Playing Chicken

I once played chicken with a truck … and I wasn’t in a vehicle. There I stood, my 5-foot-6-inch frame staring down the grill of my friend’s pickup truck. He revved his engine and plunged toward me, his headlights quickly become much larger and brighter.

We had played this game of chicken once before in our church parking lot; however, I did not know I was playing. One night as I made my way to my car, my friend charged toward me in his truck. As he got closer to me, I darted out of the way, slightly panicked by the speed at which he was approaching. He seemed confident that he wouldn’t have hit me and teased me non-stop for having quickly jetted out of the way. I didn’t understand his desire to challenge my fear capacity and ignored most of his tauntings.

But the second game was different. For some reason, those mocking comments were fresh in my head, and as his engine roared its challenge, I was ready to stand my ground. With my feet planted firmly in place, I internally roared a challenge back. I was determined to play chicken with this truck, proving not only to my friend but also to myself that my fear capacity was much higher than had been recognized.

I was so focused on the headlights charging toward me that I didn’t respond to the “what are you doing?” questions that came from nearby observers. I can’t even begin to guess the amount of time that passed from the moment the truck took off to the deafening screech of squealing brakes. As the truck skidded across the gravel, I briefly thought, Maybe I ought not be so confident. When the truck finally halted 6 inches from my body, I stood there a bit dazed for a moment, staring at my kneecaps, which had almost been reversed. While it had not completely sunk in what had just happened, in that moment, I felt fearless.

My daze was quickly interrupted by the truck driver’s angry voice. He screamed at me for not moving, furious that he almost killed me. It made no sense to me. He harassed me for not trusting him the first time, and when I decided I would trust him to stop the second time, I suddenly became an idiot for NOT moving. I then barked back a few rebuttals. I was merely trying to prove my fear capacity, to redeem myself. But as it slowly started to sink in, that feeling of fearlessness began to diminish, and I realized I had proven something completely different—that I was totally stupid.

Sure, I survived—my kneecaps are in place, and I am still standing. But I may have not been so lucky. My friend could have assumed that I would move. After all, I had jumped out of the way in our previous game. He could have never hit that brake pedal. But he did, and for that I am lucky. This memory came back to me a couple days ago and made me think about how often I play spiritual chicken. I think about the times in my life where I was in a complete stare-down with sin in my life and decided I wasn’t afraid—that I could outsmart it or somehow conquer it by my own strength. With both feet planted firmly and no intention to move, I watched as it charged me and bulldozed me over. There were times in the game of spiritual chicken where I was not so lucky as I was the night I played chicken with the truck. There were times when I wasn’t able to walk away unscathed, but scarred and damaged for life.

The good news is Christ has the ability to heal. I may have wounds—some of them very deep—but Christ has the ability to heal those wounds so I might lead a life that is more glorifying to Him. A life that is chicken free.

In my heart I believe that Christ would rather us run away as I did in the first game of chicken. In that game, I ran from something I knew was trouble. During the second game, I was convinced I would remain unharmed. The truth is, my safety was not guaranteed. Just as that truck—which I was positive would stop—could have caused some major damage, so does sin. And so the question that I began to ask myself was, Why do I continue to play this game of chicken? The thrill? The excitement? The desire for victory?

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I’m continuing to learn to run from the truck. I am continuing to learn that Christ gives me the strength to work through the ones I decided to take on. I’m learning that while wounds and scars are inevitable, they can become fewer and farther between. I’m learning what life is like outside of the game of spiritual chicken, where instead of seeing how long I can last, I walk away with the One who can give me a life more thrilling, more exciting and more victorious than any game I could ever play.

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