In my latest In Good Faith column, I write about stick shifts, and getting stranded on the side of the road.
Sticking it Out
I still drive a stick shift. They’re increasingly hard to come by these days, but in addition to making me feel like a NASCAR driver while racing up and down the streets of Palm Beach in my Volkswagen Jetta, there’s another built-in advantage: it’s an anti-theft device. Who’s going to steal a car no one knows how to drive anymore? I mean, not even my young adult children can steal it. They never learned how to drive a stick. Despite my pleading (“What if there’s an emergency and the only car available has a manual transmission? You could be the hero!”), they just rolled their eyes and borrowed mom’s car.
I hadn’t thought much about this — it’s just something I’ve always done — until the clutch went out a couple weeks ago while I was picking up a friend at the airport. But I had lots of time to contemplate life and clutch pedals as I sat on the side of the road just outside the entrance to the arrivals terminal. For five (!) hours.
If I’m honest, it was less contemplation and more endlessly scrolling on Twitter. But there was some contemplation. At one point, I got out of my stranded car and stared up at the stars in the sky. I thought about life and faith and God. Until the sprinklers on the median started going off and I got drenched.
For Christians, the arrival of the season of Lent is, among other things, a time specifically set aside for self-reflection and contemplation. Sometimes we’re intentional about this and sometimes circumstances force us into contemplation. I usually rue these moments — the Wi-Fi goes out, I temporarily lose my phone — but later end up giving thanks for the opportunity to unplug and spend some time with my own thoughts.
Here’s the thing though. Contemplation and technology aren’t mutually exclusive. There are a whole host of meditation apps and ways to use technology to settle the mind. I use a prayer app from Forward Movement to pray the Daily Office every morning. And during my time trapped in my car with the sprinklers making me feel like I was in a particularly intense carwash, I used the app to pray Evening Prayer, giving thanks for all the blessings of life, especially for the fact that I wasn’t stuck in a snow storm.
This Lent, I encourage you to be intentional about spending time in prayer or contemplation. Whether by unplugging or plugging in, the point is that we need such time to stay grounded and connected to the life that exists beyond the visible world.
Here at Bethesda-by-the-Sea, the church is open during the week and we encourage people to take some time to sit and contemplate life in our sacred space. If you seek an oasis to get out of the fray for awhile, whether inside the church or by walking through our beautiful grounds (yes, we have a koi pond), please know that you are always welcome. I promise I won’t even try to baptize you!
AAA did eventually come to rescue me. And $1,000 later my clutch is back to its old self. I guess you could say, I’m financially poorer, but spiritually richer for the experience.