My dad taught me how to drive. That’s because he drove everywhere we went; I don’t remember my mother ever sharing the driving, as she was too busy smoking her Kool cigarettes while we kids complained loudly about the fumes. I learned to drive by watching my dad, not necessarily by his specific teaching after I got my permit.
On one particular trip to visit my great aunt, Bessie Lee, I drove the interstate until it was time to exit to the more scenic roads to Abbeville, where she lived. Like my dad, I had pushed the speed limit and gone over it for most of the trip. He continuously warned me to slow down, but remember, my dad taught me how to drive.
I teasingly reminded him that I had extrasensory perception for the Highway Patrol and encouraged him to relax and let me do the driving. We arrived in Abbeville without incident.
Leaving Abbeville was a different story. Dad decided he would drive as we took back roads to Ware Shoals, where my maternal grandmother lived. My younger brother and I were in the back seat, Mom in the front still nursing those Kool cigarettes.
When you leave Abbeville and head to Ware Shoals, there is a long, downward hill where the speed limit is 30 mph. Ridiculous! Who can go down a steep hill at 30 mph?
Apparently, my dad could not. And he also could not get away with it. He did not have extrasensory perception for the Abbeville police. No sooner had he descended halfway than we heard the siren, my brother and I turning instantly to see what was happening, my dad turning red.
The officer approached and asked my dad to exit the car. He informed my dad he had been driving 40 mph in a 30 mph zone. As the officer spoke, he noticed my brother and me laughing in the back seat. Asking my dad why we were laughing, Martin had to explain that he had warned me a number of times on the trip to Abbeville to slow down. Obviously, he was chagrined.
That day, however, an officer of the law showed much grace. He said, “Mr. Cheatham, I think you are going to suffer enough, so I am going to give you a warning.” With that, the officer wrote up the warning, and my dad returned to the car. No words were spoken, but my brother and I continued to snicker as quietly as we could.
In 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, the apostle Paul admonishes the church members in Thessalonica, among other things, to “live in peace with one another,” “to encourage one another and to build one another up,” to “make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong” and to “always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.”
I knew better than to say anything to my father because he was caught speeding, but that was not because I knew the teachings of Paul. Today, as I reflect upon that moment in our lives, I admit that I still drive, at times, like Martin. I am a very impatient driver, especially on the interstates, as more and more drivers crowd the lanes, talking on their cellphones and paying no attention to traffic flow or what they might do to improve it.
I fuss at drivers, out loud. Thurston used to tell me I wasn’t going to change them, and I knew that, but I had to fuss anyway. When my pastor read the verses from 1 Thessalonians, I had just spent two hours on the interstate. That still, small voice yelled at me!
Slow down. Drive in peace. Encourage other drivers. Don’t pay back wrong for wrong. Strive to do what is good for all drivers.
Conviction is a powerful tool. Forgiveness is profound. Change, on the other hand, is a challenging endeavor. Dad, forgive me for laughing. I’m as guilty as you were.