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Life lessons from parallel parking

Faith & Inspiration

I have been teaching my daughter parallel parking, a skill I happen to excel at. (As they used to say, “That and a dime will get you a cup of coffee.”)

I had failed my eldest son when he was 16 by not sharing my expertise in this area, and he predictably failed his first driver’s test. When I finally told him the secret—pulling up parallel to the car in front, slowly moving back, and at the critical instant, turning hard—he aced the exam.

There are things about parallel parking that can be taught and there are other things that must be felt. The latter are, of course, hard to communicate, as I am learning with my fourth prospective driver. What I intend to tell her next time we meet for practice is this: As you are in the act of sliding the car into a space between two other vehicles along a curb, there are a dozen minute second-by-second recalculations and readjustments to make.

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That is to say, if you find you have made your turn a fraction of a second later than the optimal moment, you must compensate by cutting harder. Also, if after you cut in, you go a little too deep before reversing your direction, you have to compensate by cutting harder, whereas if your initial cut was not too severe, your reversal will correspondingly be gentle.

I was thinking that life is like that—a matter of constant recalibrations. We start the day thinking it will go a certain way. We have plans. Almost invariably, the day throws up something unexpected. Then we have to make adjustments. It is important how we make those adjustments. We have to ask ourselves continuously throughout the day, “What does the Spirit want me to do now?” All we have is the moment, and as the lay of the land keeps changing before us, we are always dealing with a new set of factors, a brand new and unrepeatable constellation of considerations. We ask, “Considering the position I find myself in this moment, what is the best thing to do?”

Sometimes the game plan is complicated by an interruption of some kind. Sometimes it is complicated by our own sin. We have just messed up, and now the question is, “What is the best thing I can do now that I have just failed in this area, or done something unwise?”

Life, like parallel parking, is a skill that calls for mini-readjustments on an ongoing basis. And in all of these, the important thing—the only thing that matters—is to do what is right at that given moment and to trust God for the outcome. There is not a larger blueprint, only the present duty for the fix you find yourself in at present moment in time.

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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