THE BLOG
04/12/2013 01:31 pm ET Updated Jun 12, 2013

The Spiritual Lesson in Renewing a Driver's License

My California Driver License was expiring shortly, so it needed to be renewed. In my case, this required my successly passing a DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) test and a reading test. Instantly the California Driver Handbook became my "must" reading. It required discipline and some hard work. At times I felt a bit of a fool. I've earned graduate degrees, yet seemed to be back in kindergarten again. Past academic achievement did not seem useful here. Could I pass this one?

I plunged into my new and demanding task of mastering my upcoming scheduled exam. I encountered quite a list of relevant items to deal with. I identified a list of "Warning Signs." These ranged from "Merging Traffic" and "Slippering when Wet" to "Divided Highway," Lane Ends" and "Yield Ahead."

Then I segued to "Choosing a Lane," "Changing Lanes" and "Passing Lanes." OK, I ploughed ahead. Frankly, this wasn't necessarily as interesting as the newest HBO show. But it was necessary. Soon my awareness shifted when I realized the Driver Handbook was making a serious attempt to stresswhat really mattered instead of wilfully engaging in minutiae. It dawned on me that the test was designed to educate me in terms of actual priorities instead of engaging me in gamesmanship.

So the test was designed to be a friend, not an enemy. It was a teaching device instead of an Olympics marathon. This grew more and more interesting as the handbook thrust me into actual situations that forced me to struggle with meanings. Here's an example. The handbook reads: "If you start a skid, ease off the gas pedal, stop breaking, and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid."

Wow! This brought into the blazing sunshine my darkest fears. Frankly, my most basic survival skills would thrust me into braking as if my life depended on it. Then, turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid? No way, Jose. On the other hand, I had to pass this crazy exam or give up driving! I was beginning to learn a significant spiritual lesson here. I buckled down. Got to work harder. Surrendered old suppositions. Realized I was engaged in basic life lessons than simply a driver's license.

The test required me to actually place myself in traffic situations and deal with it. I learned that at 55 mph, it takes 400 feet to react and bring a vehicle to a complete stop. At 35 mph, it takes 210 feet. And I learned that in the city, 10-15 seconds is about one block. On the highway, this is a quarter of a mile. Deeper than such statistics, though, was my growing awareness that the driver test was turning into a spiritual exercise. We're in our cars for seemingly forever -- or at least long, long stretches.

People are in the cars. These people are thinking, observing, dealing with every kind of human problem, feeling -- and often praying. There is often a kind of intimacy or relationship that simply occurs. At its worst is tailgating. At its best is courtesy, awareness of the other, in a beneficial way.

Don't forget the cars themselves themselves. Sometimes they almost overwhelm the picture, don't they? They have drivers too.