One of my biggest vices is self-image. If I were honest with myself, I would say that I want to be all things to all people–a human chameleon, if you will. People pleasing is a pretty typical human trait. Since we’re social creatures, we want people to like us.
But sometimes, it can drive us crazy when they don’t. Especially when they occupy a lot of our thoughts–living “rent free,” as it were.
Let me take you back to high school. I know, that’s a rough place to go, but we’re going there. I took driver’s training between 9th and 10th grade at the age of 15. I didn’t mind the two hour evening classes where we watched videos of best practices on the road or even the bookwork I had to take home with me. What I did mind, however, was the actual driving.
My first day on the road, I was three minutes late to the driving hour. I walked up to the tall, gangly (and really, really old) man who was going on the drive with us that day. He was showing the other student how to check tire pressure. He looked up at me with squinty eyes, dusted off his pleated khakis and said, “Try not to be late next time. We’ve been waiting on you.” For three minutes? Okay, pal.
The drive that day was abysmal. I’d never driven a car in my life and I was paired with a driving instructor who might as well have been a drill sergeant. I didn’t do anything right–turning, changing lanes, even pulling up to a traffic light. After that day, I never wanted to drive again.
Of course, it was driver’s ed, so I had to. Thankfully, I was never paired with that driving instructor again. I was, however, paired with one who was just as awful. One who literally growled at me when I didn’t make a successful U-turn. Did I mention I was 15 and had never driven before? I was frustrated and anxious. Most nights before a drive I would barely sleep (don’t even get me started on my first highway drive.)
It really didn’t get better that entire summer. I dreaded every drive. I wondered if I would actually ever enjoy driving, or even how I would pass the test. I talked to my parents at length about it, about how stressed I was. My dad brought me to our church parking lot a few times in between classes to help–and it did, to an extent, but the open road was still intimidating to me.
One day, driving back from a late night class with my mom, clutching that bright orange booklet with sweaty palms as I thought about my next driving session, I talked to Mom about Ernie again. That dreaded driving instructor. The one who said “quadruple” in a weird way and had gotten to the point where he teased me in class about my driving. I was about ready to quit. I knew I couldn’t–I mean, I had to learn how to drive.
“Audrey,” Mom said as we drove home in the gloom. “You’re not going to bow down to him when you die.”
Her statement hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s been almost ten years since I learned how to drive. I still jump curves. I’ve backed into a fire hydrant and scratched a rental car. I’ve gotten my front bumper stuck in a snowbank. But I love driving now. And like everyone says, it’s become second nature to the point where I don’t think about it.
But learning how to drive wasn’t the only thing I haven’t forgotten. I haven’t forgotten what my mom said to me as I agonized over Ernie. You don’t bow down to him when you die. It changed my perspective so much. I was caring too much about how much Ernie was intimidating me. Ernie from Century Driving School probably doesn’t remember me. So why did I give him so much headspace?
That one phrase my mom told me has rung in my ears throughout the last decade. I remember thinking it before giving a speech in undergrad. I don’t bow down to my classmates when I die. I remember thinking it when I had a ridiculous crush on a man who only used me. I don’t bow down to him when I die. I remember thinking it when one of my best friends blocked me on social media. I don’t bow down to her when I die.
It’s such a freeing statement. Whether or not you are a Christian, it’s still powerful. As a believer, I see it as no one having more power over me than the Lord. I only bow down to my one true King and no one else. Even if you are not religious, it’s a powerful image–by bowing down to something or someone, you are swearing fealty and loyalty to whatever or whomever that is. The same analogy can be applied to an idol or addiction you may have. It shouldn’t guide or rule your life.
It’s helped me most when my self-image comes into play. I spend so much time and headspace on people who frankly won’t matter much in the long run. It’s come in handy lately as I’ve navigated this season of a divisive election. I have opinions and world views that are different than others–to the extent that some may have a different opinion of me based entirely on whom I voted for. Do I bow down to them when I die? No. I’ll take it further–do I bow down to my preferred candidate when I die? Absolutely not.
I bow down only to my Lord and Savior.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me? (Ps. 56:3-4, NIV)
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