When I was in high school and college, I drove really fast (did you know a 1983 Toyota Tercel shakes when you approach 80?). Over the years, I’d slowed down, but still cruised over the speed limit. But on July 2, 2007, I started driving the speed limit. It wasn’t a speeding ticket or an accident that changed my habit, but rather a conversation.
My family was driving home from vacation and stopped to pick up fireworks. My boys were five and eight, so we were just looking for smoke bombs and sparklers. One of my sons asked about the big fireworks. While we first talked about safety, the final response by my husband was, “Well the big ones aren’t really legal, but everybody does it, so the police don’t care.” He was absolutely right.
“Everybody does it.”
I have heard this phrase many times, usually referring to “white” lies and other socially accepted rule-breaking. Such as speeding. Anything within 10 miles of the speed limit is considered socially acceptable. But as I considered it in the context of what my children were hearing, I realized how many times they will hear the same phrase from their peers or others who try to influence them.
I began to ask myself, “Is it okay if ‘everyone’ does it or if authority doesn’t enforce it?”
Every person should place themselves under the authority of the government. There isn’t any authority unless it comes from God, and the authorities that are there have been put in place by God. – Romans 13:1 (CEB)
We are all under different types of authority. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, his lordship comes first. My response and submission to government or a boss and the mutuality of my relationships are informed and governed by my submission to Jesus Christ. At the same time, my submission to civil law, when just, reflects my submission to Christ.
If my words, actions, and lifestyle choices aren’t consistent with the faith I profess, what does this really say about me and the God I worship? Those who observe me shouldn’t have to ask, “What would Jesus do?” but should be able to see the love and truth of Jesus in me. I should be a living example—the hands, feet, and mouth—of Jesus.
This passage in Romans 13 has been used to justify many unjust laws and civil policies. Therefore, in some instances, civil disobedience is not only a proper but necessary response of our Christian faith. While I might not like the speed limit, it is just, so I concluded that it is a civil law that falls within the lordship of Jesus Christ.
Driving and speed limits are enforced by a human authority, but submission is consistent with biblical principles. There is mutual respect, a yielding of rights for the common good, and an attitude of abundance that comes with driving the speed limit. For me, driving the speed limit is a rejection that just because everyone else is doing it—or because I won’t get caught—it’s okay. It has become a tangible way to submit to the authority I’m under and be a witness to my children.
I’ve also learned some things about myself and faith in the years that I have been practicing the spiritual discipline of driving the speed limit.
It’s easy to go with the flow or daydream and find that I’m speeding again. I use my cruise control to help “set boundaries.” I don’t plan to speed but as my mind wanders or I’m having a conversation, I find that I use traffic to set my pace. Likewise, it’s easy to fall back into sin or areas that distract us from God. Unfortunately, there is no cruise control for life. Discipleship must be intentional and vigilant. Otherwise, the culture around us will set our pace.
At times, people will pass me by. When I first started to drive the speed limit, I sort of felt “less than.” Did people think I was a timid or incapable driver? Sometimes it felt like life was passing me by: Is there nowhere important I need to go? But over the years, I have gotten comfortable with this. People can judge me as they will, but I made, and continue to make, this choice of willful submission. I always used to be in a hurry; cutting my schedule so close everything had to go right for me to arrive on time. But I’ve learned to allow for more time. Driving in the slow lane has decreased my anxiety and made me a safer driver.
Sometimes I’m afraid. Have you driven in a Chicago work zone? In the best of times, the flow of traffic is usually 70-75 although the speed limit is 55. Except, of course, in a work zone, where it is 45 but people drive just as fast. I drive in the far-right lane, which is also one of the truck lanes. I often seemed to be taking my life into my own hands. I can become angry that the speed limit was set to 45 without any apparent enforcement. I often need to remind myself, “This is my choice.”
A few years after I began to drive the speed limit, I was travelling through one such work zone with my sons. As the trucks were passing us (after bearing down until the last minute and then not giving us much room as they passed), Younger asked from the back seat: “Are you driving the speed limit Mommy?” I answered, “Yes, I am.” He responded, “Good girl!” Tension continued, but fear was gone.
I’ve also found I’m not alone in the slow lane. I don’t discount that God is always with me. It’s an amazing thing that the Creator of Life is present in my everyday moments. Even more amazing is that Jesus Christ would want to take up residence in my heart, despite the darkness that still resides there. But I have realized there are others who have also stepped out of the fast lane. I’m not alone in trying to live my life based on an eternal timeline rather than the limited, temporary lifetime that the world wants me to believe in.
I will not judge you if you pass me on the highway. This is a choice I made for myself. Just like spiritual gifts, we all have different spiritual disciplines. There are some things we all do as believers: read the Bible, pray, worship, but there are others that are unique for God’s call on our lives in our times and places. The speed limit may not seem significant, but it is a daily submission I make to live counter-culturally. But in some way, God is calling us all to our own slow lane, a way we reject what everyone else is doing.
I encourage you to consider where God may be calling you to willingly submit to the authority you are under and how you can live differently (and slowly) in a world that values speed.