My friend asked, it’s been several years now, “So, how are you doing?” and I answered with the ubiquitous “I’m fine” and he looked at me in the eyes and said, “Really, because you look like you’ve got a lot of stuff going on under the hood.”
Under the hood. Concealed from everyone, or at least I thought so. If I could just keep up the external behavior, the convincing smile, the quick assurance that all was just fine and that I couldn’t complain, really, then no one would see. But Charles saw — because he had been there himself — that under the hood, something was falling apart.
And something was falling apart. It was a profoundly difficult stretch for me: a time when I had committed to look more deeply at the way my life was put together and to submit myself to God’s offer of divine rearrangement, if I wanted it. I did want it and I didn’t want it and I did want it. You know what I mean. I wanted the rearrangement but I knew in my gut that the rearrangement meant that some stuff was going to have to fall apart. It wasn’t just a fresh coat of paint or the removal of a few dents that was required (for me, at least): it was an engine overhaul. Something was definitely going on under the hood.
About the same time that Charles “saw” me, I was reading Anthony De Mello, an Indian priest and spiritual writer, who offers in his book Awareness a metaphor for the spiritual life that jumped right out at me.
The goal of the spiritual journey is in large measure understanding what’s going on within you. Self-help books, secular and religious alike, he says, often amount to basically pushing around a broken-down car. The car breaks down along the journey and so “we roll up our sleeves and begin to push.” We push the car down the interstate until we get to our destination and we say “We made it! We got here!”
“But do you call this life?” he asks. What we need is not more effort, not an eternal pushing of the broken-down car, but a willingness to let God open the hood and clean out the engine, or at least change the spark plugs.
It’s fall. Less of some things and more of others, perhaps. I invite you not to arrive at winter tired from pushing the car all around the city. Don’t be afraid to submit yourself to the Divine Mechanic. Don’t be afraid to mess around under the hood.