April 2019 – Church Matters

So, another quirky news article headline catches my eye – “How smart car technology could help you sleep” (Lifestyle section of The Guardian, 24 February). The article speaks about a new development by engineers at Ford, the car-maker. They have adapted the Lane-Keeping technology that can be found in many new cars so that it can be incorporated into a double bed. At this point I have to add that I did check the date of the news article, and yes it was 24 February, not 1 April.

For those familiar with Lane-Keeping technology in cars you’ll know that it’s a system that prevents you from inadvertently straying out of your lane. The technology detects that lines are being approached or crossed and gently nudges the steering wheel to bring you safely back within your lane. You can imagine how helpful this is, particularly if you are a driver who has experienced that momentary distraction that takes your eyes off the road and you find you’ve gone alarmingly off course. If we should inadvertently cross the line on any type of road, be it single carriageway, dual carriageway or motorway, the results can catastrophic and life-changing.

So Ford engineers have now developed the Lane-Keeping Bed. If you have a partner who, in their sleep, is a bed-hogger or limb-flinger and crosses the line into your space, the bed technology detects the movement and gently moves the mattress, conveyor belt style, so that your space is restored. You can see the bed, complete with Ford logo, in action on You Tube – it looks weird, hilarious and surprisingly effective as two people are gently “conveyed” and equal space restored. I guess such a system would also be useful on single beds too if we were trying to prevent fall-out.

This attention to Lane-Keeping and not crossing lines is intriguing as I think it can be applied in general life too. We tend to grow up within society and family structures that have an accepted “norm” – a way of living that is generally acceptable and keeps us on the straight and narrow to the benefit of ourselves and others. It can lead to more harmonious relationships and propel a society toward a sense of wellbeing and care for everyone. Some might think it restrictive or a sterile way of living, but lived in the right way Lane-Keeping and not crossing the line can bring energy and life.

While all this can sound marvellous, real life will tell us that no matter how hard we try, we will inevitably not be able to stick within our lane – wittingly or unwittingly we will probably cross the line at some point. This can be as simple as harsh words said in the heat of the moment – those that cause deep hurt and relationships to break, sometimes whole families becoming divided and embittered. In other instances a lack of good judgement can mean you fall foul of the law – in some situations I’ve seen futures changed in an instant. Crossing the line in life can be catastrophic and life changing too.

I recognise that none of us are perfect. We all have times when we cross the line to a greater or lesser extent, and we need the forgiveness of others for relationships to be restored. There may also be times when our actions mean there is a penalty to be paid. From a Christian perspective, I recognise that not only do we cross the line in our earthly relationships, but so too in our relationship with God. Biblically it’s called sin, and it creates a gulf between us and God.

When we recognise the gulf, sometimes it can seem so great that it would be impossible for relationship with God to be restored – we think our crossing the line means that we can’t come back. But that’s where the Easter events come in. As we remember the death of Jesus upon the cross on Good Friday, we know that any penalty has been paid by him and that our relationship with God can be restored by simple belief in that fact. As we remember and celebrate the raising of Jesus on Easter Sunday, we know that not only has the penalty been paid for this life, but that death has no hold over us either. It’s applicable to anyone who believes in Jesus – we have God’s forgiveness, and we then enter into the Lane-Keeping phenomena of his indwelling Holy Spirit. As someone once said, every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. The events of Easter long ago mean that when we cross the line there is a way back, and we enter into the eternal Lane-Keeping system of God. Now that does help us sleep more easily.  

Tony Stephens