Sometimes, You Have to Put Yourself on Autopilot

We have a new driver at our house.

Once Lilly turned 14—the legal age to learn to drive in Kansas—she started studying the state driver’s handbook. She took countless practice tests online and passed the official permit exam on her first try.

old van

She’s handled herself (and the family minivan) well during training drives with Randy. There’s nothing very exciting about these excursions—they’ve mostly just circled the mammoth parking lot of a mostly vacant mall near our home, over and over again. But Lilly understands that it’s only through practice that driving becomes intuitive, so the repetition doesn’t seem to bother her.

Although she can still get impatient when someone else is driving, she has the makings of a very good motorist. And as her mom, I’m very grateful for that.

Her lessons remind me of my own experience learning how to drive. It didn’t go so well at first. The driver’s education teacher actually told me that the two special ed kids in our class were going to learn how to drive and so was I.

I’m not kidding—he really said that.

While I’ve never forgotten those demoralizing words, I can’t remember what it was about driving that stumped me so. But apparently, my inability to catch on posed such a challenge that the teacher called my father for some advice.

Not surprisingly, my dad understood my learning style better than the teacher did. He also understood the mechanics of teaching teenagers how to operate automobiles, having successfully accomplished this task with my five older siblings.

He took me out to a place where there was a curve in the road. He made me get out of the car (a regular-sized van, this time) and look to see how close I was to the shoulder. Instead of mere inches away, as I had thought, I was a good three feet from the edge of the road.

I was misjudging the distance, and that was impairing my driving ability.

Once I figured that out, I never had a problem again. (Well, not until he tried to teach me how to drive his old Rambler with the stick shift on the steering column, that is.)

My point is this: Sometimes, dads just know how to get through to their daughters when no one else can.

Many years later, around the time when my world first started turning dark for days at a time each month, I had another enlightening conversation with my dad.

When you are going through something that you know is not going to last forever, you have to put yourself on autopilot, he told me. Just do what you need to do and remember it will get better eventually.

This bit of advice, offered from the depths of my dad’s own experience, has been an emotional and spiritual lifesaver for me in the years since.

Sometimes, through no fault of my own, I go through deserts or floods or even earthquakes that leave me with little strength, few reserves and no answers. When that happens, my only good choice is to keep doing what I know is right and trust that joy will, indeed, come in the morning.

Are you with me here?

I keep praying—even if those prayers are short and mostly comprised of other people’s words. I keep reading the Bible—even if all I can manage is a single verse a day. I keep attending church—even when I don’t feel like it or don’t seem to be getting anything out of it. I keep helping, serving and giving—even if it’s only to take my mind off my own struggles.

Some people may refer to all this as going through the motions, and maybe they are right. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Often, it’s a matter of spiritual survival.

When the dark time passes, I can take myself off autopilot. Until then, though, I’m not wasting my time. Just like Lilly as she circles parking lots during her driving lessons, I’m building up faith and endurance for the next stage of my life’s journey—wherever that might take me.

Lois Flowers

P.S. Linking up this week with Angela Parlin at #RaRaLinkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Lyli Dunbar at ThoughtProvokingThursday, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Missional Women and Grace & Truth.

26 Responses to Sometimes, You Have to Put Yourself on Autopilot

  1. Dawn says:

    I never thought about autopilot quite like this before, but I believe your Dad’s words are true. He sounds like a smart guy. Sometimes we need to just keep on pushing through, doing the right things, so that the motions become intuitive.
    I have a daughter who’s learning to drive, too. : ) I can relate.
    Thank you for linking with Grace and Truth last week. I would love to feature this post tomorrow.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Dawn, I’m glad the post resonated with you. Even all these years later, my dad’s words are still ringing true in my life, and it thrills me that your readers might be able to benefit from his wisdom too. Thank you so much, and good luck with the new driver! 🙂

  2. Jill says:

    Hi Lois-I really resonated with your thoughts as I have a new driver in my home as well! We do need those times of going through the motions because sometimes they are a walk of obedience. I appreciated your dad’s wisdom in this and we all know that God works everything together for good! Thanks for the reminder! Enjoyed visiting from #Grace&Truth

  3. I don’t think I have thought of it that way. Your Dad is wise!

  4. We tend to think of being on autopilot as a bad thing, but sometimes it’s so much better than the alternative, which I guess would be collapse…This is great food for thought, Lois. Autopilot has also gotten me through many a hard time. Just do the thing in front of you is what I always say.

