Contradictions. Counterintuitive. These words described my wonderings as I tried to learn a new skill. It was a crazy thing. I was trying to learn how to back-up a trailer with a short tongue.
I had built the trailer from a kit so I could haul my eleven-foot inflatable fishing boat to favorite fishing spots. Backing it up never came to mind as a difficulty. Until I tried it. Embarrassed by the difficulty I had on my first attempt, I was convinced that everyone watching me try to back down the boat ramp at my favorite lake surely thought I was an incompetent idiot.
Then I discussed this with one of our sons-in-law. He affirmed that to back-up a trailer with a short tongue is a challenge. That was comforting, but I had to learn how to back-up my trailer.
There are videos on YouTube and elsewhere on how to master this talent. I watched several. One important approach was repeated more than once; I had to adopt that method. It was to steer from the bottom of the steering wheel, not the top. When backing up a trailer with a longer tongue, you can successfully steer from the top; simply turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction you want the trailer to turn. A snap. I tried that with my short tongue trailer and nearly jack-knifed the trailer numerous times.
I had to practice. One afternoon I hooked up the trailer and drove to the outer areas of the parking lot of a nearby Farm and Fleet. Again, I was convinced that the few people watching me trying to back-up that trailer were certainly wondering what I was doing, maybe even thinking about calling the police. I didn’t care. I had to master this. I lost count of the number of times I pulled forward and backed up that trailer. I talked to myself about that key point – “steer from the bottom of the steering wheel, not the top. Turn the same direction you want the trailer to turn.”
Slowly I began to get it. Doing the opposite thing of what I had learned about backing up trailers was the key. “Amazing,” I said to myself; steering from the bottom of the wheel, turning in the same direction I wanted the trailer to turn, made all the difference. It worked!
As I drove home from the Farm and Fleet parking lot, I once again discovered that God is active in every aspect of our lives. I’m reading James Bryan Smith’s book, The Magnificent Journey right now, and I was reminded again of this exciting reality when I read these words:
“But what happens if we understand grace to be God’s action in our lives? We then live each day, each moment, in the expectation that God will act. We open the possibility that every aspect of our life – from gardening to parenting to our vocation (may I add learning to back up a short-tongue trailer) – is an opportunity for God to interact with us.” (James Bryan Smith, The Magnificent Journey, IVP Books, 2018, page 31)
As I drove home, I thought of things Jesus said that are so counterintuitive. God blesses those who are humble. God blesses those who show mercy to others. Getting even? Jesus said, if someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Do to others what you would like them to do to you. Counterintuitive!
Jesus contradicted what we are commonly told will light up our lives and give us rest and peace. You know the often hollow promises of our culture. Consider Jesus’ contradictions.
>Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
>Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
>Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
Steer your life by the counterintuitive adventure of following Jesus, that frequently contradicts familiar advice. While learning to back up my short tongue trailer I learned that what may seem not to make sense, may steer you in the right direction.