One Wednesday deep into the fall, I found myself waiting in the car with the engine already running. It was the start of our midweek routine, our harried race out the door for our church’s weekly youth and children’s programs. The kids and I would grab a pizza on the way over, to be inhaled in my office before we all headed to our respective programs. I had the two younger ones strapped in, and with a watchful eye on the time, I made regular checks over my shoulder for the older two to come through the garage and onto the driveway.
With a burst of noise I heard them coming, bantering in quick tempo.
“I call shotty.”
“No, I get shotgun, you had it last time.”
I could feel the escalation.
“You always sit up front.”
They wrestled over the door handle. I quickly settled the dispute, “Tell me who rode up front last time!”
As they slumped in, I looked over at my preteen wonder and it hit me like a pallet of bricks. This is me; I’m riding shotgun. I’m not the senior pastor, the one holding the reins. I’m riding shotgun. I love my spot, and I’d fight to keep it.
She interrupted my daydream. “Dad, don’t we need to go?” Driving away, I thought about the adventure of following God these years. It’s been quite a ride. I thought about people in the churches where I’d served. What a privilege to have a part in their walk with Christ! I remembered students who came to Christ. I thought about many who are now leaders themselves. I thought about all the experiences through the years, things I’d forgotten about, seaside retreats, camps in 115-degree heat and all-night New Year’s parties.
Then came the flood of mission-trip memories. My mind went to places like Eluru, Cholula, and Manoguayabo where our teens saw God at work in miraculous ways. I remembered the fear I felt once while looking down the barrel of a hostile policeman’s AK-47 wishing I knew the Creole word for “Please” as he and his comrades robbed us.
Maybe these aren’t your own experiences, but I’m sure you could name the opportunities that make you glad you’re on the trail. Though being in professional ministry doesn’t make us better than anyone else, there are experiences that are unique to your spot. You just don’t get that if you’re not sitting shotgun.
Let’s be real: this calling of being number two—or number thirty-two has its special challenges. We’ve all experienced it—that moment when we realized how hard this was going to be and had to look the beast square in the eye and wrestle it to the ground or get out. I’ll surmise you’re a survivor. You’ve made it through the fire and you’re still clipping along. It’s my goal to help you find your way back and rediscover your love for the ride.
-For you, my friend, are the shotgun rider!
– Calling Shotty is an excerpt from Shotgun Rider by Doug Brown