One of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies involves two cars. One, shiny and red, says to the other, “ka-chow,” or something flashy. While the other, more subdued yet just as sharp shows him the breathtaking (and “ka-chow” inducing) view sitting below the well traversed highway.
In this Disney/Pixar movie Lightning McQueen had driven on the highway so often, never deviating his gaze away from the road to notice the vast scenery always surrounding him. He choose the next car’s taillights over the rolling hills and jutting landscape.
Bringing up familiar feelings among almost anyone in our society, this scene reminds me of situations I find myself in too often. When I am on the road my mind is focused only on the cars immediately around me and my ever-nearing destination. It’s as if my focused gaze will bring that “point B” a little closer to my “point A.” Anything that causes me delay is an unwanted distraction.
Except this morning as I left my house, slightly later than usual, for my daily thirty minute drive to work. Today I noticed the sun shining differently off the fields covered in ice, lacing everything with a spectacular glaze. And as I looked, I realized the world that I drive past every day – fields and trees and rolling hills and long plains – is a world full of life and beauty, though I rarely turn my head to take in this glorious “distraction.” My reaction was the same as Lightning McQueen: “ka-chow.”
This experience was abnormal for me. When I am in my car I am always looking forward trying to see where I am going (as if my fixed gaze could bring the distant destination any closer). And I fail to look left or right; I take constant note of where I am going but never take note of where I am at that moment. Instead of being aware of the “now” I am constantly pursuing the “next.”
And sadly, this driving routine is far too familiar with my daily life. I am always looking forward, planning the next thing, and trying to get “there” (wherever “there may be) as quickly as possible. I want to do this someday, go there next week, and be that when I grow up.
My world (and yours?) is constantly pulling me into my past or pushing me into my future. And rarely do I find moments to look around me, to be present, to see the sun glazing the icy landscape that I am constantly speeding past.
And this “what’s next” culture seeps into corners of my life as a student ministry pastor. My gaze is always forward, justified with the oh-so-holy question, “where is God leading me?” When really this is just another way to live in the “next” instead of the “now.”
Instead, my question should be “where do I see God here and now?” Rather than simply speeding past with a blind eye to the present moment, I need to stop and breathe, to be present, and to become aware of God in the moment that I am too quick to leave behind.
Because me, my life, and the ministry I lead are not just about the next thing; it is also about the thing now. God is in this moment, as I write (and you read) these words; God is in this place. Only too often we speed forward, fail to look to our left and our right, and don’t even notice.
Jim Kast-Keat is a writer, speaker, pastor, and pathalogical optimist. He endures winters in West Michigan where he directs the preteen ministry at Mars Hill Bible Church.
The fields he describes in this article can be seen near Holland, Michigan on the south side of the highway. For more check out www.jimkastkeat.com.