OK, I admit it: I am a carwash addict. My wife has a fancy medical name for it. She says it's a manifestation of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but whether you give it a fancy name or not, the bottom line is, I like my cars clean. I may be the only guy in town who's even been known to wash a rental car if I have it more than a couple days.
With that in mind, you'd be correct to assume that I spend more than my fair share of time in car washes, often waiting in line, which creates a dangerous situation. You see, whenever I have to wait, I people-watch, hoping somebody will do something I can either write about or include in a sermon, which brings me to this column.
This morning, as I patiently waited my turn I carefully watched the various car washing techniques on display in the wash bays in use ahead of me. Bay one was painful to watch. For a car wash fanatic, seeing someone who clearly doesn't have a clue how to go about it is excruciating. I bet he spent nearly $10 and drove out with a car almost as dirty as when he drove in. Bay two had someone using what I call the splash-and- dash technique. This gal wasn't too worried about getting her car clean, just wet. Bay three was the spring cleaner. He had the hood up and washed every nook and cranny. He even got down on his knees to wash the inside of the wheels. I could barely keep from applauding his thoroughness as
I drove by to the bay opening up next to him. Finishing my wash, which I almost always accomplish with a Toonie, I drove outside to the drying area. There I noticed a massive line-up at the automated carwash next door designed for those who prefer to have either a machine or someone else clean their car for them. I had to turn away. I couldn't take the thought of it.
Like most life experiences, my time at the car wash was not really about car washing at all. Sitting down at my desk a couple hours later, I began to reflect on what I'd seen. Most of us treat the dirt and crud and sin in our lives in similar fashion to how we treat the dirt on our cars. Sometimes, like the guy in bay one, we just show up at church and hope for the best. We don't really understand forgiveness or redemption, but rather hope that somehow the process of going to church will make us clean. Others of us are more like the gal who just did a surface spray. We don't allow the sin or dirt to get rooted out and dealt with, as long as our life looks better for a few minutes. One day, Jesus criticized some religious leaders for taking that approach. He said to them, "You only wash the outside of the cup, leaving the inside filthy." When it comes to dealing with our souls, image management can be a horribly risky model.
As for the folks who went through the automated wash,
I want to be careful not to cast aspersions on those who, because of physical challenges or other priorities, prefer to let machines or others clean their cars. There is a legitimate place for that. However, when it comes to soul care, there are aspects to it no one else can do for you.
There are times when we need to do the deep inner soul work like the fellow who even sprayed the inside of the wheels. Every corner, every speck of rust needs to be confessed and opened up to the forgiving touch of God. There are no short cuts to that, it takes time and honesty. Also, there's a place for an approach like my frequent wash visits.
Just as the Lord Jesus taught us to pray that our Father might forgive us our trespasses, we should learn to keep very short accounts on our sins, turning to God as soon as we become aware of a few spots, before they have time to get rooted deeply into our lives.
I don't expect you to share my views on car washing. I do hope, however, you'll take seriously the concept of soul care, allowing God to help you keep a vibrantly fresh, clean heart.
- Tim Schroeder is a pastor at Trinity Baptist Church; National Pastor with The Leadership Centre/Willow Creek Canada and Chaplain to the Kelowna Rockets.