The Drive-In Life


If you’ve never been to a drive-in movie, you are missing out.  When I was a kid, I loved everything about the drive-in.  My mom would pop popcorn, and we would pack a cooler full of drinks. Then, we would pile into our Ford Pinto with lawn chairs and blankets and spend the evening watching movies under a starry sky.

I couldn’t wait for the day I could share this magical experience my own kids. The only problem is my daughters don’t like going to the movies. They would rather stream an old TV show on YouTube than watch the latest blockbuster on the big screen.  Growing up watching videos on phones, tablets and portable DVD players has turned them off to the whole cinematic experience. 

To make it even harder, they don’t like movies that aren’t classic musicals or have the words American Girl in the title.  Good luck finding one of those playing at the drive-in. 

Not to mention the fact that every summer the outdoor theaters within driving distance of our house are dropping like flies.  I was lucky enough to grow up in an era with four drive-ins within 45 minutes of my hometown. These days, we only have one. 

Still, I wasn’t about to give up the dream.  I was determined that eventually I would find a free weekend with good weather and a movie playing that I could con my kids into watching.  A couple of years ago, on the last day of school, I hit the jackpot.

Smurfs 2 was playing at our local drive-in; the weather was perfect, and we had absolutely no plans. What better way to kick off summer vacation than a night of watching movies in the great outdoors? 

Just like the old days, we popped our popcorn, loaded up the cooler, and packed lawn chairs and blankets. It was going to be perfect. 

When we pulled into the gravel lot, we spotted some friends from school, and before I knew it, my girls were kicking a soccer ball around the grass as we waited for the sun to set. They were having the time of their lives. 

Until the movie started. That’s when my youngest decided it was too loud.  She wanted to get back in the minivan and watch something on the iPad. You have to be kidding, I thought. The minivan over the summer sky?  A 10-inch touch screen over a 45-foot drive-in screen? 

I wanted to share this awesome experience with her, but instead she preferred what felt comfortable and small. The iPad was familiar, and she could pick the movie, adjust the volume and be in complete control.  I couldn’t help feeling she was missing out. 

Thinking about this later, I realized I’ve done the same thing in my relationship with God.  God loves me and has so much he wants to share with me.  Yet often I’d rather settle for the familiar and small.  I prefer the iPad life where I’m in control and everything feels nice and safe. 

But God’s dreams for us are so much bigger than our comfort zones.  Like drive-in big.  No ceiling. No limits. 

You want me to do what, God?  Love someone who’s different than me?  Serve someone I don’t even like?  Go on a mission trip?  Get up and speak?  Share my stuff?  Forgive them after what they did? That’s too much, God. Too big. I’ll just be over here in the minivan if you need me.   

At the end of the day, it didn’t matter how my daughter preferred to watch movies.  The drive-in’s not for everyone.  She had fun watching her movie that night, and we had a blast with our oldest daughter watching ours. 

When it comes to the issue of how we live our lives, however, playing it safe is much more tragic. We’re not just missing out on a great movie experience.  We’re missing out on the grand purpose we were designed to fulfill. 

A wise king named Solomon once wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5 NLT).  That’s easier said than done.  I like my own understanding.  It’s where I’m in control, and it requires no risk.  The older I get, however, the more I regret the times I settled for a 10-inch touchscreen life when I know deep down I was created for nothing less than a life of adventure under the stars. 

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