(a Steve Orr scripture reflection)
My mother taught me to drive because my father couldn’t. It’s not that he lacked the skills or the time. In fact, he had insisted he be the one to teach me. But, as anyone who has ever taught someone to drive can attest, the driving instructor must remain calm—something Dad just could not do with me at the wheel.
So, when the incident occurred, it was Mama in the passenger seat. My 16th birthday, the earliest day I could take my driving test, was rapidly approaching.
After taking me out to drive a few country roads—just to be sure I could keep the car between the ditches—Mama decided I was ready for town streets. I clearly recall driving on Ninth Street toward the traffic light at the intersection with Kentucky Avenue.
As we approached the traffic signal on Ninth, it turned red. So, of course, I brought the car to a halt. I was feeling pretty good about it all, that being my first time to stop at a traffic signal. And then, the odd thing: Mama looked over and said, "When the light turns green, don't go. Wait until I tell you."
I remember being puzzled. I had read my driver's handbook. I knew we were supposed to stop on red and go on green. In fact, not only was it expected, it was my right. When the light was green, I had the right of way.
But, because Mama said so, when that light turned green, I just sat there—even though the driver behind me honked his horn.
Then a car ran that red light.
Fast and furious, that car cut straight through the space we would have occupied. If I had asserted my rights and driven forward as soon as I had the green light, we would have been T-boned from the right.
I learned a life lesson that day.
I call it "jumping the green." That’s my phrase for those actions we take simply because we can. They are allowed, so we do them. But, as was so stunningly demonstrated to me that day late in my 15th year, they may not always be wise.
As life moves around us, often fast and sometimes furious, contemplating this week’s Corinthians passage might be useful. Yes, we believers have incredible freedom, but we don’t have to always exercise that freedom. Something we could do might be technically legal, but not helpful, wise, or spiritually appropriate.
“Jumping the green” may not be best.