So as many of you will have seen on Facebook this week, I managed to get my Japanese licence in all it's official Japanese-paperwork-completed beauty.
Praise God! (And I mean, really, He's the only one I can praise for this!)
It took a little while, and a fair amount of effort in securing all the supporting documents from the UK… But it's now done! You have to update your licence every three years or so in Japan, so I'm sure it's not the last I've seen of the driving office in my lifetime… But for now at least I can say 'See you later!'
However, there was a moment in the Japanese driving centre where they were asking me about my English test. Did it include an eye test? Did it include a written test? And for a brief moment, I was absolutely petrified that they were going to ask, 'And how many attempts did it take you to pass your test?'
Because if I answered that, they may have had second thoughts about allowing me on their roads…
Because you have to remember that I am clueless when it comes to cars. That’s driving them, fixing them, maintaining them and parking them.
Especially parking them.
And that’s Clueless.
With a capital ‘C’.
You are talking to the girl who (and this in no way an exhaustive list) took 7 attempts to pass her driving test, only learnt how to open her car bonnet aged 26, doesn’t know where the oil goes (or its purpose actually?), frequently reverses into stationary objects in car-parks, and has to semi-regularly get random men to parallel park her car for her in busy, urban areas.
And there was that one time that I forgot to put the handbrake on, and had to watch my little Rav4 roll down my driveway and straight into my garden wall.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not being hard on myself. There are many things in this life that I am good at, that God has gifted me in, and that I am thankful for. But car-related-activities are not included.
I embody every negative stereotype that there is about ‘women drivers’.
I summed it up with ironic hilarity when I said without thinking to a group of friends, ‘I am a good driver… As long as I’m going forwards in a straight line…’
And so, in thinking about the fact that I can now drive in Japan, I have been remembering, with some hilarity, the driving experiences that have led me to this point.
In honour of that memory, and my fresh-shiny-new-driving-licence, I thought I'd re-share a story from about 2 years ago.
I think it's fair to say that my skills haven't developed so much since I wrote this. I still hate paying for fuel.
The thing that has amazed me on this trip, has been my hire car. It’s a diesel Golf. It’s silver (I only really care about the colour to be honest). It has great speakers (No, I also care about those!) And it does miles and miles and miles on 1 tank of fuel.
Miles, and miles and miles. And miles.
I have been amazed.
I made it from Inverness to Derbyshire (about 7 hours drive) on less than a full tank. I put about half a tank in at a station in Sheffield and it made it all the way back to Perth (another 4 hours).
As I passed Glasgow, contemplating stopping for fuel, the dial was just above the red. But the ‘red’ looked particularly generous in this car, and it had been exceptionally effecient, so I thought I’d risk heading on for a bit longer. At Stirling services the red light had come on, so I felt confident that I could make it to Perth.
Tired, driving for over 5 hours and wishing I could teleport myself home, confident.
However, as I got within a 20 mile distance of Perth, I began to doubt myself. Rightly so, I think.
The fuel gauge looked dangerously low and the rumblings of a car not so happy with running on only fumes began to get louder. And louder. And louder.
I think I pulled into the petrol station with about a mile in it. Literally.
Now, my confession time is this: I tend to often drive my car around almost empty. I have a thing about the expense of fuel, it feeling like a waste of money, and me genuinely always forgetting to fill up at the end of a long journey. A couple of times I’ve embarrassingly ran out of fuel on route to the petrol station. Normally I make it, but my car often makes the grumblings that show me it is really not happy.
And last night, as I rolled into a fuel station with seconds to spare, it made me think that we often run our lives in a similar way.
I had a beautiful, brand new golf. But I chose to run it on empty. I risked going just that little bit further because I couldn’t be bothered to stop more than once on the drive home. In reality, I risked having a walk a couple of miles in the dark with a fuel container! And the thing is, I know my car doesn’t run as well on empty. But I still choose/forget/can’t be bothered to change this scenario.
And sometimes, if I’m honest, I do the same in my life.
I know that I function better when I’m in a place of overflowing intimacy with Holy Spirit. I know that it makes all the difference in the world. And I know that the potential places to stop and refuel are even more frequent than petrol stations on the M1/M6/A9 type route back to Inverness. Because there is no excuse.
But yet sometimes, I let myself run down to empty. I think I can just get a few more miles out of my life, forgetting that I was created to live in the overflow and not the reserves. I was created to refuel regularly, continually and consistently. God fashioned me in a way that means I should never ever be separated from Him and His love for a moment, minute or nano-second. And I’m not. But when you let yourself run down to empty, you can sometimes feel like it.
I was challenged at 1am. Challenged to probably be a bit wiser with my fuel stops. But also challenged to make sure that running-on-empty is never a spiritual reality for me. Never. Not ever.
Because if Jesus did everything to be close to me, I want to respond with a life filled up, poured out and filled up again. And again. And again.
And running in the overflow.
Thank you Holy Spirit, that you are the abundant giver of life and love and energy and every single need and desire.
Oh, and here's a picture of the time I forgot to put my handbrake on and took out my wall. Just in case you were wondering…