What on earth is Jesus doing in the world? Commentary on Jesus news.

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Location: Irondale, Alabama, United States

Friday, October 27, 2006

Jesus, Take the Wheel

Two things happened.

First, I was flipping channels across the wasteland that is television. Was it the tune that made me stop? I found myself pausing at CMT and heard for the first time the strains of Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” This past week, the song was named the ASCAP Country song of the year. It’s message so struck me that I felt tears welling up in my eyes.

Hear anew the words to the song:

Jesus, take the wheel

(Carrie Underwood)

She was driving last Friday on her way to Cincinnati
On a snow white Christmas Eve
Going home to see her Mama and her Daddy with the baby in the backseat
Fifty miles to go and she was running low on faith and gasoline
It been a long hard year
She had a lot on her mind and she didn't pay attention
She was going way to fast
Before she knew it she was spinning on a thin black sheet of glass
She saw both their lives flash before her eyes
She didn't even have time to cry
She was sooo scared
She threw her hands up in the air

Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can't do this all on my own
I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
To save me from this road I'm on
Jesus take the wheel

It was still getting colder when she made it to the shoulder
And the car came to a stop
She cried when she saw that baby in the backseat sleeping like a rock
And for the first time in a long time
She bowed her head to pray
She said I'm sorry for the way
I've been living my life
I know I've got to change
So from now on tonight

Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can't do this all my own
I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
To save me from this road I'm on

Oh, Jesus take the wheel
Oh, I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
Save me from this road I'm on
From this road I'm on
Jesus take the wheel
Oh, take it, take it from me
Oh, why, oh

(reprinted from

The next thing I knew, the youth at my church had put together a “human video” around the song, performing it in our worship at Irondale United Methodist Church, just outside Birmingham, Alabama. Once again, the message pierced straight through me.

It is the message of repentance and surrender.

Two events that yielded three insights.

First, I realized that we live lives that need repentance. Repentance: that turning back to God; that turning away from the things that drag us down, threatening to destroy us. I don’t mean that we all live lives that are hell-bent on our own destruction. But, in the course of life we find that with negligence Jesus slips from the center. I find myself getting sucked into the gray areas that consume us in my un-centered, or rather, de-centered life. Repentance helps me to reclaim the conviction that God is not just “out there” but is also “in here,” infinite, yet caring for even me. Caring for the struggles I am going through. Loving me even when I fall and fail.

Second, I realized that repentance is not something that I can do on my own strength alone. I can’t forge myself into the person God wants me to be by force of my own sheer will. Try as I might, until I learn to surrender to what 12-step programs would call my “higher power” I will remain trapped in a frustrating, despairing cycle of trying to live up to God’s righteousness. Recognition of the need for repentance in my life carries with it a realization that I am starved for God’s grace. I experience that grace when I open myself to let Jesus “take the wheel.” My prayer of “Thy will be done” becomes a conduit for God’s grace to flow through my veins like some spiritual IV.

Third, I realized that repentance is not something that you do just once and that’s the end. Repentance is a way of life. It is a way of beginning each day acknowledging that there is a God who loves me and desires the best for me. And that in desiring the best for me, God desires a constant turning, a constant re-centering in my life.

As I write this, I’ve just come home from the hospital where they’ve apparently found that I do not have cancer… My fears at the outset were replaced with a sense of peace as I sat waiting for anesthesia to take effect. As I placed my life into Jesus’ hands, I somehow knew that Jesus was lovingly present with me and that come what may, Jesus would be there for me.

And that today, and tomorrow, and the next day, Jesus would be there for me, waiting for me to turn toward him again, to re-center.

Thank you, Jesus.

For today, help me to turn to you. To re-center my life around you. To hand you the wheel.


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