Check Engine Light Pt. 1


As far as I know, nobody likes seeing a check-engine light show up on their car’s dashboard. It always seems to come at the wrong time doesn’t it?  You are about to go on a long trip, or you’re on your way to an important event and it turns on. They are frustrating, sometimes scary and typically aren’t received with joy or hopeful expectation.

The interesting thing about check-engine lights is they don’t tell you what the problem is, only that there is one.  Perhaps that is why they are so frustrating. It’s like saying “You have a problem but I’m not going to tell you what it is.”  Especially in older cars there was a tendency to only have one light that indicated a problem for everything. Maybe you have low tire pressure.  Not a crisis, but something to look into eventually. On the other hand maybe you lost all your engine oil and if you drive 1 more minute your engine will seize and you will permanently damage your car. So what is the point with such variation in the message?  A check engine light doesn’t tell you the problem, it only tells you that you need to take it into the shop and get it looked at.

I have found that God has given us a similar process within the human soul. We too have check-engine lights to indicate when there is something wrong. Like a car, it doesn’t tell you what the problem is, but simply that there is one. While not pleasant to have our personal lights go off, because they too typically come at inopportune times, they can save us from further damaging our own life (or the lives of others around us).  If we can see them, we can then make a choice about whether or not we’re going to respond to them. (Much like in our car.)

So what does a check-engine light look like in our lives? Any time our emotional response or internal emotional feeling is disproportionate to the circumstance, we’re getting a check-engine light. So for example: someone cuts you off when you’re driving down the road and you flip them off, your face turns red and you scream at them for the next 30 minutes hoping to catch up to them because maybe, just maybe you want to punch them in the face.  That’s a check-engine light.  Maybe most of you aren’t seeing areas of major anger in your life, maybe your check-engine lights are more subtle. Maybe it’s the friend who tells you they will be there for you then isn’t in a time of your most dire need. Maybe your response is simply to disown the friendship, never really desiring to talk with that person again rather than talk to them about the event.  Another possibility is that you find yourself making a mental list that says things like “I’ll never let them hurt me again” or “I can’t trust that person” or “I’m going to tell everyone else about what they did to me.”  Listen, I realize that in both of these situations something bad happened, but the emotional and intellectual response was disproportionate to the situation.  When you get a paper cut you expect someone to say ouch, but if someone starts jumping around screaming at the top of their lungs it’s a little excessive. Everyone in that room would be looking at that person with a funny look on their face.

We all have check-engine lights in our lives, and much like there is a level of embarrassment when someone gets in our car and sees the light, the people around us tend to give us funny looks (or have funny thoughts about us) when our personal lights turn on. We tend to get embarrassed, sometimes feeling ashamed, and our human tendency is to blame others for our lights. Here’s the problem: It’s your “car”, it’s your “problem”.  If someone else makes YOU angry, it’s YOUR anger.  Now before your mind goes running and you get angry at me, stop, take a deep breath and relax. There is freedom and healing available for you. God hasn’t left you hanging and He isn’t asking you to clean up your own mess. There is a solution.  Don’t be like the person who, seeing the check-engine light in their car took duct-tape and covered it over. That won’t solve anything.

Next week I want to talk about how to handle these check engine lights in our life. But for right now we need to let the Holy Spirit reveal any that we have so we’re prepared to address them.  You might already know of a few, but just in case you don’t, please join me in this prayer.  

Father, I ask that you would begin healing my heart and mind. I recognize that there are areas in my life that are messy, really. Really messy, and I don’t know how to clean them up. I realize that there are times when I really overreact. Sometimes internally and I’m good hiding things, but I still overreact. Other times it’s outwardly. Times where my circumstances might be a simple level one but my reaction is level 10. Dad, I don’t know what’s going on, but you do. Would you begin to reveal to me how to grow and heal? Would you show me what’s going on in those moments so that my words, thoughts and deeds are in alignment with the truth? Please teach me and heal me. I ask that you being to reveal what areas are check engine lights in my life so that I can move forward. I’m willing if you are.  Thank you father.


Friends, take notes this week. Don’t put yourself down, you’re not a loser. Take notes, and prayerfully begin discussing these things with Father this week.  I’ll see you next week!

David Laroche