Have you ever gone from point A to point B without even thinking about what you were doing? Have you ever gotten to a place and had no recollection of your drive there? No? Just me? Ok, then perhaps I should post warnings when I will be hitting the streets. Really though, I consider myself a pretty careful driver, and I will guess that I am not the only person guilty of driving an established route without actually thinking about the journey. We turn where we always turn, we know when to stop and when to go, if we commute sometimes we may even start to recognize certain cars that are always on the same schedule we are.
Articles on increasing your mental agility and keeping your brain fit as you age will often recommend driving a new route home from work. It makes sense; the brain gets lazy when it thinks it knows what’s coming, throw it for a loop and suddenly it has to start working, all those little neurons and synapses firing away. “Oh, wait, she turned left there! That’s not normal! NOW where do we go? OK, left, then we need to take a right, and then…” Suddenly the brain is awake and active. (Other fascinating tidbit I learned while verifying this article; the Cleveland Clinic Foundation once did a study that proved a muscle could be strengthened just by thinking about exercising it. I was debating going for a walk tonight, but instead I want it noted that I thought about it. There, all done.)
I did one of those auto-pilot drives the other evening. I was on my way home from Bible study, just zipping along. And then it hit me, about four blocks too late…I meant to stop at Target since it was on the way home and I didn’t have the boys along. I’m pretty sure it would be hard to maintain the interest of two small boys while I picked out just the right shade of nail polish. (Either that or they’d insist on black, or yellow, or green or some other color that would make my toes look like I was suffering from an incurable infection.) So, I made a U-turn and back I went, frustrated at myself for wasting almost ten minutes by not heading directly to Target.
As I retraced my route, however, I thought about how applicable that is to my life sometimes. I set my day on autopilot and start humming along, doing the things that always have to be done, caring for the boys, cooking meals, cleaning (ok, maybe not cleaning), etc. I may tell myself at the beginning of the day that I want to spend more time communicating with God; I want to catch the small moments during the day where I can entwine myself with his plan. Yep, God and I are going places today. And then my day gets started and autopilot turns on and before I know it the end of the day is here and I’ve navigated through it without even thinking about God. I’ve missed all the turns I intended to take, the destinations I meant to go with him.
And so tomorrow I will get up again, and once again I will resolve to communicate with him, to join my path with his. But this time I’m going to retrain my brain. Maybe I’ll leave the Bible laying out where I can see it. Maybe I’ll post a prayer list on the microwave door. I’m shaking up the route a bit. I hope my brain gets the message, “HEY! Time to start shifting your focus!” It’s time to turn off the autopilot.