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Full and Complete Stop

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Full and Complete Stop

Tom Elenbaas

A few weeks ago, I was driving with some friends of mine. I mentioned to them that my wife says it’s really hard to be a passenger while I’m driving. There was a moment of silence (and not the spiritual type). “What?” I said. “Do you agree?”

Well, they went on to explain that my lane changes (something my brother’s used to talk about when I was young), my turns, and my stops were not the norm. They wondered how often I went through brakes (apparently I don’t do the long, gradual slow down.) And then they noted that I rarely made a full stop at a stop sign. Interesting. My wife says the same thing. So, I started noticing. They were right. I roll towards the intersection, look back and forth... get somewhat close to a stop, and I keep on going.

So, being the guy who never takes anything at face value and wonders if there is something deeper or maybe even a metaphor in everything, I began to work on the full stop. I’ve started trying to just stop all the way. Some people, I began to realize, actually stop at a stop sign and let the entire car come to a resting hault. You know, when the car stops and gravity moves you forward in a rocking motion, and then you rock back, and then everything settles and.... stops. I realized that I not only rarely stop the wheels from turning, even if I do that, I move again before the contents of the inside of the vehicle (which might include you) come to a full and complete stop.

And it was difficult. It was difficult to actually stop the vehicle and wait even a few seconds before moving on. I began to wonder what was so difficult about making a full and complete stop for me. Why couldn’t I just stop? Why did I have to keep moving? And it wasn’t long before (and your mind is already there) I realized that this is simply true of me in general, not just of my driving. It’s true in a number of ways. Here’s what I realized:

First, I don’t stop. I just don’t. I move from one thing to another and I have a hard time sitting still. I don’t like idleness and I keep busy... all the time. Honestly, I’m not sure why, but I’m sure there is some deep psychologically unhealthy reason why.

Second, when I do stop, I don’t know what to do with myself. I’ve noticed that some people are perfectly content doing nothing. I’ll occasionally drive by those people who are just sitting outside. Just sitting and doing nothing. Just enjoying each breath and the sky and the cars passing by. You know, the people who sit in their garage and just watch the road. I’m not really sure how to do that.

Third, I’m rarely driving alone. Now, I mean that metaphorically, but it’s true. My life impacts other people, and just as my inability to stop at a stop sign with passengers in my car makes it difficult to be in the car with me, I imagine it can be difficult to be “with me” on this road of life when I’m not stopping, when stopping is jarring, and when I hit the gas immediately after a rolling stop.

Fourth, I do tend to come to a stop with my vehicle in an accident or a vehicle break down. When something in the engine blows because I haven’t been watching the oil or water levels or when I run the stop sign and someone smashes into the side of my car I come to a full and complete stop. It’s never fun, though, and there’s usually a pretty high cost, it’s pretty inconvenient, it messes up my (and other’s) plans, and it makes a mess of the day.

Moral of the story: it’s probably not healthy to drive without coming to a full and complete stop every once in awhile and at the appropriate times. Not doing so is not only illegal, it is detrimental. I’m realizing that the go-go-go and never stop life I’ve been living is unhealthy not only for me, it’s uncomfortable for those around me.

And I know, I’ve been talking about this for awhile. Those of you who know me well know my stories about ocean tides, logging yards, juggling elephants, the first chapter of A Good and Beautiful God by James Bryant Smith, books on sabbath by Abraham Heschel and Dan Allender, or Isaiah’s wise words in chapter 30 (particularly verse 15). It’s not like I’m new to the challenge to not only slow down, but to come to a full and complete stop. I’m slow to learn, that’s for sure. I guess, though, awareness is the first step. I just wish I could get beyond step one.

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