Stuck in Neutralutral (Until I Shifted My Attitude)
Stuck in Neutral
(Until I Shifted My Attitude)
Pam Richards Watts
One skill I possess with secret satisfaction is the ability to drive a
standard shift. Since my general automotive knowledge is so painfully
limited, there is some consolation in mastering this much of the
My favorite car of all time was a five-speed, fire-engine red Toyota
Celica. Behind the wheel I was queen of the open road! It was a
bittersweet day when I finally had to trade it in for a more
conservative mom-mobile. Sigh.
Eventually I did go on to drive another five-speed. While shuttling
kids to karate and dance lessons didn’t exactly give me the chance to
“tach it up” or “red-line” it, it was reminiscent of those earlier,
carefree days. I love driving a stick shift.
That is, when it works. After 93,000 miles of city driving, one of the
interior parts of my gear shift began to wear out, making it harder
and harder to handle. Then it started making suspicious noises. I knew
I had a problem—I just didn’t know how big it was.
That gear shift decided to snap completely the very day my car was
full of children, the very moment I was about to cross a busy
intersection. We were stuck in neutral, unable to budge. The kids kept
urging, “Just step on the gas!” I kept insisting, “But I can’t get it
We couldn’t move.
Imagine my relief when several good Samaritans came running to push my
car into a nearby fast-food parking lot. Meanwhile, an emergency call
was made to dear husband, who contacted a tow truck for me. Within the
hour, my disabled vehicle was in the care of the car dealership, where
we learned it only needed minor repairs.
There have been many times since when I have felt “stuck in neutral.”
I’m stranded helplessly while others honk and keep going. Try as I
might, I can’t make life respond the way I want. I’d be thrilled to
get in gear and get going—but hitting the pedal does nothing but
create a lot of useless noise. So there I sit, chafing at the delay
and loss of momentum. After all, we’re supposed to keep moving
forward, aren’t we?
However, as I learned during our car dilemma, even in the midst of
setbacks we can still be thankful. In that instance, we were grateful
for many things: strangers who rushed to our aid to move us to safety.
The lightning-swift response of the tow truck. My husband, who left
work to come help shuttle our extra passengers. Friends who detoured
on their way home to offer additional assistance. The cooperative
attitudes of five high-spirited children who, armed with sodas and
French fries, helped me to see the whole experience as an adventure,
rather than a disaster.
We were stranded, but not abandoned. While we felt stuck and
powerless, God was working in mighty ways to move us forward.
As it turns out, “stuck” is not such a bad place to be. When I’m
constantly moving ahead in pursuit the next thing, I risk rushing past
some of the best things. Sometimes being forced to idle is just what I
need to shift my attitude from impatience and worry . . . to trust and
After all, I’m riding with the One fully able to get life in gear.
It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not
leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8
Be still. Be patient. Expect the Eternal to arrive and set things
right. Psalm 37:7 (The Voice)