My husband is a firm believer in teaching our children to drive as early as possible. A couple weeks ago, while driving down a dirt road, he allowed my daughter to sit in his lap and “drive” the car. Since she is unable to reach the pedals, all she can do is steer. He still controlled the gas and brake and his hands were inches from the wheel so he could prevent any potential accidents.
As they cruised slowly down the dirt road, she observed, “it’s really hard to keep [the truck] going straight!”
“That’s true,” her father explained, “You probably don’t notice the small adjustments mommy and I make when we’re driving. It looks like our hands just sit on the wheel and do nothing, but we have been driving for so long that we know how to make those minor movements to keep the car going straight down the center of the lane.”
When my husband shared this story, I chuckled, remembering my very first driving lesson at fifteen and a half. That dumb car wanted to veer all over the road and I wondered why my parents and my older brother made driving look so easy! I’ll be honest: driving was one thing that did NOT come naturally to me. My poor parents put up with a lot of stress trying to teach me how to drive!
Living as a Christian often feels a bit like driving a car for the first time. Why can’t it just keep going straight? Why does it want to veer the wrong direction? Why do we frequently lose focus on Christ? Other people make it look so easy!!!
Just like driving, our walk with God requires us to make adjustments. Sometimes we make major turning movements to avoid collisions. Most of the time, however, we simply need to keep our hands on the wheel, making minor adjustments to maintain a straight course. Our eyes look ahead toward the eternal goal while frequently scanning our surroundings for danger.
Lately, I’ve noticed a feeling of “off-centeredness.” My focus has not been as much on Christ as it ought to be. I’ve been struggling to dig deeply into God’s word and my prayers feel hollow.
Whenever we feel ourselves drifting, it’s time to sit up and adjust the wheel.
Before you start critiquing my analogy, let me be clear: God is in control of the world. God is the one who knows what’s coming down the road. I am saved through Christ and cannot save myself.
Here is what I do control: my attitude, choices, thoughts, words, and actions. When I refer to “off-center” and “taking the wheel” I am referring to steering the above list of things which I actually control. It’s a small list. If, however, I do not make the effort to control what is in my power to control, I can be taken captive by Satan’s schemes and lead others away from Christ. Like my husband was with my daughter, God is always near! He is guiding, teaching, and watching over us.
Now to the big question: How do I stay on (or get back on) center?
Shake up your routine from time to time.
I’ve made some long road-trips in my life. It’s easy to get tired behind the wheel and fail to be attentive. If, for example, your bible study is feeling dry, look for a different way to study! Try scripture writing. Get a study book. Listen instead of read. Work on some memorization. Maybe you need a different plan. Start asking questions of the text. You don’t need to make a drastic change; make one minor adjustment to your routine and see if it helps you refocus.
Maybe it’s prayer that feels shallow. Try a new approach. Write out what you want to pray. Ask your spouse to pray with you. Don’t pray while lying down in bed (if you’re falling asleep mid-prayer).
Make minor adjustments and keep on keepin’ on.
Ask for God’s help.
So often, we believe everything depends on us. That is, after all, what our ruggedly individualistic society teaches. Seek God’s help. It’s not always easy to control our emotions when we are run down by circumstance or simply tired. As someone who has battled depression off and on, I know how challenging it can be to keep a clear head when your body is working against you. Humble yourself and ask for His help.
Keep Doing the Right Thing.
Just because my emotions and mind are a bit unfocused does not mean I should “take a time out” from being a Christian. We know, consciously, what God expects us to do, so keep on doing it. Don’t stop attending worship because you couldn’t focus last time. Don’t leave your bible sitting on the shelf simply because you “got nothing out of it” yesterday. Don’t avoid helping others simply because you don’t “feel” love for them in the moment. Do the right thing regardless of how you feel and before you know it, the enthusiasm and focus will return.
Stay the course.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
~ Philippians 3.12-16, ESV