Friday, August 31, 2012

Big Plastic Bags and Spluttering Engines

In February 1998, I took the plunge and bought a motorbike.  OK … a scooter. I’d resisted the idea for nearly five years since moving to Bali, thinking it was far too dangerous. 
 Then we hit a time when the US dollar was getting a fantastic exchange rate, and I realized it would stupid not to take advantage of the chance to buy a scooter at a really good price. So I did.
Good law-abiding citizen that I am, I checked into getting a driver’s license. I expected to be told that I needed to take a course or pass a test. As it turned out, I was given a license before I even knew how to drive. Go figure.
I practiced driving in the alley beside my house. It wasn’t long before I left the city and drove into the country. I loved the feel of the wind in my face, and the sound of Harley’s motor purring like a kitten as I drove through the mountains and rice terraces of Bali

Harley Junior became my primary mode of transportation. When I had to bring home groceries or carry other things, I often put them in a plastic bag, hanging the bag by the handles on a metal hook near my right knee. If the bag was a large one, I’d have to drape it over the cutout area between my knees  so it would hang over the other side and not get in the way of my feet.
There was just one problem with Harley, and the problem showed up quickly once I was using him for everyday transportation. I could drive for a little while, but then he just didn’t have enough power to keep going. He’d jerk, spit and splutter to a stop. I was really frustrated.
I have no idea how many times in those first few weeks I took Harley to a repair shop to be checked. I took all my paraphernalia off the bike and waited while the mechanic checked him out. The weird thing was that Harley never had that same problem for anyone but me.
Finally, at the end of yet another discouraging visit to the mechanic, I prepared to leave. This time, the mechanic stood beside me as I loaded my bags. He saw me drape my large plastic bag from the right side to the left … and he immediately recognized the problem.
When I draped the bag across the center, it covered the oxygen intake opening. No oxygen could get to the engine, and it couldn’t run properly. The mechanic compared it to trying to run with nose and mouth covered. It just doesn’t work.
I stopped draping the bag, even limiting what I put in it to begin with. From the time I started keeping that oxygen intake open, Harley never had another problem with a spluttering engine.
As we journey with Jesus, our souls need to “breathe”, too.  We need time with God to refresh and empower us – to fill our souls with life-giving “oxygen”. It is very easy, metaphorically speaking, to fill our lives with so many activities that we need a great big “plastic bag” to carry them all. The “bag” gets in the way, so we drape it over into other areas of our lives, and it ends up covering up that “oxygen intake”. It crowds out our time with Jesus. Eventually, our spiritual lives jerk and splutter to a stop.
Shannon Milholland has written about this same principle using a running metaphor in her post entitled “Lessons Learned On The Road –Don’t Stop Breathing”. I encourage you to click the link and check out what she has to say.
Whether you think about running, driving a motorbike, or walking with Jesus through life, the message is the same. We need oxygen in order to keep going. Not just once in a while, or for a mere fifteen minutes a day, but all the time. We need to keep that “oxygen intake opening” uncovered all day long. We need to talk to God and live in His presence in the midst of everyday activities …all the time. When we do, our spiritual motors can purr like a kitten.
I wonder …how is the motor of your soul running? Purring or spluttering? Is the “oxygen intake opening” covered and blocked, or consistently open, allowing your soul to “breathe”. If the motor is spluttering, why not undrape the bag?


  1. Thanks, Julie, for the sweet link! I can just picture you toodling around on your scooter. I always think they're super cute!

  2. I'm finding great stuff on your blog, and Rosann's and now on Bill In The Blank. (Sorry, I can't remember his real last name.) As for my scooter ... Harley Junior is likely to show up in a number of my posts. He's almost a member of the family. :)


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