[Devotional from our latest mailed newsletter]
More recently, we find ourselves working with and thinking about vehicles in various capacities other than driving them from one location to the next. It’s been everything from identifying the newly arrived noise, finding locally or importing replacement parts, the YouTube guided self-repair, and evaluation of keeping or selling (and not only for ourselves!). This focus has us using vehicle word pictures for all kinds of things in life like the discussion with Ricky and Calen of what quality of elements each person’s body requires based on their ‘model’. (e.g. more sleep, more educational content vs. silly cartoons, nutrition packed whole foods vs. processed snacks, & water vs. energy drinks & sodas for the olympian/professional athlete, high performance or race car type models). Sure, every model might be able to get by for some time on anything that’s put in it, but if it was designed to run its best on refined ingredients, how long before there are serious consequences of putting 87 octane in the machine that was built for 93 octane or 100-120 octane? Even more curious, how much water can be in the fuel before it stops?
Shifting With Intentionality
Furthering my thoughts using illustrations from a vehicle’s make up and function, it compels me to think about the ways we as humans often navigate, very few cruise, through the Daytona 500 or Marathon de la Route of life. How often are we driving through our day to day using automatic transmissions?
Don’t get me wrong, I prefer an automatic transmission for driving any day. It allows me the freedom, relaxation, and brain space for all of my other cognitive functions (and distractions). One of the main reasons I refused and resolved that I would never drive in Haiti was the simple reality of our truck having a manual transmission and I couldn’t fathom myself having the confidence or quick reflexes required for managing a fully manual machine in extreme traffic conditions. Driving with a manual transmission involves both hands and both feet. Not only all four limbs, but it demands the consistent attention of the driver for timing, know-how, and action to utilize the mechanism without incident. There are signs which are audible, physical, and visual that alert the operator of the need to make a change, both when and how…to SHIFT!
Many times and in many instances of our lives we find ourselves automatically shifting. Whether it is grabbing something to satisfy our hunger, shifting our seated position, moving our neck to loosen the stiffness, or even sneezing! So many things that we do to make seemingly insignificant changes when something isn’t quite right and we do it with little to no thought, automatically. But what if God is asking us, training us, and has designed us to do things more intentionally, manually? What if God actually wants us to think about each thing that we do?
Brian & I do this often in our ministry context of capacity building. We observe, we listen, we ask a plethora of questions, we try not to make judgements, and each of those things typically leads to MORE QUESTIONS. While we do ask for our own edification, (and believe me, there is SO MUCH to be learned all the time, everywhere!) our attempt is that as we are inquiring and being taught, it would cause those telling us and teaching us to consider differently and more deeply the things we discuss, and even the things that go without being said. Why do we do the things we do? Where does it come from or where did it begin? What is helping or functioning well at the moment? What doesn’t seem to be the way we would like it to be? What can we do about it? How can we make these changes?
In all that we do, we want to avoid dependency and focus on sustainability, both short and long term. This means that us zeroing in on our American/Western view of problems/needs/issues and the solutions we first consider, without input from those we serve, won’t last long or without us. In reality, it might not fix the perceived problem and it could create more as the unconsidered dominos begin to fall. There is much to be considered when making changes. They need to be God led and the ideas of the leader and/or community that is making them. It needs to be handled like the manual transmission, with skill, timing, knowledge, and intentionality for it to be productive, favorable, and with minimal wounding.
Certainly, all change assumes some amount of resistance, even discomfort; yet, transition, growth, and the reach for betterment contains these same elements. Think of the sprouting of a seed from within the dark cold soil and its grand stretch toward the sky to produce the single glory of a blossom; the caterpillar that will turn into goo before wrestling its way out of its chrysalis to reveal its new self as a butterfly with the ability to flutter from place to place, even continents of migration. Was not the birth of our Savior on Earth the same laborious process, both for mother and infant, as each of our human bodies? Was not His life of teaching and ministry filled with obstacles in which He demonstrated constant and loving patience in so many unmerited ways? And lest we forget to mention the cruelest of events in His life as a human during His last days where He continued to model the ways we should treat one another.
As the Spirit nudges us…
The identifying of needs to be met and changes to be adjusted is not an easy, nor is it a quick one step. True, with experience in shifting it can seemingly become more natural and flowing, but it is never without the risk of hurt, with the need for healing or the grief of loss, with the need for reintroduction. As the Spirit nudges us to pay attention to both the maintenance needs and the repairs, so does the Spirit instruct us in the timing, pressure, speed, gear, and the path forward toward the ultimate goals of becoming more like Christ, glorifying God, loving our neighbors, and making it a little more on Earth as it is in Heaven.
1 Cor. 10:31, Col. 3:23, Rom. 12:2, Is. 43:19, Eccl. 3:1