For Christmas, a couple who has befriended my wife and me got me a gift certificate to a local reflexology spa. I was jacked. A foot rub coupled with ninety minutes of massage. Merry Christmas indeed.
As I settled in for my session this I decided to spend my time reflecting on analogies–sobriety analogies in particular. My intent was to think through analogies I have heard over the years and select those that might make for good blog posts.
But with my feet in a bucket of warm water (always make wee wee BEFORE going in for reflexology) and my temples and scalp being rubbed, a thought came to me and immediately grabbed my attention.
This whole life thing, a sober life in particular, is like driving a car.
When we are born, it is like we are given a shiny new car with a full tank of gas. We drive along through early childhood and adolescence not giving my thought to the upkeep of the car.
But at some point in time, for many of us in our early teens, that car gets a little dinged up. The windshield gets pretty dirty. It starts running a little rough. The tank runs low on gas. What to do?
If you are anything like me, you make the mistake of tapping into drugs and alcohol in an attempt to refuel the car. The effect is magical. The car speeds forward. It’s one thrill after another. But in reality, we aren’t getting anywhere. Our cars aren’t designed to run on drugs and alcohol. The joy ride is all an illusion.
For some of us, it takes years to realize we aren’t really getting anywhere. Drugs and alcohol create such a powerful illusion of driving fast that we can’t distinguish the seemingly real from the false. We are sadly deluded.
What’s more, even on an empty tank our car can provide distractions. There is the radio, power windows, a steering wheel and a horn, windshield wipers–plenty to do to keep us distracted. But we aren’t getting anywhere.
Stubborn and self-willed as we are we don’t seek out refueling. We fiddle and play. If we are particularly full of self-will we get out and push-convincing ourselves that we are getting somewhere.
If we are lucky (and all too often it doesn’t happen) we notice people who are driving along the highway of life happy, joyous and free. Humbling ourselves, we flag one of these motorists down and ask for help. Perhaps they are kind enough to spot of a gallon of gas from a can in their trunk to get us started.
It’s a start indeed, but will only carry us so far. How can we refuel? How can we fill our tank?
The passing motorist offers a few suggestions. But the highway is noisy. The instructions are hard to hear. We have to focus. We have to turn off our blaring stereo and really listen. The solution, they say, is to tap into a Power great than ourselves. Simple to say, but hard to do. What does that really mean?
Instead of immediately answering our question, these helpful motorists guide us into a repair shop. But this is unlike any repair shop we have ever seen. No mechanics are doing the work. Instead, they invite us to read the repair manual with them and do the work ourselves.
All too often, the people who find their way to this odd little repair shop are put off. “What do you mean I have to do the work myself?!?” They may hang around the shop for a bit, but then push their cars away in disgust. Often to be never heard of again.
But for the few that stay, small miracles begin to happen. Little by little, bit by bit, windshields are cleaned, dings repaired, fuel lines unclogged. Often they are surprised to find they still have fuel in the tank, but a faulty pump or a clogged fuel line prevented the Power from working. Engines rev, the once despairing drivers get a gleam in their eyes.
Some race off immediately, the repairs unfinished and a gas tank dripping fuel. But fortunately some stay. They learn that trips to the repair shop must happen regularly over a lifetime. There is much to learn. There is much work to do.
More importantly, they learn the great secret. Fuel is not scarce. It is abundant. It is everywhere. But you have to find “service stations.” These stations aren’t stationary physical locations. They appear and refuel our cars whenever we get into service.
The form the service takes matters little. It can be grand, it can be humble. The humble variety usually being the most efficacious.
This journey called life, come to find out, is all about healing the world one small act of service at a time. Some of the older mechanic instructors refer to this as doing “God’s will.” Others just say “stop thinking of yourself so much.” Regardless of how it is said, service, it appears, is the key to successful travels.
And so it is with us.