Who’s driving the tractor anyways?
Let’s be honest; we know full well Who’s driving the tractor. As the story goes, a Georgia farmer asked his 5-year-old daughter for help. “It sure is tiresome plowing up all these fields by myself,” he lamented while swiping the sweat off his brow, hat in hand tucked to his side. “You suppose,” as he peered a good four feet below him, “anybody’ would be willing to give me a hand?” After about 10 seconds of looking this way and that, his little pig-tailed daughter kindly obliged by hopping into his lap. “Sure, I’ll help,” she said. And off they went.
Her tiny hands slipped and slivered all around on the wheel, eyes looking everywhere except out in front; if ever she deviated left, her daddy ever-so slightly nudged the steering wheel right. When she veered right, he’d ease it to the left. She smiled unawares as if to breathe in every sight, sound, and sheer pleasure of this life. And so they went.
Then without notice, but by no means unexpected by her father, she’d had enough: six to seven minutes tops at the helm was plenty enough for a hard day’s work. Shutting down the motor and leaving the gears in neutral, the daddy tenderly eased his little girl down onto the freshly tilled soil. But not before she burst forth this parting reply, “Daddy, what would you have done without my help?” And then off she went.
If we continue being honest, wouldn’t you agree we act the same way with God? We bebop around like we’re driving the whole show; we control the tractor. Whatever it is we put our hands to, all of this can only happen if we make it happen. We live as if everything depends upon us, while at the same time, we couch our arrogance by dressing it in lofty spiritual garb, proclaiming among ourselves, “God is in control.” But what we truly mean is, “God can’t do it without my help.” So much for taking Christ at His word in John 15:5: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
The only real difference between the 5-year-old daughter and us is this: we’re too stressed even to enjoy a single sight, sound, or sheer pleasure of this life because we’re in a mad dash to get to our destination. And once we arrive, we’re already fretting about what’s next, thereby losing out on the moment’s satisfaction. Busyness, it’s been said, is the antiseptic that deadens the pain of an empty life. It’s worth considering; could we, therefore, be empty?
Not that there’s anything new here. Immediately on the heels of Eden’s first taints by sin, Eve’s initial musings reveal a lot: “I have begotten a child with the help of the Lord.” Eve was pretty much-staking claim on creating Cain, her son, with passing mention of God pitching in.
As recently as the last few decades, similar weak theology crept into the Christian mainstream when “God is my co-pilot” adorned thousands of rear car-bumpers, nothing more than a revamped version of “God can’t do it without my help.” It’s impressive what silly bumper stickers can reveal about what a culture believes. Regardless, I never could resist yelling out the window as my car passed by, “if He’s your co-pilot, change seats!” That was one mantra not to be outdone by an equally ridiculous quote that says, “God helps those who help themselves.” Nowhere can that be found in Scripture. It’s anti-gospel and came off the lips of a famous Deist, Ben Franklin.
So if we are to continue with the analogy of riding on a tractor, “what’s our role” becomes a good question. The popular expression, “Let go and let God,” is certainly not the answer; human responsibility is never negated in God’s law. But we are called to enjoy the journey. And you know why? Because we’re able to spend precious time in the lap of our Father. We get imbibed by spending alone time with Him and His Spirit. As 1st John 2:28 says, “And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”
And although this isn’t easy to comprehend, but is entirely true the Lord often leads us to where we would not otherwise go: hurtful terrain, bleak landscapes, barren wildernesses. And unlike the daddy who eased the wheel right whenever his daughter veered left, the Good Shepherd sometimes lets His sheep wander, making His familiar voice calling us home that much sweeter.
It would be a travesty to live life as if we’d been driving the entire time, making ourselves entirely miserable in the process, and so we went, only to later discover God had guided and directed every step. But it doesn’t have to be that way, especially this December; it really doesn’t. That is, of course, if we’re still being honest.