Recently I’ve been experiencing dryness in my relationship with the Lord, specifically with my affections towards Christ and rejoicing in my salvation. As I’ve thought of how to describe this season, a flying metaphor came to me: “autopilot.” Even though I’ve flown a lot this year, both for work and personal trips, I never really knew a lot of piloting facts until I researched them for this blog.
As it turns out, pilots manually control the plane during takeoff, but engage the autopilot shortly thereafter. Some planes can even land themselves! A pilot’s job, however, is not that easy. Throughout the entire flight, they are monitoring various gauges and levels to ensure the plane is safely making its way to its final destination. The FAA even has been encouraging pilots to fly manually more throughout a flight to ensure their manual piloting skills stay sharp.
It made me wonder how many others experience an autopilot Christian life. In keeping with the metaphor, right after we are saved, we are filled with joy, excitement, and intrigue in learning more about who Jesus is. We are very hands on with our relationship with God and likely very intentional. Yet as we age and progress through different chapters of our life, it can become easy to settle in and go on autopilot. We continue to monitor our life through routines and checks, whether it is attending church every Sunday, attending our weekly small group, and maybe volunteering occasionally at a soup kitchen or buying a Christmas present for someone in need during the holiday season. Everything may even appear or feel fine in our lives. However, if we really think about it, our lives slowly become a routine that looks different than when we first came to know Christ.
I feel like I am on autopilot lately. There are times in a flight when the autopilot will turn off, such as extreme turbulence, forcing the pilot to manually operate the aircraft. God will also sometimes use an unexpected life event to jolt us out of autopilot. But as a Christian, I don’t want to be jolted out of autopilot. I would rather choose to keep my piloting skills sharp and want to constantly be engaged with the Lord.
So, what can you do when you realize you’re on autopilot? While I have not perfected this, there are some things I have learned to help steer away from the temptation of going on autopilot with the Lord.
One of the biggest buzzwords in church today is “community.” Yet, how many of us actually engage in vulnerable and honest conversations with another brother or sister about how we are doing spiritually. How many of us ask our brothers and sisters how they are doing? Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Again, I’ve found this is easy to say and talk about conceptually, but actually living it out? Much harder. Why does this happen? I’ve found it takes more effort to be vulnerable. It’s a lot easier to talk about work and football than to share areas of our life where we struggle and are weak. Yet that is what we need to avoid going on autopilot and getting out of autopilot.
Obey God’s Word
As I think back on my testimony, the times when I feel the most connected with God and in tune with his Holy Spirit is when I was taking God at his word, such as sharing the gospel with unbelievers, serving the poor, discipling younger believers, etc. The book of James in the Bible discusses this in detail, and here is one snippet: “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:25-27). Faith without works is not real faith. Disobedience, or even lukewarm obedience, is probably the best and most prevalent explanation for all of us when we are on autopilot.
Keep Some Things on Autopilot
Autopilot is a great technological advancement for aviation. It is rare you hear of airplane crashes; in fact, chances of a plane wreck are one for every 1.2 million flights, so less than 31 crashes worldwide per year, for reference, there are over 6 million car wrecks per year in the U.S. alone! Despite this season, I’ve continued to spend time in the word, praying, and memorizing scripture, and attending church and missional family when I’m not traveling or in night class. It is important to continue to maintain routines that previously filled us with joy. Continue to read, pray, and attend small group and Sunday service. God may use one of these times to jolt you out of autopilot or connect you with another believer who can speak a word of truth and encouragement to you.