Author, marketing maven, and leadership guru Seth Godin recently mentioned something in a blog post that I have been thinking about since I read it.
He was talking about what happens when you switch gears in a car that is a stick shift or manual transmission. This immediately had my attention because I drive a Jeep Wrangler, which happens to be a six-speed, stick shift.
Sometimes when I try to valet park my Jeep at a restaurant or hotel, they have to go find one of the "older" valets or a manager to drive it because none of the younger ones know how to drive a "stick."
This has very little to do with my Devo today. But I find it amusing.
Back to Godin's analogy...
When a car is switching gears, the engine provides no forward power. And it’s more challenging to steer, brake, or otherwise control the car's forward motion as you change it from one gear ratio to another.
In other words, you give up some control over the vehicle when you push in the clutch, and the engine pauses before you find the next gear, pop the clutch, and re-engage the engine.
And yet, the only way to effectively switch gears is to do it while moving. To use your forward momentum to overcome the pause in the engine’s power.
Anyone who has ever driven a stick shift vehicle might immediately understand this. Still, I don't want to assume anything, so here's a bit of explanation: If you try to shift into a higher gear when you are not moving or aren't moving very much, it's probably going to stall the engine.
So you need some forward momentum to make the shift, but you also need to let the engine pause while you do it because if you don't, you might have a bigger problem. Godin puts it like this:
If you keep trying to accelerate without switching gears, you’ll blow out your engine.
There are a couple of lessons from this, from my way of thinking. First, it's pointless to start shifting gears when you aren't moving forward. Second, as Godin says, you risk blowing up your engine if you don't pause to switch gears while moving forward.
By now, you probably figured I'm not trying to give lessons on how to drive a stick shift and that I'm speaking metaphorically about shifting gears, which is precisely what Godin was doing all along.
But I want to approach this differently than Godin undoubtedly intended. He's a business and marketing guru, and I'm a pastor and (sort of) theologian. So, I want to speak to something other than organizational change, business models, marketing, etc.
Instead, I want to use this metaphor to speak to spiritual transformation and how we need to not only "shift gears" when it comes to our faith but also be willing to pause to do it wisely and well.
In our life of faith, we need to experience change and transformation if we are going to move forward with confidence toward growth, new life, and maturity. So we need to shift gears from time to time. We need to learn new things, change our minds, and discover new ways to experience God.
Trying to shift gears while not moving is not a good idea because it'll just end in disaster. We'll soon see the need for change when we have momentum forward.
But we need to give ourselves room to grow, to make that shift. That's where the pause comes in.
By allowing ourselves to pause, reflect, think, pray, meditate, or find space for peace, we give ourselves a better chance to make the necessary shifts to keep moving and following Jesus wherever Jesus is leading us.
May you discover new shifts you must make to keep growing and moving after Jesus. May you let yourself pause to make those shifts smoothly. And may you find joy in your new experiences of God, life, faith, and everything.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.