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?