I learned the value of a catalytic converter from my daughter’s chemistry book. Now, I have never been that interested in the mechanics of the automobile, but this intrigued me. It was a “wow!” moment. I started to reflect on the converter in light of spiritual formation. Yeah, strange, but that’s how my oddly-arranged brain works sometimes.
Before I get to the catalytic converter, I need to explain a bit of the chemistry first. Here is my understanding of what I read. When a compound that contains carbon and hydrogen reacts with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and water, a complete combustion reaction results. However, if the amount of available oxygen is limited, incomplete combustion occurs. In this case carbon dioxide is not produced. Instead, either carbon or carbon monoxide is one of the products.
Now, I am getting close to the catalytic converter. An automobile uses oxygen to burn gasoline. But the engine cannot draw in enough oxygen for the fast burning fuel, and an incomplete combustion reaction takes place. The resulting products are water and carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas. These are emitted from the tailpipe. Apparently, in the 1970s, the amount of poisonous emissions became a concern; and in 1975, the government required that all new vehicles be fitted with a catalytic converter. The converter reduces the amount of carbon monoxide in exhaust by converting the carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide.
Okay, on to the spiritual formation connection. I began to think about the “stuckness” of people, myself included. We get stuck in routines, in patterns, in ways of thinking, in ways of doing, in ways of being, in destructive habits, in boring habits, in spiritual habits. It’s as though we get stuck in a place where there is a limited amount of spiritual oxygen. We combust, but we are incomplete. We begin to emit a poisonous gas, but we can’t see it because we are stuck—stuck in the routines, the patterns, the ways of thinking, doing, being, the habits. We breathe the poison; others breathe it. Our “stuckness” takes us down the road of spiritual deadness.
One way to get off this road is to inject fresh air into the old habits. Every book that I have ever read on creativity (and that is no small number) asserts that change boosts creative thinking. I assert that change is the spiritual oxygen and the catalytic converter needed to eliminate the poison that kills our spiritual well being. Intentional change is a spiritual practice.
What do I mean by intentional change?
Try something new.
Try something you have not done before.
Learn a new skill.
Read something at the opposite end of your preferred choices.
Do something spontaneous, impulsive.
Taste a food you have never eaten.
Purposefully, change something every week.
Then, reflect on and journal your experience of this change.
How did this experience transform your understanding of God?
How did this experience transform your understanding of yourself?
How did this experience transform your relationship with God, with yourself, with others?
Catalytic change guaranteed to convert routine poison into breathable transformation.