I felt an old, familiar panic. “Where am I, and how did I get here?” I wondered.
The feeling was familiar from a long ago summer. I was working in Oxford, Alabama and dating Becky who lived 90 minutes away in LaGrange, Georgia. I would drive over to visit her on Saturdays, but as a youth minister, I was expected back in Oxford for Sundays. Smitten, I usually stayed as late as possible at Becky’s house before heading home. (Her dad normally ran me off around midnight.)
Never good at staying awake while driving, I found it especially difficult on those late drives home. I tried everything: coffee, cokes, loud music, head out the window, even counting how many reflectors on the center line I could hit consecutively. Nothing seemed to help.
On those drives, I passed through two small towns. Each had one traffic light on the highway. Several times I roused myself to discover that I couldn’t remember if I’d passed through those towns. “Did I stop for the light?” I’d frantically wonder.
Sometimes, I would realize later that I had indeed passed through both towns without remembering it. I can only hope that even in my mental fog, I managed to stop if the light was red. (Apparently, I’ve always had trouble with traffic lights.)
I thought about those trips recently when I had to write my upcoming new age. I found myself with similar questions: “Did I already go through that many decades? Didn’t I just have a birthday yesterday? ”
It sometimes seems as if I’m asleep at the wheel, not really conscious of the life that’s flying by outside my windows. That’s a dangerous way to drive, and it’s a deadly way to travel through life.
Am I alone, or did 2016 slip by before you noticed? How many noble resolutions for 2017 have you already forgotten? Has half of this summer already passed without us noticing?
It is difficult to avoid dozing at the wheel. We can easily roll through the years without really steering. We wake up one day and wonder where we are, how we got there. But, there is a better way: “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).
Perhaps you could nudge me every now and then to make sure I’m not asleep at the wheel.