I spent three full days without Max this weekend as I took a trip out of town.
Two of those days, however, were at home and Max’s presence was sorely missed (which was, in itself, a lesson).
Nevertheless, I was not without a teacher. Max sent, unknowingly to me, a substitute – the thing I was around/with the most during that time – my car.
I have not had a name for my car, but thankfully over the weekend she got named. Without my input or permission several friends named her “Big Momma Bear.” I confess I did not put up a fight, and I guess the rule is: once named, always named.
So, Big Momma Bear dutifully carried me across the state and back for some wonderfully fun times. It was a lot of travel in a short amount of time, and honestly I was a little worried. Big Momma Bear is a little old and well traveled and has recently gone through some major operations, including getting a new radiator.
Nevertheless, she operated at peak performance…until I started out to pick Max up from the friend who was taking care of him. I noticed the a/c get warm and looked down to see that pesky heat indicator all in the red again.
So, I pulled off the highway and let her cool down. As I checked under the hood, it immediately struck me that I only check on Big Momma Bear and really get to know her when something goes wrong.
And as I sat in the car waiting for her to cool down more, I realized that this pattern is a problem with all my relationships. Too often I am not really present until something major happens – good or bad. I expect things to run smoothly and to be there ready for me whenever I need them.
But that’s not how relationships work with any being – family, friend, pet, neighbor, car, enemy, etc. Big Momma Bear showed me that relationships take continual work. I have to make the effort to check in regularly and really care about what is going on on the inside.
If I don’t stay invested, if I take the relationship for granted or treat the other entity as merely an object, it will not be a healthy relationship. It may even explode in my face.
(Unfortunately, it has taken several issues under Big Momma Bear’s hood to awaken me to this reality, and for that I apologize.)
Knowing that what goes on under the hood matters is not enough, however – I have to actually know what is going on under the hood. And it is important to know in order not just to prevent disaster, but rather to increase closeness, to grow in vulnerability, and to rejoice in a deeper way with all people.
So thank you Big Momma Bear, for teaching me about how relationships work and for showing me that we must take time to check in and know what is going on inside those around us so that we might maintain meaningful closeness.
…And thank you for taking me so many fun places and experiencing many wonderful journeys with me.