Jesus Take the Wheel
Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for God’s good pleasure. – Philippians 2:12-13 (NRSV)
Have you heard the phrase, “Jesus, take the wheel”? If you have not, allow me to elucidate this pop culture bon mot. Akin to taking our hands off the metaphorical steering wheel of life, “Jesus take the wheel” means, roughly, “God I give up, it’s your problem now!”
I am guilty of looking down on such theology. I tend to cluck my tongue. Jesus take the wheel? Proper road safety dictates keeping my hands firmly on the wheel at 10 and 2, thank you very much. I want to rely on my own careful action to keep me safe. If God chooses to breeze in and bless me with a little extra on top, I’m not going to complain. That’s God’s business.
I want to be in charge of my own life, relying on my own wisdom to steer me on the right course.
Philippians 2 points to a deeper truth. The prudence I pride myself on to solve hard problems? That is a gift from God. The faith I rely on in difficult times? That is a gift from God. Even my desire to do what is right instead of wrong, that too is a gift from God. I am radically, totally, utterly dependent upon God even when I think I am taking care of myself.
This is what God promises to you. That God is and will always remain inextricably bound up in your life. Every choice, every moment, every part of your life is shot through with the presence of God. Your lowest low finds God at your right hand. Your highest high sings glory to God. Thanks be to God!
God—you’re in charge! May I both will and work for your good pleasure.
John Edgerton is Lead Pastor at First United Church of Oak Park, Illinois.