When the Miles Merge

mergeI reached a personal transportation milestone this week. While driving the regular route to take youngest to school, I surpassed the one million miles driven marker. I happen to be on Interstate 75 heading into Chattanooga. There were no ribbon cutting or fireworks to celebrate the moment. Only a request to drive faster so she would not be late to school. Which I followed with the suggestion that she does not take so long getting ready or even worse go to bed at an earlier time. The tracking of the miles began with a curiosity some time back, and I had calculated an estimate that the back to school season would likely be the marker.
After thirty-six and a half years of driving I became a millionaire.

Calculating for different reimbursement rates, different types of miles driven, I found a quarter of my miles were business, and ten percent were other allowable reimbursements. I might have traded those miles for about eighty-five thousand dollars over the years. I hope I turned in most of them. My current driving patterns are fairly representative of the ordinary way I usually drive. So my average annual driving has been about 27,398 miles per year, which works out to 75 miles each day.

That sounds like too much driving but when my one-way commute to work is six miles, the drive to my daughter’s school, Erlanger or Hamilton medical centers are each twenty miles. Those miles include driving vacations up and down the east coast, trips to and from college on many occasions, as well as exploring the open road and the blue highways of the south.

My vehicles instruments report that my average speed of driving for all types is 21.3 miles per hour. If I use that rate for the whole million miles, then I have been driving for 46,948 hours and thirty-six minutes, or nearly 2000 days. No wonder I’m so tired or am I prepared?

It’s a matter of perspective.

In the last 35.5 years of my driving life, from my learners permit through today, I have devoted 6.7% of my life to driving. Does that make me a good driver or simply an experienced driver? During that same time and miles using twelve cars, two speeding tickets, hitting five deer and numerous birds and no pedestrians. Only one was I the recipient of a head-on collision and only once watched the needle go past the numbers on my 1969 Impala. I don’t know if I’m a good driver, but they have never canceled my insurance and have always renewed my driver’s license.

Prepare and Tired of the Merge.

I bring the opportunity to merge my driving experience to the topic of the merge. Southern hospitality and assumptions of courteous driving might suggest that you prepare for “all lanes” to merge into one lane of traffic by moving over to the one full line as quickly as possible. Making the early merge appears to solve the issue of transition. But not all drivers follow this code of merging. There might be four available lanes for traffic to safely and legally maneuver, except for the one line that is solid with vehicles and is slowing, below the average rate of speed, for the interstate.

Then begins the open lanes of resentment for those who are not following the unwritten code of co-dependent thoughtfulness and assumed aggressive driving reprobates. When if fact the department of transportation has left lanes open for safe travel at posted full speeds until the point of the merge. Typically, this window of merging is denoted by a series of short or dotted lines, at mere feet and yards before the actual merge is required.

Approaching a point of conflict.

Here is one occasion where a million miles of driving might come in handy: A Merge. The task of a merge is to allow, at the designated point of collaboration, a safe and alert, process of give-and-take, to allow the most number of vehicles to share the same lane. This lane sharing saves millions of dollars of tax money for not adding a much-needed lane of roadway and drainage to help this crisis of aggravated sharing.

Learning to Successfully Merge is an important life skill.

Driving is an opportunity to practice the process. I offer: we best merge when we balance experience, reason and tradition, fine Methodist principles, in working together. Finding a way to merge and grow together, rather than stunted with road rage and residual rants, allows everyone to move forward. This forward progress can also hold onto the things that define our structure and opportunity for movement in the first place.

For example, it is following the structure and tradition of the impartial rules that allow rational judgments to be made based on the repetitive practice of experience on the faith journey we share. The experienced driver pays more attention to how she or he operates the vehicle they have control and responsibility of rather than managing how others are driving. Therefore, as we merge into a political season with debates, conventions, rallies, commercials and talking points we have some faithful choices:

Avoid the road and still complain about the traffic: Drivers who avoid the merge don’t enjoy the journey’s destination and yet complain about others who are driving. A significant reason for many troubles we face as a church and nation because we have checked out of the drivers seats.
Take the Wheel to teach a lesson: Drivers who take control of the flow of traffic because he or she feels they are justified by their discernment take the risk cause more accidents than preventing helpful progress. Passive-aggressive behaviors may look kind but covers a hidden rage.
Preventative Merging: I’m in control of the situation, so any problems are someone else’s cause or fault. I did my part when I thought it was appropriate, so I didn’t have to worry about being wrong. The important conversations are not the rehearsed scripts that negate the nuance of reason and experience. It is life at the point of a merger that can be a wreck or a smooth transition.
Close your eyes and just drive. This way of merging is blind and reckless. Other drivers must slow the flow of traffic to include the slow-poke and bring the entire system to their speed.
Grace: Giving without the certainty that the same gift will return to you. God so loved the world that he Merged Jesus, his own, to move into our lane and show how to grow forward into the world together. Grace allows us to maintain the highest speed making the same amount of room we need for those around us. Each of us is crazy drivers, some crazy fast, some crazy slow.

Each of us brings our experience, traditions and reason to the roadway each day. Don’t avoid the merger. It might feel like the place of conflict and control because that is just what it is. Lead with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and you will speed through every time. The journey is too important, see you “at the cross.”

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