Where the Rubber Meets the Road

These past few weeks, my commute back and forth to Campbell has become a lot more pleasant. In fact, several days I’ve found myself looking for excuses to take a detour or two and just enjoy an afternoon drive to nowhere. The pleasant autumn weather — marked around here by snow-white fields blanketed with cotton blossoms and tall oak trees that drip a never-ending stream of orange and brown leaves — certainly has something to do with it, but that’s not the only reason for my surge of motoring delight. The main motivator behind my pavement pounding has been the excitement that comes along with driving a new car. Sort of. Actually, our car is over three years old and quickly approaching 80,000 miles. But it drives like new — because it just got a new set of tires.

Tires are the single most important piece of equipment on any car. It’s true that a fresh set of rubber can’t do much of anything without the help of an engine, some spark plugs, an axle and a driveshaft or two. I’m all for finding balance in things, but I believe tires are often the most under appreciated component on cars. There may not be many people out there who get excited about buying a new set of tires like I do. It is true that in my high school and early college years, I may have even had an unhealthy obsession with tire technology. Whenever a new rubber compound was introduced that claimed to hold the perfect balance of soft, sticky, pliable tread that hugged the road like a long lost love, but still remained hard enough to endure abuse from rocks, trees, nails and all sorts of other debris that comes at it, I was hooked. Whenever I came across a new off-road tread design that promised to paddle through mud and climb up rocks better than anything else out there, I wanted to see it. My wife (although she wasn’t my wife at the time; resolving this issue was a prerequisite for marriage) told me, on more than once occasion, that she was jealous of the way I eyeballed another guy’s set of Mickey Thompson Baja Claws (a very fine directional radial that happens to be way out of my league) in the parking lot at Outback, when I was supposed to be on a date with her. Even if you don’t share my appreciation of designer rubber, I hope you can understand why I think tires are, without a doubt, the key part of any automobile.

You see, everything a car does depends on the tires’ ability to grip the road. Any cool track tricks a driver tries to pull off — every message sent through the car — must be processed through and executed by the tires. High-tech engine systems, custom gear ratios, locking differentials, finely-tuned turbo chargers and other high dollar accessories designed to squeeze a few more horses out of a car are all absolutely useless if they aren’t matched with a good set of tires that can faithfully transfer that energy to the road.

See my point yet?

Similarly, I’m afraid a lot of us spend way too much time spinning our wheels in life instead of actually accomplishing things that matter; I know I do. It’s important to prepare ourselves for the future, and every now and then it’s nice to take a turn around the block just for fun, but how much of our energy in life and ministry is lost to things that end up being just for show — things that never make the transition to pavement?

I love the feeling of riding on a new set of tires, but if my wheels stay free of blemishes and wear for more than a few days, I know I’m doing something wrong.

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About David Anderson, Jr.

I'm a wandering pilgrim anchored in the Baptist tradition, tossed about by the anabaptist current. I am a minister at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church and a recent graduate of Campbell Divinity School. I am the husband of a beautiful woman, and the father of a blond-haired boy. I am a work in progress, struggling to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling. View all posts by David Anderson, Jr.

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