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When fear, ego and ambition drive the bus

Friday October 30 2015

When fear, ego and ambition drive the bus

Way back when the world was young, I thought the actor Don Johnson was cute. So when I saw an interview with him in Parade Magazine last month, I read it. He talked about his latest film project and his daughter for most of the interview, but at the end the interviewer asked if there is anything in his earlier life he would like to change. Here’s his answer:

I wish I had become a little more aware of how full of fear, ego and ambition I was, and how I let a lot of that drive the bus.

I won’t detail all the ways that fear, ego and ambition can harm us when they drive the bus. I’m going to assume that you, like me, are trying to grow in letting other characteristics drive the bus. Those other, more healthy, bus drivers might include compassion for others and for ourselves, humility and peace. Perhaps the most significant bus driver should be God’s love.

How do we change bus drivers? I’d like to make a few suggestions for practices that encourage that change.

1. The basics of the Christian life: weekly communal worship, fellowship, Bible reading, prayer. The weekly discipline of attending church should remind us we are not God and Someone Else is. This is a key starting point that helps us change bus drivers. Fellowship with other Christians, studying the Bible alone and with others, and praying in many forms are essential ground-level habits that over time change our perspective and the foundation of our lives.

2. Journaling. So many people have told me that they are most honest with themselves when they journal. They say that journaling helps them face up to those moments when fear, ego and ambition are playing too big a role in motivations and behaviors. Many people have told me they like to write their prayers in their journal. Writing out prayers slows them down, they say, enough to pray longer and more deeply. And as I said in #1, prayer is essential in changing the perspective and foundation of our heart in part because it focuses on attention on God, rather than on the things that drive us.

3. Prayer partners in pairs or groups. I’ve been in women’s prayer groups for 25 years. My first women’s prayer group is still going (with some changes in members), and when I’m in Seattle I attend as faithfully as I can because the level of honesty and support there is remarkable. Honesty coupled with support is powerful in helping us change the orientation of our heart.

4. Spiritual direction. Here I’m referring to the formal relationship with a spiritual director, with whom you meet regularly, usually once a month. A spiritual director is tasked with helping us see God’s hand and God’s presence in our lives. In other words, he or she helps us pay attention. And where we direct our attention plays a big role in who drives our bus.

5. Silence. In The Cultivated Life, Susan Phillips writes about a man who told her that showering turns his heart toward God. When he showers, he can’t work and he can’t be interrupted, so he prays. Many people engage in a structured spiritual practice involving silence, such as contemplative prayer, centering prayer or mindfulness meditation. Others find moments when they can’t work and can’t be interrupted, perhaps in the car, while walking, before sleeping at night or first thing in the morning. Or showering! Silence, with no work and no interruptions, can make space for us to pray honestly about the inner and outer forces in our lives.

What or who drives your bus? What helps you move away from letting fear, ego and ambition drive the bus? What do you wish could be your bus driver? God’s love? Something else? What helps you change drivers? 

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