This past week, I faced taking a driving exam. I can’t remember the last time I took a test that really counted, the kind that affects your future. It was probably 25 years ago when I applied for a job as a copyeditor. I failed, but all’s well that ends well. I became an acquisitions editor instead, a job for which I was much better suited.
But last week the stakes were higher because if I failed, I faced the prospect of not being able to drive in this country. It wasn’t like I could go out and find another country to drive in. Of course I’ve been driving a long time. Piece of cake, you might think. Not really.
First, there was the challenge of answering 40 tricky questions on a very different driving code. Then, the driving part was held in a small parking lot that looked like an obstacle course where I had to execute maneuvers like parallel parking into a tiny space. But what really made me blanch was taking the test in French. It’s true that I’m a Francophile at heart, but unfortunately love of French and fluency in French are not the same thing. In my dreams, I speak like a Parisienne, but when I wake up I hover somewhere around the intermediate level. I make a mistake as frequently as you see someone committing a driving infraction here.** I didn’t know the words for clutch, merge, marking, and road shoulder, to name a few.**
So I experienced a certain anxiety whenever I thought about taking the test. I experienced even greater anxiety at the prospect that I might fail.
Then I remembered my recent post about God’s label for me, beloved.** This became an important touchstone for me in the days leading up to the test. Every time I considered the possibility of a negative outcome, I countered it with “Yes, but no matter what happens, I will remain God’s beloved. I may fail, but that won’t change what God thinks of me.”
I also began reading Henri Nouwen’s gem of a book, Life of the Beloved. In it, he details God’s view of me:
“I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are Mine and I am yours. You are My beloved, on you My favor rests. I have molded you in the depth of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb. I have carved you in the palms of My hands and hidden you in the shadow of My embrace.
I look at you with infinite tenderness, and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst. I will not hide My face from you. You know Me as your own as I know you as My own. You belong to Me.”
I was amazed how powerful these reminders were for me. The growing balloon of anxiety kept getting punctured and I experienced something else Nouwen wrote:
“Becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our Belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say or do…As long as ‘being the Beloved’ is little more than a beautiful thought or a lofty idea that hangs above my life to keep me from becoming depressed, nothing really changes.
What is required is to become the Beloved in the commonplaces of my daily existence and bit, by bit, to close the gap that exists between what I know myself to be and the countless specific realities of everyday life. Becoming the Beloved is pulling the truth revealed to me from above down into the ordinariness of what I am, in fact, thinking of, talking about and doing from hour to hour.”
How true this is. I’m beloved no matter what happens, regardless whether I
pass or fail,
win or lose,
miss the train or catch it,
get a clean bill of health or discover I am sick,
find myself approved by the world or rejected by it,
speak a foreign language like a five-year old or like a native.
What challenges will you be facing in the coming weeks? What voice will you tune into?
Will you listen to the voices that shout, “you are no good, you are ugly, you are worthless; you are despicable, you are nobody—unless you can demonstrate the opposite”?
Or to the voice that says,
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost…
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare. Isaiah 55:1-3
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35
**Links and Notes
** Here’s a question that isn’t on the driving test:
How many driving infractions do you see here every minute?
d] seven if there is no police around
Correct answer [on the exam there is often more than one right answer]: b and d
**French driving vocabularly:
clutch = l’embrayage
gear = le levier de vitesse
merge = se rabattre
marking = jalonnement
shoulder = l’accotement
P.S. I passed the test–more about that in future posts.