The night the lights went out in the parking lot

How often do we limp along, subsisting on jump-starts?

The car had been starting hard for a couple of days. You know the feeling – that breath-holding moment when you turn the key in the ignition and the motor grinds but doesn’t kick over and that sinking feeling that all your plans are about to change. Then it catches and you breathe again and sense that you just dodged a bullet. And you think to yourself, “I really need to do something about that,” but who has time to take the car in? Or maybe who has the money?

So there I was in the dark and the rain (this would be the only rainy night in San Antonio in months) trying to get home after an evening class, and this time the battery had met its end and was not going to turn over. Fortunately, God, who anticipates my every stupidity, sent an angel in the form of a classmate with jumper cables. The morning after, and with another jumper-cable start under its hood, the car was at the auto repair shop, taking just as much time and costing just as much money as it would have had I attended to it in the first place.

How often in life do we limp along, recognizing that we are running out of energy and subsisting on daily jump-starts?  We get along on six hours of sleep a night when we know we need eight; we throw a few prayers at God as we conk out, knowing that if we gave it a little more time and attention we might have a better relationship with the Almighty; we tell the kids “not now” even when we know that “now” will never come again. And we ignore that little voice inside that says, “You need to do something about this” until it’s too late and the kids are grown and gone and relationships are a disaster and we are sitting in the rain in the dark with a dead battery.

Sometimes, folks, what’s needed, really needed, is a drastic change. A surgical removal of the dead battery and its replacement with a new source of life that does not just sputter along. Life, the way many of us do it, is energy-sapping. But we just keep pushing through, meeting the demands of the moment and ignoring how much we need to stop, pay attention, and take the time to seek refreshment.  If we are not connecting with the life-giving relationship that God longs to have with us, sooner or later our bodies and minds are going to stop dead.

Sadly, our busyness, our accomplishments, our list of tasks completed do nothing to refresh us. Our schedules are full while our souls are starving.  “Deep calls unto deep” says the psalmist (42:7), as we skim the surface of life. But, as Emmylou Harris sang, “The surface water cannot tell us what the deep water knows.”

Henri Nouwen observes that we long for one thing that will satisfy us — the right job; a new relationship; the latest, greatest book on spirituality — but that we look in the wrong places.

The punch line in all of this is that the class I had been attending the night the battery died was a class in spiritual formation. It’s pretty clear to me where the real learning took place.

Marjorie George is editor of Reflections magazine and ReflectionsOnline, both published by the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.  Reach her at

“Aren’t you, like me, hoping that some person, thing, or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being you desire? Don’t you often hope: ‘May this book, idea, course, trip, job, country, or relationship fulfill my deepest desire.’ But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment, you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run. This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burnout. This is the way to spiritual death.” – Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Direction, pg 32.

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From The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas

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