That Stupid Little Check Engine Light

The check engine light came on in my car a couple of days ago. I hate the check engine light. Every time I get in my car I hope and pray that this time that annoying, orange image in the corner of the dash would be nonexistent. Each time, I am a little bit disappointed. If you own a car that is more than a year old you probably share this sentiment. I think most people hate the check engine light. In fact, I have seen some people who hate it so much that they have put tape over the light so they wouldn’t have to look at when they drive.

The funny thing about the check engine light is that its really not a bad thing. In fact, it is a very good thing. It is a part of our car that was created to warn us of potential problems so that we can fix them before they become bigger problems. Its not like the absence of the light would automatically mean that the car is miraculously healed. In fact, it is not the check engine light that we need to fix. The check engine light is just there to tell us about something else in the car that we need to fix. But when the check engine light comes on I don’t find myself cursing the engine, the radiator, the brakes, the fuel pump or whatever else it might be that is causing the problem. No, instead I curse the check engine light. Because if it weren’t for that stupid light, I could just keep going on like everything was okay.

We all do it. We know that something is not right with our car, and instead of investigating that strange sound, we just turn the music up louder. If we can’t hear it, can’t see it, then we don’t have to do anything about it. And then that stupid little light comes on and we can’t ignore it anymore. Now there is a bright, visible reminder that things are not as they should be. The light is not broken, something beneath the hood is. But it is the light that I hate. So we put some tape over it, turn the key, and drive on like everything is okay. After all, getting rid of that stupid light is easier than actually fixing the problem that the light is telling us about.


The problem with the check engine light is it exposes something in our cars that we don’t want to be true. It keeps us from being able to pretend like everything is okay. Don’t we hate when the same thing happens in our own lives? We all know, on some level, that we aren’t perfect. In fact, many of us are aware that there is a fundamental flaw in our beings, that we are broken in a number of ways, that we have a great need. But boy do we hate it when someone or something reveals that truth to us. We hate it when the problems in our lives and in our hearts are exposed. We hate the proverbial check engine light of our souls that reminds us that we are not as we should be.

So instead of dealing with the problems beneath the surface, we look for temporary fixes that are nothing more than a bandage on a broken bone, or a piece of duct tape over a check engine light. We are afraid of doing the often difficult, usually grimy, and frustrating work of lifting the hood, shining a light on the engine and dealing with the problem.

This analogy is a work in progress, but I think there is something here. At the end of the day, we all struggle with this fact: We hate the check engine light instead of using it for what it is: an indicator that there is work to be done, that we are in need of healing. What are the check engine lights in your life? What matters of the soul might they be pointing to? What would it look like to open up the hood?

I have some ideas about this that I hope to discuss in another post, but first I would love to hear your thoughts!

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