Too often when I drive to work, I end up pulling into a parking spot without remembering anything about the drive there. I know I took on-ramps and off-ramps, negotiated intersections and stoplights, yet I have no recollection of any of it. I was thinking of this phenomenon when I was in the shower this morning, because as I reached back to turn off the water, I realized I had no recollection of shampooing, conditioning or washing. Since I was certain that I had not simply stood there for the last 20 minutes getting wet, I wasn’t too concerned about being clean. The simple fact is that we often engage an autopilot of sorts for tasks we repeat regularly. Our muscle memory allows us to perform the necessary steps in the proper order to achieve the desired results. This might be okay for showering and driving (okay, maybe it’s just a tad bit dangerous for driving), but it can be detrimental to our spiritual life.
How many times have you read a passage of Scripture, and upon completion find you have no idea what you just read? This is especially easy to do with Bible stories that many of us have grown up hearing our entire lives. We know how they begin and how they end, so any mystery is pretty much nonexistent. Contrast this with those moments when you read Scripture and a new revelation all but leaps off the page at you. A passage you’ve read dozens, perhaps even hundreds of times, suddenly takes on a whole new meaning and lights you up inside. What is the difference? It’s really all in our approach and our attitude. When we pray and ask God to reveal His word to us, when we pick up the Bible with every intention of learning something new, we more often than not will find it. However, if we are simply reading out of a sense of duty or propriety, our autopilot engages and we read without comprehension. It takes focus to seek out and learn new things. Focus is hard, of course, so we often opt for the much easier autopilot course. Following Jesus is rarely easy and it is always a conscious choice. If we are serious about following Him, learning from Him, then we must be willing to put sincere effort into studying His Word with focus and intensity.
Another area where we get in trouble using autopilot is in our family relationships. Sometimes it is so much easier to live a life that looks like Jesus when we are among strangers or friends than it is when we are in our own homes. It is easy to lose focus when surrounded by those who are closest to us because we know they will love and forgive us no matter what. Suddenly our efforts to control our tongue or to maintain an attitude of service are forgotten and we revert to a life that looks like anything but Christ. Our autopilot kicks in and we mindlessly while away what should be the most important hours of our day. Jesus never let up on His concentration; He never ceased living out His mission. If we would live like Jesus, we must engage in the model He demonstrated for us. At home it will take even more work to remain focused and on mission, but the effort is more than worth it since these are the ones with whom we have chosen to spend our lives. Imagine the peace in your household if you were to model Jesus in all of your interactions. Autopilot has no place in our relationships.
Be careful not to live your life on autopilot. Jesus deserves our devotion and our full attention. I don’t want to be like the disciples who fell asleep while keeping watch with Jesus. I want to live my life fully awake and completely aware of His presence. If Jesus thought my life was worth dying for, then surely His life is worth our attention. We must not give lip service to following Christ. A true follower will stay focused and on mission with a passionate intensity. He is the lover of our souls and the Lord of our lives. Let’s take care to stay off of autopilot and to live intentionally for Him.