The multiflora rose bushes are exploding with white blossoms when it hits me: I’m living on autopilot again. We all have our own versions of autopilot – the thoughtless brushing of teeth and consumption of coffee, the drive to work that’s the same every day, and the daily routines that make up the foundation of our daily lives. We push through our days with little thought, no margin time to notice beauty, thousands of stressors streaming through our minds, and a lingering lack of simple enjoyment.
I stop along the road and stare at the white roses. Never in my life have I noticed these invasive, injury-causing plants in blossom. I’ve grimaced as their needle-like thorns penetrated my clothing and pierced my flesh. I’ve clipped them away from trails and dug them out of the hedgerow. But I’ve never noticed them in bloom. I’m astonished that something so beautiful could emerge from something so menacing.
What if there is beauty awaiting me in countless unseen corridors of my life, and I’m too busy solving problems and worrying about thorn bushes to notice?
I smell the white roses. I literally put my face into the thorn bushes I’ve cursed upon and breathe in something beautiful. I wonder how much joy autopilot has stolen from my life. I wonder how many sunrises I missed on the way to work because I all I could think about was how to get the progress reports finished by Friday. I wonder how many conversations I missed because I was too worried about raking leaves or logging miles or hanging curtain rods.
Is this the gateway to the joy and fulfillment I crave? Take my life off autopilot and refuse to slip back into this thoughtless way of living.
Jesus said it like this: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In him we have peace. Trouble will come, but he has overcome it. He wants us to walk in peace.
He also said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). If autopilot is destroying my days, it is certainly not from the Lord. His plan is that I will have an abundant kind of life.
The opposite of autopilot is intentionality. When I live with intentionality, I slow down to notice the people in front of me. I slow to observe beauty in the architecture of my community, the wispy breaths of high cirrus clouds, and the jade buds sprouting from the spruce tree in the yard. Embracing these things feels like actually living.
Tasting the food I eat, drawing on the sidewalk with chalk beside the kids, and lying in the grass while geese pass overhead are each gateways to joy. And somehow, opening my eyes to what’s around me feels like opening my eyes to God. When I see the good in it all, I am drawn closer to his beating heart.
Joe Rigney speaks of this kind of observation in his book, The Things of Earth. He calls it indirect godwardness: “a subconscious focus on God while engaging with the world that God made” (121). He goes onto explain that indirect godwardness increases our direct focus on God “by creating new mental, emotional, and spiritual categories for our enjoyment of God. It keeps us from being vague and indistinct in our minds” (126).
I meander slowly away from the white roses and gather a bouquet of daisies along the roadside. A barred owl calls from the valley behind, and I’m thankful for having noticed.