Over ten years as a professional driver I have piled up over a million miles of safe accident free driving, thanks be to God and some great instructors.  Driving “big rigs” over the mountains places the greatest strain to an engine and to ease that strain drivers utilize a principle called “downshifting,” or shifting the engine to a lower gear.  The engine in the proper gear works most efficiently and provides good health to a long lasting engine.  The rule for mountains is this: the same gear a big vehicle uses traveling up a hill, is the same gear the vehicle uses going downhill.  The engine when maximized to its potential works best for the driver and the safety of others on the road.  I observe many frantic drivers filling our roads in dire need of downshifting.

Indiana may not have many mountains, but there are several mountain sized projects that can wear down the everyday engine.  One manner of tackling these metaphorical mountains is to voluntarily change to a lighter work schedule to maximize your free time spent away from work.  An optimal time to put “downshifting” into practice is during summer time.  We have many outside distractions to entice our efforts to complete work tasks and enjoy more free time. One way to apply the spirituality of downshifting is to schedule a start time and end time to a work period and avoid doing more or less than your allotted time.  For example, I will put my nose into high gear for 2 hours on this big project, and then I’m going to stop and enjoy some recreation at a nearby Indiana State Park.  The idea is to be consistent with your daily project and not overdo or overheat your engine.  In the summer many vehicles will pull over to check for “hot breaks” or over heated engines.  The same is true of the human engine.  It never hurts to schedule some down time in our busy summer schedules.  Many mountains get placed in our paths and eventually put our tired engines in the repair shop for weeks.  Rather than wait for the inevitable breakdown from an overworked engine, plan ahead for some sacred downtime to rest your engines.  Stop by church to pray before your favorite stained glass window, read a spiritual classic in your favorite outdoor chair, schedule an evening shoreline sunset, find the nearest summertime planet in a star filled sky, or plant yourself by a window and do some serious daydreaming.  These days are called the “lazy days of summer” for good reason. 

I remember our cherished annual summer vacation spot when our family of five would drive up to Glenn Arbor, MI (near the pinkie of the hand mitten shaped state of Michigan.)  We would often visit Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, swim on the beach of Lake Michigan, and enjoy summer pursuits like fishing, hiking, or playing tennis.  These were sacred times for the family because we drew nearer to each other, we spoke more about the books we were reading, and spent more time laughing and playing around than any other time of the year.  We were separated from our normal work routine, and enjoyed the sacred downtime to rest our little engines. 

Our summer time always falls in the liturgical season of “Ordinary Time.”  Ordinary Time can have the illusion of being dull, uneventful, or unimpressive.   I would argue that every extraordinary event is preceded by a period of ordinary time when things plug along in a seemingly every day, normal manner.   What is God calling you to during this ordinary time of summer?  Are you in need of some spiritual downshifting or some sacred time away to rest a while?   Let’s take advantage of the lazy days of summer and find the proper gear to shift our engines for the long haul.    

2 thoughts on “Downshifting

  1. Fr John. I am Phyllis’ son, and I also drive. 18 years to be exact, and I think your use of driving to get your message across is very unique. I have talked to many ministers than have the truckers chapel at the truck stops, and they don’t seem to relay the message they wish to convey as well. However. I feel that I must correct you on one thing. That is, what gear you go up, is the same go down. That used to be the case. With more aerodynamic tractors, you should actually go down in one gear lower. This would also be a good way for those who follow. Life can have many obstacles, and sometimes we may need to take it one gear down in order to regroup, or refresh ourselves. I think what you’re doing with your blog is pretty cool. You simplify your message, and sometimes that what we need. A simple lesson, for over complicated living. Have a great day, and keep doing what you’re doing.

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