether you do or don’t trust the driver, you still are going to end up where ever the driver takes you.
Or the fact that as a passenger, it is not your responsibility to tell a good driver what to do.
Or the fact that (ideally), you wouldn’t be in this car with this driver if you didn’t think this driver was good.
Or the fact that from where we sit, we can’t always see as much as the driver sees, or ever see it from the same perspective.
Or the fact that we really are free to relax while the driver takes care of the driving.
And so quietly, while this second kind of backseat driver pays attention but also reflects on the above, he or she practices trust. And at red lights and stop signs, he or she reflects on the parts of the ride that are behind them. And in retrospect, it is easier to see that, “I can trust this driver. And I do.”
The other day, it also dawned on me that this — how good at being passengers we are — might be a metaphor.
What if life is the ride?
What if God is the driver?