My great-uncle, Rudy Stovner, drove an ancient car. I doubt if you’ve ever heard of it. He drove a 1937 Hudson Terraplane. Anybody remember the Terraplane? It had been around many years, plugging away on the rural roads near Wahpeton, ND.
Now my great-uncle had a theory about that car. He said he knew - despite its birth in the 1930’s, the reason his car had made it through the World War II, the 50’s and well into the 1960’s. Uncle Rudy said that the secret of his Terraplane was that he never drove it in high gear. Second gear was as far as he would go. My dad and uncles thought it was a riot to ride in Uncle Rudy’s Terraplane, the engine screaming but the speed maxing out at 25 mph. Somehow other drivers did not think it quite so funny. Uncle Rudy said with a proud grin, “I am saving the brakes. If you don’t go in high gear, and don’t move too fast, when you come to a stop sign or a red light, you can let the engine slow you down.”
Now I know this picture may be murky for some of you. If you have not had the privilege of driving a manual transmission, you may miss the point. If you’ve been spoiled with an automatic transmission, you may not understand. But some of us learned to drive by shifting gears, three gears usually: low, second, and high. You sat at traffic lights, waiting impatiently, and revved up the engine, letting out the clutch, engaging that low gear, so that you could get off the dime and move. You couldn’t go very fast that way, but it got you out of the gate.
As soon as possible, you shifted up into second gear, which was for acceleration. Second gear took your two tons of steel and got it going faster and faster. Second gear provided a rush, because you heard the engine whining as it turned faster. In second gear there was a feeling that you were ready to get moving.
And then, when the time was just right, when you realized you were about up to traveling speed, you shifted into high gear, using the engine’s power to keep the car moving smoothly toward its goal. It was in high gear that you stayed when you let your car do what it was supposed to do. High gear was what a car was designed to do.
But Uncle Rudy’s ancient Terraplane never got out of second gear. He was saving the brakes. It moved - slowly. It never achieved the potential the engineers had designed. Cautious, safe, a barrel of laughs, but not much of a ride.
Could this also be a description of our journey with our God? We are moving a bit in first gear – we attend some activities. Or maybe we have shifted into second gear and we commit a bit of our time to serve and we give some of our money to serving others, but we don’t want to get carried away. Third gear, what we were truly designed for, would grasp that all my time and stuff is a gift from God. Third gear would be the freedom of firing on all cylinders, holding on loosely and expecting a wild ride of an adventure with God. It would be living by faith!
This past Sunday was Reformation Sunday and with that in mind I would encourage you to live spiritually in third gear. It would be a life of reformation, revival and renewal. God wants to do this continual to you and our congregation. Pop that clutch and let the wind blow through your hair as God takes you on the ride of your life!
Pastor Nick Mundis