A 1983 Chevy Monte Carlo. That’s what I drove around as I made daily hour-long trips back and forth to school as I was trying to finish my master’s degree back sometime in the 90s. I’d get into the car and switch into cruise control after a frustrating day trying to get motivated to write a thesis.
One day I was coming to the end of an on-ramp to the interstate, with a brand new Ford Probe moving along in front of me. It looked like smooth sailing ahead onto the highway, and as the Probe approached the entry point, I turned my head to look back into the traffic coming down the highway, for one last clearance. I don’t remember if there was a car coming or not, but when I turned my head back, I discovered in an instant that the driver in front of me had decided it was a good idea to stop. Boooom!
We both got out and were OK. The young woman, who was about my age, was kind and understanding. We looked at the damage and talked briefly, then she said to me, “My father owns an autobody shop. If you give me your information, I can work out a price that way – we don’t have to go through insurance.” That sounded absolutely fantastic to me, so we made a deal. I never felt so good about a car accident!
The next day she called with a wonderful price. We talked for a while, and there was a good vibe. We hung up and I wrote out the check and mailed it along. She saved me some money, lots of future insurance costs, and was great to talk to.
Some time later, it dawned on me: what was I thinking??? Why didn’t I ask her out?! I was a single guy, we really seemed to get along, she’s a really good person, a long conversation – like, everything was there to do something …. What was I thinking? Now, see, I was never a guy who missed those opportunities, and I wasn’t shy about those things. A little invitation to a lunch in gratitude for what she had done – it seemed so obvious some time later. But this time, I didn’t even notice the low-hanging fruit at all! What happened??
Cruise control. That’s what happened.
Now I’ve moved on from all that, and of course missed other opportunities along the way like all of us, but every once in a long while I go back and think about that time that I was oblivious to a great opportunity right in front of me, and I let that regret feeling show up. I let myself feel it a little bit, so that I remember what cruise control leaves me with. So that I don’t miss out again.
Jesus tells the disciples to be alert all the time in life. “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” (Mk 13:33) It’s because he gives us really big opportunities, like, low-hanging fruit, that are going to come unexpectedly. And we don’t want to miss them.
Don’t get into cruise control.
Don’t miss the great opportunities.