Check Engine Light


My sons introduced me to Volkswagens. The car I have driven for over four years was old and had 226,000 miles when I purchased it. Today, it is about to turn over 370,000 miles.

While this may be the favorite car I have owned, like any car, it isn’t without headaches.

Repeatedly this spring during my regular commute to the Regeneration office in Towson, MD from my home near Harrisburg, PA, the turbocharger would stop working on a particular hill on I-83 and the “check engine” light would come on. Even with my foot pressing the accelerator to the floor, my speed dropped and I’d watch the needle on the speedometer drop in rapid descent. There’s a name for this: It’s what is called “limp mode.”

As people, we have our own versions of limp mode emotionally, relationally, physically, or spiritually. Too often, our response is to do more and try harder. We press our foot to the floor, thinking more effort, determination, and intensity will rectify our situation. But, to no avail.

With my car, I found a way to temporarily remedy the limp mode problem. I could engage the clutch, turn the car off, and restart it. Almost every time the turbo would reengage and I would soon be up to speed again.

But to truly fix the problem required a more significant change.

Our world offers a million ways to “re-start” when we find ourselves in emotional, relational, physical, or spiritual limp mode. It is tempting to try to keep going, settling for behaviors or compulsions that seem to get us moving again, when long term, they actually leave us worse off.

To correct the problem with my car, I needed to accept that it would cost me something significant—time when my car would be unavailable to drive and money to purchase a new turbo and pay an auto technician to do the installation.

In a similar way, there is a cost to truly remedy the emotional, relational, physical, or spiritual limp mode we experience in life. God gives freely to us, but He doesn’t force Himself on us. To receive the restoration He is giving may mean…

  • Taking time away in silence and solitude;
  • Choosing to be still before God in prayer, and inviting Him to minister to our weary soul;
  • Reading Scripture, not measured by chapters but by soaking in a verse, phrase, or word;
  • Gathering with others to worship in community.

Many of us may also need to invest time, energy, and money in a Christian conference, spiritual coaching, or counseling to gain the health and wholeness we’re after.

The next time you experience emotional, relational, physical, or spiritual limp mode, envision a light flashing on your dashboard that says “check your soul.” I encourage you to not just pull over and restart life as usual, but to take the time and make the investment needed for real restoration.

When was the last time you invested time or resources in your own soul? Was it worth it?


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By Dan Keefer

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