Irvin Smith was more than a father-in-law to me. I would like to believe that I was more than a son-in-law to him.
He lived an unpretentious life: a “real” Christian man who demonstrated his faith instead of preaching it. Irvin was utterly devoted to his wife and to his two daughters, and I was attracted, not only to Janice, but to the way this family loved each other. The fact that Janice, at 20 years old, actually enjoyed spending time with her parents was so foreign to me that I just had to learn why. I did.
I am still amazed that Irvin accepted me and loved me and gave his daughter to me while I was anything but a Christian. He probably had the insight to know, at that time in my life, that any pressure just wouldn’t have gone well. To fast forward one year after our marriage, I did yield to the draw of Jesus and decided to follow Him. My friendship with Irvin grew deeper and deeper as I learned from him and as he encouraged me. It has been over 20 years now since he lost his battle with cancer, but his influence in my life and scores of others’ lives continues on.
When Irvin taught Janice how to drive, he imparted not simply the mechanics of operating a vehicle, but a philosophy which transcends into life and, of course, finances. I think Irvin Smith’s advice on driving can help us all.
Don’t stare at the oncoming headlights.
One can become mesmerized by staring at something that is potentially harmful. Is your debt overwhelming your life? Don’t let it! Force yourself instead to focus on the solution. Your stress level will drop and you will start to experience hope. Those headlights or your dilemma can’t harm you if you look away from the problem and toward a solution.
Irvin never ran from problems, but he didn’t allow them to take over his life either. He would think it through, plan a course of action and work on the solution.
If you think you can make it, don’t go. If you know you can make it, go.
How many of us have bought stuff because we thought we could make the payments? Here is a thought: save up and pay cash.
Irvin didn’t believe in “blind faith”. Of course he always knew that life offered no guarantees, but he saw no reason to make spur of the moment life decisions.
When you see brake lights ahead, take your foot off your accelerator.
Respond appropriately to the world around you. Don’t over-react. Take time to read, study and think. Be savvy. Know your financial climate. Your decisions are your responsibility.
Irvin understood life. He was aware of national and global events without becoming immersed in them. He also knew human nature and had the ability to quickly back off when he recognized others’ brake lights coming on. For Irvin, maintaining the relationship was more important than winning the argument.
Look toward the end of the road.
When Janice felt the need to steer constantly in order to stay between the lines, Irvin said, “Jan, if you will look to the end of the road, the car will automatically stay in the driving lane.” One can only stay on track financially by having long term financial goals. Establishing these goals and putting them in writing will give clarity about what decisions need to be made today. If you feel like you are constantly juggling your finances, it is probably because you have no written long term goals.
Irvin understood eternity. Yes, he had bouts with anger and frustration as his disease progressed, but he was able to stay between the lines by knowing his eternal destiny. Death, to Irvin, was not the end of the road, but simply part of the journey. He showed us how to look toward the end of the road.
Irvin’s driving lessons, because they are life lessons, have a timeless validity. Whether you are driving in traffic or in life, I hope they help.