Exploring the gospel principles of earth stewardship

Without a Car

It’s been a week and a half since we’ve driven our car. We’ve been able to do everything we normally do. I even figured out how to load my 13-year old’s bike into the bike trailer so that when I pick him up from his voice lessons, we can ride our bikes the 3 miles home together.

In past years, I’ve altered my diet for Lent. But this carlessness is a new experience. Instead of subsuming the cravings of my body, the ache of frustrated lazy habit, into a reminder of devotion, now all of my comings and goings are in the name of the Lord. I leave my house and I walk. I am out in the world, feeling the snow on my cheeks and the wind watering my eyes. I feel the sun warm my skin.

I am thankful to have a working, reliable car. And I remember the great exhilarating freedom, the heady rush of independence that filled my chest as a new driver. I love going on road trips, driving through the American west. For me, the Sonoran Desert will always sound like U2’s Joshua Tree.

But cars are also insulating. They are little shells of civilization that travel through the world. Within them, we see the desert through a window. Without, we are in the desert.

Cars carry us through our cities. We zip through neighborhoods, idle at intersections, curse at other faceless cars that hinder our progress, their drivers and passengers no longer recognized as fully deserving of human compassion as ourselves. Sometimes our little bubbles of civilization foster incivility.

Without the car, I walk through the city open and exposed. I have time to think, to meditate, to feel. Walking through my little city, I am alone in the wilderness one moment and greeting a neighbor the next. I have time to think both about Christ in his 40 days of fasting and walking in the wilderness and the community of Christ, the Zion that I am working to build with my neighbors of all faiths here. I’m not seeking freedom and independence. I’m grounding myself, rooting my life and my actions here in home.

This is my Lent. What is yours?

  • Beautiful and brilliant.  I miss the urban days of our past when we could walk almost anywhere.  One of the ironies of rural living is that we get clean air even as we are bound to our autos.

    • ReaderRachel says:

      Yeah, Matt, I grew up in a rural corner of East Texas. I don’t think this kind of fast would work very well there. A compromise would be to plan carefully enough that you  don’t do any of those quick little trips that add up. Only drive to work, or to the store once a week. And even if you can’t cut out driving, adding a walk every day through your subdivision, either by yourself or with your family, could be very rewarding. That daily walking through the same landscape can let you see the subtle changes like the rough crystallizing of plowed snowbanks into angular ice sculptures and the first green of bulbs pushing up through the ground before spring. 

  • Peter says:

    You set a very impressive example, Rachel, and you express it beautifully. The idea of giving up something for Lent is still novel for me, but I think I’m starting to catch the vision. My only sacrifice so far has been a minor dietary matter, (so feeble that it elicited the mockery of a colleague), but I aspire to something more substantial. 

    The next step for me will be car-related, although I’m in a protracted haggle with myself over the parameters. 

  • […] The following guest post was submitted by Provo bicycling mom Rachel Whipple, who participated in last night’s Ride of Silence in honor of Douglas Crow. She has also given up cars for lent. […]

  • […] of laziness and poor planning. That’s why I chose to give up my car for Lent. It has been a surprisingly pleasant experience.I have to plan my time a little more carefully to allow for walking or biking, but that’s good: […]

  • George says:

    In light of your them of reducing our impact, Rachel, I found this article very interesting: