Bad Habits

I drove home last week. A few weeks ago, my dad had a heart attack. He survived, but he’s still recovering. My mum had a ticket to go to a Christian women’s conference in Leeds with my sister, so I offered to stay with my dad while she was away.

Whilst I was driving, I was looking at other drivers who overtook me, or I overtook. I noticed something – I was driving along with my hands in the 10 to 2 position that my driving instructor had hammered into me about 10 years ago, but most other people weren’t. So I started counting. Sampling approximately 50 drivers on the M5 only 1 in 5 drive with that hand position on the steering wheel. 20% of people do what they were taught, 80% of people know what is right, but choose to do something else. It got me thinking.

Why should we drive with our hands in that position? My driving instructor told me it’s because you have more control of the steering wheel – and it’s natural to place your hands in-line with your shoulders. In this position, you can turn the wheel easily and you can use the indicator and the lights if you need to. Everything is in reaching distance, and it’s natural. He also told me if you get into an emergency – like a tyre blows out on the motorway – you will still have control of your vehicle, or the best control you’re going to get!

Those were enough reasons for me not to think twice about hand positions on the wheel.

But he also said, everyone picks up bad habits. Once you’ve been driving for a while, you’ll pick up your own. We’ve all been aggravated at other drivers who “forget” to use their indicators. Or we’ve skipped gears as we speed up or slow down a little faster than perhaps we should. I’m sure (if you’ve been driving for a while) you can think of some of your bad habits.

I’m going to switch the scenario completely now.

I used to ride horses when I was a kid. I had my own pony, I entered gymkhanas – I had rosettes (though I’m pretty sure I never actually placed, it was just a ‘well done for trying’ kind of a deal), and I loved going out hacking with my pony. It was great, I have super fond memories of me in my equestrian bubble as a kid.

I decided a few years ago, that I’d like to take up riding again. I was super shocked to find the price tag, but decided I’d rather give up a couple of nights out as a student and give riding another go. So I booked a series of lessons. I thought riding a horse might be a bit like riding a bike. I got up on this giant horse and felt memories wash back over me. Although it had been more than 10 years since I’d last got in the stirrups, it felt familiar at least.

I was asked to show the instructor how I could trot, switch strides and canter. Turns out I couldn’t remember how to do any of the above. The instructor berated me for my hand position, how I was sat… everything. You see, I stopped having lessons shortly after I got my pony. Everything I learnt fell apart as I picked up bad habits and had no one to correct me.

But the instructor wasn’t about to let me get away with it. Over a few lessons, I started to relearn the basics. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to keep up the lessons.

Thing is – there’s something really promising about all of this. As Christians we slip into bad habits. We’re humans – between driving cars and riding horses, there’s a wealth of different examples I could find where we slip into bad habits. But it’s OK, because like my riding instructor, God is patient (actually, he’s much more patient than she was… she was mean) and he is ready to wait a lifetime (and then some) for us to fix our bad habits. Like my driving instructor, he’s ready to teach us the right way, we just need to listen.

It’s never too late. So if you haven’t picked up your bible for a week, or a month, or a year… or never… It’s not too late. God is waiting for you, and he’s not angry, he just misses you. If you haven’t prayed for a while, no amount of time is too long to do it again. We all fall off the wagon every now and then. God is reaching out to help you back on, all it takes is for you to reach back. If you need a place to start, try Luke chapter 15 verses 11-32.


[updated on 11/06/16 to add categories and tags]

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