Finding Your Groove

By Marcy Barthelette

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1b

The air feels almost electric with the excitement of the hour! The invocation has been offered, the national anthem sung and the pilots of the day have thrilled the audience with their low altitude flyover. A hush falls over the crowd as an invited guest steps to the microphone and shouts, “Drivers, start your engines.” Some forty race cars roar to life and line up in their predetermined order. The pace car leads them around the track, then slides off to the infield. The flagman leans over the start line at the ready. As the first car passes, he waves the green flag and they’re off, ready to spend several hours just to see who can claim today’s trophy.

Yes, it’s Sunday afternoon in late April and Ken is glued to the NASCAR race, live on TV when our stations carry it or online later when they don’t. Yes, he will give up the race for special events but if nothing deters him, he will be keeping up with his favorite drivers. Racing has been in his blood since his teen years when he worked with the set-up crew at the track in Seekonk, Massachusetts, and rubbed elbows with all the local drivers. He proudly describes a stop during a vacation many years ago to take his own drive around the track in Indianapolis. He has always loved to drive and I think he secretly would have loved to race competitively, but as so often happens, life gets in our way.

One of the terms race announcers often use is “finding the groove.” You’re probably familiar with the phrase as it applies to life but NASCAR gives it a whole new meaning. It isn’t an attitude or a feeling, it’s a literal groove on the track. It’s described as the best route around the track. It’s a faster, more efficient way for drivers to shave precious seconds off their lap times and they all want to find it. The groove can be identified by the wide black stripe that begins to circle the track as the race progresses. NASCAR tires differ from everyday highway tires in that they are completely free of deep treads. They’re called “slicks” and they are designed to wear down. Each racing team may carry up to fifteen sets of tires per race depending on individual track regulations. Each track sets its own tire cap and believe me, the teams use a lot of them. As the tires wear, they leave their distinctive layer of rubber behind, creating the groove. Weather can determine the condition of the groove and the effect it will have on car handling. Keep in mind that most NASCAR tracks are oval in shape and the drivers are often running 200 mph. If the air temperature is high, the track temperature is even higher and the groove becomes sticky and drivers are more able to navigate their turns without sliding. If, however, the racing day is cold, the groove becomes hardened providing little grip for those slick tires, thus lowering driving speeds and causing more spin-outs.

Another point to consider is that a track may have multiple grooves, offering drivers more options but possibly more opportunities to crash. Moving from groove to groove or driving side by side in different grooves leaves openings for cars to drift, often causing multiple car pile-ups. Choosing to go high on a multi-groove track can find the driver against the wall. A bumper tap by another driver can make that wall position very uncomfortable. Going low can result in being shoved onto the inside area of the track, the apron, by a fellow driver who wants to win just as badly. On some tracks driving on the apron is not allowed and results in a penalty and loss of position. With all this strategic positioning going on, there’s no shortage of excitement at the racetrack.

You’re probably asking yourself why I am so “off track” this week, but I would suggest that I’m not. Just as NASCAR drivers seek to find their groove, so do we. When we recognize God as our Heavenly Father and Jesus, our Savior, we are always in search of our own groove. The path is spelled out in the Bible and highly illustrated in the way that Jesus lived His life on earth; teaching, preaching, healing, and just interacting in ordinary ways with everyone around Him. He liked hanging out with the people and they liked hanging out with Him.

You were running the good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth. Galatians 5:7

And we, like NASCAR drivers, can find ourselves in trouble when we choose the wrong groove. When we wander from our chosen path, we can find ourselves stuck in a sticky situation or sliding down a slippery slope. The good news is, that we don’t necessarily end our journey in a multi-car pile-up. By making a course correction, asking for  

forgiveness, and making the effort to improve, we can continue in God’s groove and, eventually, find our way to the “Promised Land.” The choice of which groove to follow is ours.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever…. I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. I Corinthians 9:24-25, 27b

One Response to “Finding Your Groove”

  1. Rhonda says:

    Thanks Marcy. Well done analogy.

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