  5. Kristina says:

    very very very encouraging. I know I have been up and down lately and I do the same thing. I hold onto the verse in James that say draw near to God and He will draw near to you. visiting from history #30

  6. So good, Lois. The Holy Spirit has us on a similiar wavelength this week. Sometimes you just have to keep on climbing, pressing on, and digging in, even though you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Great thoughts here – and so grateful CA gives me two and a half more years til I have to traverse driving with my now 13 year old! Blessings and safety, friend. 😉

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Tiffany, I’m told having a teen who can drive is actually a blessing in many ways, but the learning part … whew! I think there’s a reason why I see so many dinged up vehicles in the parking lot of the high school near my house! Keep on keeping on, my friend … the light is there, even if we can’t see it!

  7. Karlene says:

    This post spoke to me, Lois, and I can relate very well. I, too, need those auto-pilot times – and the ability to stay the course of all I know to be true, good and pleasing has definitely helped me stand the test of time. #TellHisStory

  8. Trudy says:

    It’s hard to see your children get old enough to drive, isn’t it? It sounds like you have a wise dad, Lois. It’s hard to keep taking that one step forward sometimes, especially when it’s so dark and we can’t see God in it. But yes, it’s necessary. Autopilot also reminds me of giving over the steering of our lives to God who is an infinitely better Pilot than we are. Thank you, Lois, for this encouraging message. Blessings and hugs to you!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Good addition to the transportation analogy, Trudy! I know what you mean about taking the next step. Joy does come in the morning, but we don’t always know which morning that will be, do we? It all goes back to trusting the Pilot, right? Hugs, my friend!

  9. Lois, your dad is a wise man. I never took driver’s ed to learn how to drive. An older friend taught me, after my dad took me to a deserted parking lot and made me learn how to manage a big ole caddy in the snow—parking, reversing, driving . . .

    The suggestion that sometimes we just need to do things on autopilot makes sense to me. If we give up some of those aspects of our routines when the dark days come, we’ll be lost at sea, so to speak. Doing what we’re able to stay connected to the Father is the best thing we can do, even if it is out of habit rather than devotion at times.

    Great post, as always.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Jeanne, I think the word that comes to mind as I read the last part of your comment is discipline. It goes back to faith being a choice rather than a feeling, doesn’t it? I’m glad you had a friend to teach you how to drive when the lesson in the snow didn’t work (yikes!). I appreciate your insights here. 🙂

  10. Kathy says:

    So helpful in guiding my comments toward my man in a hard place again. Thanks, Friend, for your voice of experience.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Kathy, I know I’ve told you this before, but one day, I hope that we can all four sit down together and just share life for awhile. Praying for you and yours today, my friend. 🙂

  11. Linda Stoll says:

    And this sure is true in our family, Lois –>’Sometimes, dads just know how to get through to their daughters when no one else can.’

    Hands down. Yes. And the grandkids and the grandma, too.


    • Lois Flowers says:

      I’m with you on this, Linda. I’m amazed at how often Randy is able to say just the right thing to our girls, especially when I’m fumbling around trying to figure out how to respond to something! (I’m not much of an impromptu speaker, apparently!) Have a good day, my friend!

  12. OH, my goodness. Please hug your dad for me! The autopilot analogy is going to help me be less hard on myself right now. #RecoveringPerfectionist

    And, Kelly, thank you for the quote from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. I’m struggling with some things that make it hard to concentrate on spending those precious minutes in the morning with the Lord. I’m so grateful that He is ALWAYS there, just a whisper away, even when I seem to have Him on a checklist and nothing more.

    I guess autopilot sometimes can mean that I’ve walked with Him so long it’s second nature to know He’s with me on every curve in the road. It’s in the straightaways that I think I can be my own pilot and navigator!

    Thanks for this today. I needed it. (Give Randy a hug, too.)

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Susie, I think what made my dad’s advice especially powerful for me is that it is something he learned by experience. I’m glad you found it helpful too. Be gentle with yourself today, my friend. You are a blessing to me.

  13. Kelly S says:

    One of my favorite quotes is from Nancy Leigh DeMoss, “It is easier to breathe life into a dead routine than where there is no routine at all.” Going through the motions when it is all you can do is not a bad thing. It sounds like the very best thin you can do. Blessings from the #RaRaLinkUp!

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