There are times in my life where my days roll on one after another like wonderful, peaceful, and serene gifts.
All is well, nothing is urgent─I have plenty of time to accomplish the things I have to do. And then there is the rest of the time! I’m sure you know what I mean. There isn’t enough day at the end of the to-do list.
It is during these hectic times that I have learned my auto-pilot is broken! I’m talking about the part of our brain which drives us automatically from the house to the office, from the office to the kids’ school, and then back to the house again. Recently, lost in thought about the myriad of things I had pending, I realized I was in the turn lane, getting ready to turn into my local grocery store. Only I did not want to go to my local grocery store! I had planned to shop at a different store for a specific item on this occasion. I was just stunned at how automatically I had been driving. While on the one hand it is pretty amazing that our brains have this capacity, it is also a little alarming to look up and realize you have no memory of consciously getting wherever it is you find yourself.
Do you ever feel like your life is a runaway truck?
Have you ever seen the runaway-truck ramps at the end of a steep grade? Do you ever pray for one of the ramps, figuratively speaking, in your own life? I was almost literally in a run-away truck and I remember how it felt quite vividly.
My dad spent part of his life driving a truck and took us kids with him from time to time. Once we were coming down a long, windy road on a pretty steep grade. A VW van was in front of us driving very slowly. Dad kept using his air brakes to stay a safe distance from the van, but he knew that at some point, he would lose his air and the brakes would go out.
As he tried to honk and signal to them to pull over, they just kept blissfully tooling along. Finally, out of sheer desperation, he pulled the chain for the horn, letting out a long, loud, continuous blast and released the brakes. As he got closer and closer to their bumper, I think they finally figured out what was happening! They pulled over hastily and we were able to pass safely, getting down the hill without losing our air brakes.
Life can be like that, can’t it? If we keep piling things into the schedule, taking on more and more, saying yes to too many things, we end up losing our own air and we are not able to slow things down. There is no joy in living life this way, and there is often a crash waiting at the bottom of the hill, isn’t there?
I read a book once by the title Fully Alive.
In it, the authors, brothers Jerry and Larry Hull, encouraged me to be “a full person with a meaningful schedule, instead of a busy person with a full schedule.” I have benefited from their encouragement and I have never forgotten that particular phrase.
The Apostle Paul of the Bible instructed the early Christians to develop themselves physically, mentally and spiritually. Other faith traditions have the same exhortation. When we keep ourselves in a chronically over-busy state, we often find we cannot focus on anything but the physical aspects of life. Our mental sharpness suffers and we have no time left over for any spiritual practices.
So, what is the solution? Given my current frantic, hectic pace, I don’t have all the answers, but I can create the space for us to have the conversation: what do you do when you find that you are gathering so much steam that you need a runaway truck lane to keep from crashing at the bottom of the hill? I want to know!