My last year living in Chicago I worked on the far north side of the city and lived on the far south side. This meant that I had 45 to 90 minutes in the car each morning and evening. This drive was not fun. By no means is an hour in traffic fun, but it was beautiful. Driving up and down Lake Shore Drive in stop and go traffic gave me the chance to enjoy gorgeous city and lake views. Naturally this time in the car was a point of stress on many days, especially the days that I got off work late and hit the worst of the traffic, but there was also something special on those drives. As an introvert I cherished the protected, guaranteed time by myself. Being in the car alone meant I could sing as loud and off-key as I wanted, I could call my mom or my sister and catch up with them (if I wasn’t too tired), or I could sit quietly and enjoy the silence. These drives also became one of my favorite places to pray. Sitting alone in the car meant I could pray out loud, I could cry, I could sing, I could sit in the presence of God and share the drive with my Lord. These drives became a sacred time for me, not every day, but often enough that I have greatly missed being forced to spend an hour stuck in traffic every day. Not because I love traffic, obviously, but because I miss the protected time.
My driving situation now is vastly different. To get to work and church takes less than ten minutes, to get to my sister’s house, my gym and the grocery store takes less than five. When I first started at Hurst I was thrilled by this change. There was no longer a need to wake up at five in the morning in order to get to work on time. There was no need for a thirty minute buffer in case of traffic. However, there was also no longer mandatory drive time. I lost my quiet place, my time alone, the life circumstances that forced me to wake up early and start my day. Of course, not having hours in the car every day means I have more time to be at home or with friends, but I lost one of my sacred spaces, and I want to get that back!
As I thought of what I wanted to do for Lent this year, I was hit with the idea of how I could make my limited car time more of the sacred space that it was in Chicago, so I have stopped listening to music or podcasts in the car. This way I have guaranteed times every day to be in silence with God. Sometimes I use this time to pray out loud, sometimes I simply enjoy the silence, but in all of it I use this time to be in the presence of God. I think there is something beautiful about being with God during mundane, everyday activities, as if you are inviting God into every aspect of your life, even the boring parts. These short drives aren’t exactly the same as they were in Chicago, but I have loved getting back to making the most of my time in the car.