It’s a good thing that we don’t have to abandon our good intentions when we fail to live up to them.
As you all know, my family has given up our car for Lent. It has been a wonderful experience. I’ve even biked the full trailer uphill against the wind to the next city over so I could get produce at my favorite market. There have been some hitches, like the time my son forgot to take his sheet music for voice lessons to school with him. I knew he had forgotten, so I left home early, with his bike and music in the trailer, for the 3 mile ride to his voice teacher’s home. He wasn’t there. Instead of riding the bus there, he had panicked and come home. So he missed his lesson, learned that he must go in the future, even if he forgets something, and I got a nice 6 mile ride. (Note: this situation could have been avoided through the prudent use of cell phones, but our family doesn’t have any. My husband fears that prudent use would not last long.)
Our kids also missed out on an activity they wanted to do. It would have been a 20 minute car ride, but without the car, it would have taken an hour by public transit. I’m not sure how long bikes would have taken with the kids, but they weren’t game for riding up the long hill to the next city. I blocked off the time for travel, made arrangements for the youngest kid to be watched, and presented the options to the kids. In the end, they decided not to go. And honestly, they didn’t feel deprived: it was something they could live without.
But today, today I drove my car. My daughter called from school, crying about her hurt ankle. So I told her to take ibuprofen and ice it, and I picked her up at the end of school and took her to the doctors office. It was just a sprain, and I’m sure she would have been fine had I not taken her in for the checkup. But let me tell you why I did: when she was 3, she and her brother tried to decorate the Christmas tree by themselves. My husband and I were still in bed, drowsing our way through the early morning when she came in, crying that she was bleeding. I told her to snuggle up next to me and I’d take care of her when I was ready to wake up. After all, any scratch that even looked pink was “bleeding” and needed a band-aid.When I did wake up, I found blood all over my sheets. She had sat on a glass ornament and sliced the front of her leg open, and the skin split like a sausage casing. Laying on the leg was enough pressure to stop most of the bleeding, but it was a mess that needed stitches. I butterflied the cut and took her to the emergency room. And since then, I try to be better about assessing the children’s injuries and not assume that they are just wimpy little guys with no pain tolerance who cry wolf all the time.
So today I drove my car. My husband had carved out an exemption for medical emergencies, and although this wasn’t strictly urgent, I used it. But here’s the good thing: just because I drove my car once today, doesn’t mean my goal is shot. In everything that we do, we find ourselves confronted by challenges of circumstance or will. Sometimes we fall short of our ideals. But it does not make us hypocrites to continue to hold those ideals even when confronted with our own failure. It means we tried, and failed, but we can try again. This is the essence of the gospel. This is how we improve in anything, from how we treat the people around us to how we try to be responsible stewards of the earth and our possessions.
It was nice to ride in the car, the windows down, singing along to the Muppet soundtrack at the top of my lungs with my kids today. But honestly, it wasn’t nearly as nice as riding the bike with my family, the older two kids weaving back and forth reminding me of the chase scene from ET. It wasn’t as nice as walking through the dappled shade, holding a small, warm hand. It was good to drive today, to prove to myself that I’m not missing out on anything. And I have no plans to drive tomorrow.