A few years ago, I acquired a motorcycle. I didn't know how to ride it, so I took the necessary classes, got my license, and bought a helmet. The classes were minimal, so my street experience was essentially nil. I needed more time on the bike before I hit the road (or rather, I sought to avoid hitting the road).
My dad advised me, "Learn the controls—the clutch, the gear shift, the accelerator, the brakes. Run through them over and over until using them feels natural and you know where everything is instinctively." What my dad was telling me was that I needed to make the motorcycle part of me. I needed to interiorize the controls.
So I drove the bike back and forth in the parking lot, accelerating, braking. I was extending my reflexes as I rode the motorcycle around, putting grooves in the pavement. My reflexes extended to my fingertips, but they needed to extend beyond that to the throttle and the brakes. If I was going to have any chance of being safe on the road, the motorcycle had to be second nature.
Because technologies are faster than our bodies, we are forced become one with them. At their speeds, we depend solely on our intuition and react reflexively, impulsively. In those environments, we can only respond to the smallest amount of information, to the briefest analysis. There simply isn’t time to list our options or to reflect. We must react.
With as much time as we spend driving, does this pattern of reflexive thinking become a default in other parts of our lives? Do we react instead of reflect? Do we intuit instead of seeking the counsel of many? You certainly can't drive by committee, but do we seek wise counsel at all, ever? Are quick reflexes more valued than long wisdom? In cars, our reflexes might save us from disaster. But in life, following the same pattern might well plunge us off the bridge.
Cars demand reaction. Life demands reflection. Our technologies change our habits. These habits work like ruts into our lives. It’s important to recognize how these habits could erode relationships, with others or with God. And when necessary, we need to find ways to subvert those habits if they become barriers to becoming like Christ.
This doesn't mean we need to stop driving cars. Though with other technologies, drastic measures might be called for. Instead it means that for every habit that technology impresses upon us, we need to practice another habit that will plow up the soil in our hearts where the grass has died (Jeremiah 4:3). Discerning these habits can take a while, but ignoring them can cost much more. And if we're unwilling to do the work of subverting technology's ruts, we may find ourselves on a bridge without a rail.