Auto Pilot

Luke 1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

When I was 21 years old I had an appointment with my college advisor that happened to be timed quite closely to the end of one of my classes. As I joined the masses pouring out of the building, I lost my footing and tumbled down the stairs. I arrived late to my appointment, bleeding and a bit battered. My advisor asked why I was late. I explained my situation. She asked me if I knew why I fell down the stairs. I looked at her like you would look at someone who asked a ridiculous question. She told me I was too stressed and that is why I fell. I thought she was nuts for a very long time. Eventually, I figured out she was quite wise. I was a mess at that time- in fact I left college after that semester.

Last Friday, I took my dog to the groomer, then decided to walk to a nearby store and do some shopping. When I emerged 40 minutes later I walked up and down the aisles of the parking lot and could not find my car. I looked in my purse so I could activate my car remote. It wasn’t there. I realized that earlier that morning I retrieved the key from my coat and laid it in my console. My phone was on the front seat as well because, I reasoned, who needed a phone to take the dog into the groomer?

As these facts slowly sank in, I came to the realization that my car was probably stolen. With no phone, there was no way to call, and really, no one to call. I prayed- Lord did I pray- that mercy would trump my stupidity. As I looked around, desperate and sick to my stomach, there was my car- in the adjacent parking lot of the groomer and not the store lot I was walking around in. As I sank into the seat, giving voluminous thanks to God, I realized I was really, really losing it.

Five days earlier, my husband had moved out of our home. He had been vocally unhappy since we loved here nine months ago, but I assumed he needed time to adjust. Three weeks ago he called his former employer (eight hours away by car) and asked for his job back. By the end of the week he had secured his former job, signed a year lease on an apartment and quit his current job. I had not seen him so happy for a long time. Excitement bubbled over as he talked about his friends’ and family’s joy for his return. He babbled about the relief he felt and what he would move to his new apartment. We left for Thanksgiving with our son and he moved 2 days after our return, leaving with a trail of dust. Through all of this, I was silent. It seemed unreal to me.

I am trying to be a supportive spouse. I am trying to suppress my deep anger and resentment because I know unhappiness- it’s been my co-pilot my entire life. I have been packing his belongings this week for the mover to pick up, and I have been a bit of a mess. That day in the car, I cried and cried. Not only was I alone, I heard my advisor’s words coming back to me and the message was clear: you need to slow down and get it together before you make it worse. In my desire to forge on, I was on auto pilot and it literally almost cost me my sole mode of transportation.

I am slowly beginning to understand that I was operating on a theory that I had been patient and my time had finally arrived. I was sure that because I had waited it would fall into place. For many years, my husband’s career was our cornerstone. We could not move geographically, we rarely had him fully on vacations, and his life was tied to the business he had co-owned. It afforded us great things, and so the sacrifice seemed appropriate. But, once he moved on I assured myself that great opportunities awaited. And, they did. For me. What I did not figure on was my husband returning from whence we came.

I declined my husband’s request to follow him. At this point, I do not foresee that my decision will signal the end of our marriage, but time and distance can be funny things. It isn’t lost on me that this all happened during Advent, the season when waiting and watching is the name of the game. I have a habit of powering through this season, as I do in Lent, more concerned with schedules and tasks than living in the moment. I think about Mary, alone on the side of the road, declaring herself a servant of the Lord, even as she was in a fog of confusion and uncertainty. Her prayer is mine, that I could be both present and willing when all is out of my control. Precious Lord, hear my prayer.







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