Today in my quiet time an analogy came to me that I find helpful — so I'm passing it on in case you find it illuminating too.
I have never been quite sure what I can ask or hope for, in my prayers, in terms of resources and benefits. There is that strand of New Age thinking that says we deserve the good things in life; that we are part of this world and deserve its blessings. I see where they're coming from, but that doesn't really resonate with me. I cannot honestly say I feel I deserve anything whatsoever. Why would I in particular deserve my own bedroom in a centrally heated home in a beautiful town by the sea, while someone else gets a miserable rat-infested shack with no toilet, or buried under the rubble caused by a falling bomb? It doesn't make sense.
So I think of the blessings of my life as undeserved grace, because that's what they are. I am so grateful, and I take none of it for granted.
But then it's always been a puzzle to me what I can ask for, or work towards, or keep. I was chatting to my Lord about it this morning, and an analogy about driving came to me. It's a bit like the parable of the talents. In this analogy, the car stands for your given circumstances right now.
You have this car. Maybe you are a driver, maybe not, but God has given you this car. If you like, you can just sell it or give it away.You could take driving lessons so you get to benefit from it and use it to the fullest. Let's say you do. So now you have taken the trouble to learn how to drive it, and off you go.
The car comes with responsibilities — there are bills to pay, and maintenance requirements, and it's up to you to take care of those. You have to keep it clean and tidy as well; again, that's up to you.
What will you do with your car, and how will you use it? It can bless so many people beyond yourself.
For starters, when you are out driving you can behave kindly and considerately toward other road users. Don't blast your horn at someone who does something foolish — be understanding. Keep an eye out for animals or children or drunks wandering into the road. Don't park on the restricted areas by junctions where you'd impede visibility for other drivers. Stay inside the lines in a car park and leave space for other people to get in and out of their cars. Give the driver in front of you breathing room, don't sit on their tail. Use your indicator (turn signal) in good time. Where traffic is congested, let someone join the flow in front of you from a side road. Be aware. Be kind. Be respectful. Be tolerant. Be responsible.
And how about passengers? You might want to be careful who you invite into your car. If you are a woman, you might leave it to someone else to give a male stranger a lift. But you can greatly ease the burden of other people's lives if you give them a lift in the cold and rain, or take them to the grocery store so they don't have to struggle home on the bus with their shopping. Your car, though, will have room only for four or five passengers. You can't cram the entire walking world into your back seat; you only have room for a few, and that's okay. Just do what you can.
And having a car allows you to reach places you couldn't access on foot. You can get to the farmers' market or the artisan potter. It lets you support the work of independent family firms instead of being solely a customer of the big conglomerates. This will bless your local economy and support social resilience.
You can help people in emergencies or in trouble when you have a car. If you have an elderly, housebound relative, you can respond if they have a fall and need someone quickly, or visit them in the evening when the buses aren't running, or get their groceries for them, or take them to a hospital appointment.
Last but not least, your car can bring you a huge amount of fun. You can drive down to the beach or out into the countryside for a walk in the woodlands — and you can take a friend or a dog or a picnic. You can fill your car with friends and family and go to the theatre together. Or you can visit someone you love.
In case you are tempted to think, "Yes, but I am not a driver and don't have a car," well, this is an analogy. There's that theosophist terminology that refers to our bodies here on earth as "vehicles", and that's what I mean. That's the point of the analogy. That here we have both limitations and opportunities; we have resources which bring responsibilities and also blessing. We can do a lot with them, but we can't do everything. It is the gift of God's kindness to us; but what we make of that gift is very much up to us. It can just sit by the roadside and be used only for ourselves and driven very selfishly and thoughtlessly, or it can create an immense amount of cheerfulness and kindness, easing a lot of burdens and making all sorts of people feel looked after and loved. Life is both God's free gift and also up to us. It depends how we drive it, which is limited to some degree by what we are capable of, but is also a choice and is something we can always think about carefully and work on improving.