Alice Takes the Wheel

by Jason Overman

I’ll never forget the time a few friends and I taught Alice how to drive. But I’m a little reluctant to tell the tale, even after all these years. You’ll see why.

How Alice actually came to be adopted by my church youth group is beyond memory. Perhaps it was because this sweet little old lady, as tiny as she was godly, was as mischievous and adventurous as any of us teenagers. In any case, she loved being where the action was, and our youth group was active — and then some.

One night after our weekend meeting concluded, a few of us (without much arm-twisting, mind you) convinced Alice to try something she’d never tried before: drive a car! She had no driver’s license; in fact, she’d never sat behind the wheel of a car, and for good reason. (More on that later.) But it was late, and the streets of this neighborhood were quiet and empty. And she was game. What harm could come of it?

Before we knew it, we’d jostled Alice into the driver’s seat and given her a few basic tips. Then we clamored into the front and back seats and cheered her on. She gripped the steering wheel with giddy excitement and nervous concentration; her nose couldn’t have topped the dash. Off we went anyway, inching forward at the barest of speeds that any power-walker could exceed without much effort.

“Stop! Stop!” we coached noisily as Alice approached a stop sign. She dropped from 10 mph to 0 with both feet slamming the brakes. We all busted out laughing. “Right! Right” we yelled as she drifted into the other lane. Honestly, we only made it three blocks when we called it quits, our nerves frayed and sensible fear taking hold.

See, it wasn’t just that Alice was an inexperienced, elderly driver; she was, in fact, blind!

Yes, yes, I know. Why do teenage boys — even Christian ones — do the foolish things they do? Who knows? It’s still a mystery to me what motivated us. But that night, dear old Alice, born blind, took the wheel and had the ride of her life. Now as a grown man, I advise teenagers to avoid such reckless and illegal activities, even if it is in the name of adventure or to help fulfill the bucket list of a little old lady.

Later on when we took Alice home, I helped her into her house. Without thinking, but trying to be polite, I asked if I could turn the lights on for her. Surely it was difficult to find the light switches if you couldn’t see. Before I caught my faux pas, I heard her giggle, “I don’t need lights, silly. I’m blind.”

I was so embarrassed. But it was true enough: She didn’t need those lights. She moved around with remarkable familiarity, certainly better than I, dependent on light bulbs and eyes.

Dear Alice died many years ago, but I remember that night cruising the back streets, three teenagers and a little blind lady, like it was yesterday. Spending time with Alice in my youth, and thinking of her now, brings to mind the short Christian maxim penned by Paul: “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7, NKJV).

What I learned from Alice is that none of us sees as well as we think we do. For all our vaunted confidence and efforts at self-sufficiency, life really is more like Alice behind the wheel — moving forward slowly, if excitedly, with the help of a few good friends and the grace of God.

If we’ll admit it, the gift of life really is a matter of faith. This changes our attitude about control and independence. Alice knew this more than most. She was blind, but she did not live in the dark. She lived joyfully, even stubbornly, in the light of Jesus Christ, knowing that the unknown, unseen, and unexpected that we’re all subject to is the very road of faith Jesus guides us on. She was dependent on Him and a few good friends, and that was OK with her.

When Jesus healed the man born blind (John 9), many refused to recognize the miracle or see that He was Lord of all: darkness and light, truth and error, pride and humility. His warning is as true for us as it was for them: Beware thinking you see; beware self-sufficiency; beware false confidence, or you’ll deny the mystery of life and drive right past your Creator. For it is the blind walking by faith who have seen Him, who trust Him in the dark and find their way home.

Alice did. And we can too.