Friday, January 11, 2013

Believer or Christian? A NASCAR Experience

I am a very fortunate man, in that I have a loving, nurturing wife who feeds my vices. My vices are, in no particular order: chocolate, hunting, fishing, motorcycles, and performance cars. She knows I'm hooked on all of them. She figures there are lots of worse things a man could be into, so she supports me in these good vices.

I drove this one. Had to. It had "43" on it!
So another birthday present my wife gave me several years ago was the NASCAR "Richard Petty Driving Experience." In a nutshell, it was lap time driving a NASCAR Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) car. I reported to Pikes Peak International Raceway. All participants were given a tour of the track, where instructors explained the markings and key points. Then there was classroom time, to teach what was needed to know about this event. Then we suited up in fire suits, helmets, gloves. When it was (finally!) time to drive, the instructor gave us one last detail: "Now you'll forget everything I've said. But remember this: Mash the gas and turn left!"

Out by the cars, we learned how to get in and out of a car with no doors. The driving instructions were simple. Two cars at a time would run the track, behind a pace car. Maintain six to eight car lengths behind the car ahead. If you drop back too far, the pace driver will figure you're not up to it, and slow down. If you get too close, the pace driver will figure you can't control the car at speed, and slow down. Keep the right following distance, and the pace driver will lead you up to the max speed for this event as set by NASCAR.

Strapped in. TIGHT!
Can't tell I'm lovin' it, can ya?
Just like in a regular NASCAR race, the drivers don't do ANYTHING but drive. I climbed into the car, and slid myself back into the seat. The pit crew leader reached in and buckled the 5-point harness. I thought I was back in the seat, until he pulled the straps and I felt myself pulled back tight. The pit boss then attached the steering wheel to the column, and locked it in place. He tested it to be sure it was solid. The pit boss asked if I was ready. I answered yes, then he reached in and hit the switch to start the engine.

The car's full-race clutch doesn't like slow speeds and gentle engagement. I forgot that, and the car bucked like a bronco when I started out. Once rolling, I saw how the car was set up for the track. The alignment seemed wrong at low speed, because the car wanted to pull left. I remembered they told us that up around 90 mph it would even out. And it did. As the laps went by, the speed went up. (I kept the correct distance behind the pace car, and thankfully the guy behind me also followed correctly.) These cars were not tuned back for inexperienced drivers, so there were over 800 very angry horses under the hood. Near the end of my run, at the event's top speed, I decided to unleash those horses for just a brief moment. I wanted to see what they felt like. On the back stretch, I "mashed the gas." Even at something ovar 140 mph, I was instantly slammed back into the seat as the car leapt forward. All I could say, then and now, was "WOW!" Looking back, I was surprised at how easily that car ran fast, took the corners... and especially at how comfortable I was.

Back in the pits, I watched one of the runs in sadness. There was a guy in the event who came in full of bluster and confidence. He knew he was a driver. He was "gonna tear up this track," and he knew it all already as we went through the training. He came off the track with a different attitude. Somewhere around 90 mph he was suddenly wracked with fear, and never pushed any faster. It was so bad, and so unfair to the second driver, that the officials called the pace car off the track.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved--and that by God. (Philippians 1:27-28)

A motorist "knows" he's a driver. He doesn't need any more training, because he knows it all already.
A driver isn't sure she's a driver. She gladly accepts training to learn new skills, or to sharpen existing ones.

A believer "knows" she is saved and has a mansion waiting in heaven.
A Christian is never really sure, but holds onto the hope that he has in Jesus Christ.

A motorist isn't afraid of anything, and thinks she can do anything and can drive successfully through any situation. She doesn't need any training. But she has limits that even she doesn't know about. Funny-- When she hits one of those limits, it's fear that backs her down.
A driver fears that he may have limits, but is determined to pass them. So he looks for chances to get training. When he faces fear, he lets his training take over. When he looks back, he's surprised to see that he surpassed his own expectations.

A believer is ready to go anywhere, do anything, for Jesus. That is, until the chance arises. Then he quickly shies away when face-to-face with a stranger, or refuses to move forward, even when a clear call is made.
A Christian may be more action, and less talk. Others are often surprised when she steps forward to go into the unknown, or when she opens her mouth to witness to someone who is frightening. Later, she looks back and praises God that He took her where she never expected to go.

Motorist? Or driver?

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