Anticipation and trepidation function as accomplices and drive young men toward certain milestones while scaring the living hell out of them. These events vary from first kisses, breaking any number of laws (only the ones that are enjoyable to infract) and learning how to drive. Strong desires push us to step out from the experiential knowledge we’ve attained into a situation we’ve only known vicariously. Fear of messing it up, or misunderstanding consequences face us, warning us to proceed with caution. Horror stories of compatriots’ failures play over and over in our minds hopefully providing direction on what not to do. In spite of our fears, we tell ourselves it has to be done eventually and walk almost blindly into something new.

For me, this was driving. I was out at my uncle’s ranch with the keys to a Ford F150 jingling in my hand while my heart beat out of my chest. I had to learn how to drive at one point or another, what adult man doesn’t drive? How would such a man ever get a girlfriend or a job? He’d have to walk, ride the bus and depend on his parents and friends to get anywhere. The prospect  of learning how to maneuver a truck and gain access to this locomotion at twelve years old brought me great joy but at the same time, memories of my cousin’s death by the same make and model only a year ago haunted me. Dented fenders and bumpers warned me that apparently, this driving thing wasn’t so easy. People got into accidents and jacked up their cars or died all the time.

My cousin and I had to load a trailer with tree branches, old fence posts and other rubble that we planned to send up in the smoke of a giant bonfire at a neighbor’s property later in the week. For some reason, my cousin thought my first time driving would be best served in reverse. He expected me to back the truck up to the trailer so he could hitch it up. From there I’d drive it around the ranch while we piled crap on it from the various locations around the acreage that rubage had somehow manifested. Bobby and I walked from the house to the shop where the truck lived during the night. We walked in through the big, open door, strolled over to the gray and blue pickup and parted, each to his side. I lifted the driver’s side handle handle, swung the door open and hoisted myself into the cab and onto the gray vinyl bench seat. I pushed the key into the ignition and held my breath as I turned it toward me.

The engine turned and immediately began to hum and nothing exploded. My heart threw a tantrum behind ribs and skin and my palms both began to sweat. I grabbed the shifter and pulled back until it landed in reverse and turned to look over my right shoulder. I let my foot off the brake so slowly that Bobby told me to hurry up. We then rolled out of the shop and were on our way to the trailer about thirty yards away.

My cousin directed me to drive past it, then to stop so he could get out and direct me as I backed up so the hitch would be in the right place. I didn’t know why he was having an amateur do this, it seemed like an operation that needed precision. I had never been precise with anything at all before. I watched in the mirror as my cousin ran around behind the Ford and began waving me back. he pointed to the left, so I turned the wheel to adjust my direction while I drew near to my destination. I didn’t blink. I was afraid to. I’m pretty sure I held my breath for fear of messing something up. My cousin kept swinging his arms in toward himself as he yelled, “Keep on comin’ Jake!” when out of nowhere, he put his hands up in a gesture to stop.

I looked down at the pedals I hadn’t used very much and in a panic, realized I didn’t remember which did what. I knew I had to stomp on one of them right now to kill the reverse motion of the vehicle, so I stomped on the pedal on the right. I pushed it to the floor and looked forward at the dashboard so I could change gears and park but instead of stopping, I heard tires spinning on gravel and felt a jerk backward as the truck rammed into the trailer then died. I heard swearing then crying. I pushed the the large, heavy door open and threw myself out looking for Bobby. He was on the ground, holding his bloody leg.

★                              ★                             ★

Jesus experienced some pressure to perform miracles in John 7. “Brethren” pushed Him to perform marvels in Judea to prove His public worth. They reasoned that he had to show Himself and His miracles to the people who followed Him. They explained to Jesus that “Nobody who wants to be a public figure works in secret.”

It seems that regardless of when, Jesus had to perform miracles. It was a part of who He was as a Man and is still true of Him today. I wonder if He experienced the same strong desire that most other people feel when they long to embark on some new adventure. I doubt he experienced any trepidation because Jesus had this quality where He just couldn’t mess things up. Did He feel any pressure from these people who tried to provoke Him, or did He see right to their unbelief and understand what was going on?

How often to we push ourselves and our peers to step out before their time? It seems that in order to believe in each other or to assuage the anticipation and desire to accomplish something we forgo the necessary preparation and attention to timing and make a mistake. I don’t imagine that Jesus stepping out “too early” could have caused much harm, the great thing about Him is that He’s perfect and doesn’t make mistakes. The rest of us get caught up in the anticipation and excitement, the yearning for something more and neglect even the minor education that was necessary for foundational knowledge to support success which leaves us in ridiculous situations where we’re way over our heads.

Maybe we should slow down so we can succeed.

Bobby lived. The bumper broke his leg and the bleeding really was minor in comparison to how dramatic it looked. He spent a few hours in the emergency room then several weeks in a cast before his leg was completely healed. He still has a nasty scar and complains that it hurts when it rains.