Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Day my WHEEL FELL OFF on 5th Street... (Part 1)

So, it's no secret that my car has been in the shop, and let me tell you, there's nothing more testing of your Christ-like-ness than being at the mercy of a repair shop.

Here’s the short and edited version: my u-joint needed replacing (I still don't know exactly what that is, btw), and the wrong part was ordered—that was week one, plus throw in some broken promised call-backs, lots of time on hold, a little rudeness, and in general, good ole waiting. And then, you know, the day we go to pick it up (Day 7), my wheel fell off while we were driving, on 5th Street. (Fortunately, the service manager and the technician were in the car to witness it.) So, the next week of work involved wheel replacement, axil repair, and good ole body work to the entire side paneling and bumper bracket.

About this time, our church started a series on judgment. Oh boy. Did I attach significance to that event? Um, yes. Did I get angry and offended? Oh yes.

I don’t generally consider myself an angry person, but if you’ve been around me at all—and if I love you enough to be real with you—you’ve heard my rant. And, of course, because I’m not confrontational enough to take it out on the repair personnel, I end up just being really angry in my heart and head—and in my head, let me tell you, I can say all kinds of rude things and do lots of brave things that I would never actually do in real life.

Here’s a better summary version: I am proud and arrogant, and I’m convinced I could do a better job, more quickly, than 10 technicians put together. I’m also impatient and am the most important customer you’ve ever had. And, while we’re at it, I’ve added a “because” to every “observation” for why the work isn’t done and X person was rude (which, of course, is also my own perception). And again, I’ve attached significance to all. of. this.

This is where God got me and ever so gently reigned me back in—around Day 8.

When the wheel fell off and caused greater damage to the car (Day 7), there was this question of who is responsible and who will pay? As Hal and I are not confrontational people, we listened to lots of versions of why the company should do the right thing, or our being justified to ask them to pay. We needed little help coming up with all the reasons, but, in short, my mind played on two key phrases: they should pay because it’s only fair; it is the right thing to do.

Because God’s word for me this year is grace and because I want so badly to wrap my head around this concept, I began praying—really more like questioning: Daddy, where is grace in all this? Why are we not favored and blessed with a fixed car already? Why do more problems keep coming?

So, as far as my understanding of grace to this point, read: grace = granting wishes.

Then, of course, my performance/punishment system sets in, and I begin thinking, Well, I guess you don’t want to be gracious because I’ve been angry in my heart and judgmental toward the service people. That’s fair; I know I’ve repented of those things, but I deserve the consequences for my actions, and this is my consequence.

Read: grace = works.

But the morning after my wheel fell off, I read the parable of the rich landowner, and let’s just say, God humbled me completely.

Jerry Bridges writes, “The landowner could have paid [the eleventh hour workers] only what they had earned, but he chose to pay them according to their need, not according to their work. He paid according to grace, not debt” (p. 50).

His goodness, His grace is not in regard to my works or efforts; neither is it suspended by my sin. His grace is not in regard to works or sin—it is beyond what we could have ever deserved or earned. His grace meets our need, not our merit.

Our deterrent from understanding God’s grace is pride; we still want to place some work and effort on ourselves. It’s not in our nature–certainly not our American culture—to receive something for nothing. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” we say, so we resist living on a spiritual welfare system (Bridges, p. 59). Who needs a handout when I’m perfectly capable? This: pride.

God began to show me that the root of my anger and pride was fear, and my fear was connected to lack: that the repairs would be expensive and that it would be a strain on our finances.

He also began to show me that it was by His grace, His favor, that my wheel didn’t fall off while I was going 80 mph down I-27—both before we took my car in and after we got it out. What if it hadn’t made the noise when we picked it up on Day 7? It was in His graciousness that the wheel fell off at the exact time that it did.

So, humbled, I thanked Him for His favor, I thanked Him for His grace that meets every need, and I thanked Him that even if we had to pay, He would provide.

But there was still this pesky business of who would pay and what was right or fair…

(Coming up in Part 2!!)

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