I know you know what to expect when entering an automatic car wash, but for a brief moment can we play pretend that you don’t….
Can you imagine how frightening that would be? You’re approached by a man that says, “You could have a beautiful finished product, just on the other side of this tunnel.” You squint your eyes a little, peering at this aforementioned tunnel, and you decide that seems pretty doable. “All you have to do is drive on my path, and trust me. You’ll like what you see on the other side.” Okayyyy… you slowly approach the tracks. It’s dark in there, you can’t see much, except maybe some rather large, looming shadows off to the sides. What are those? It’s a little scary. Not quite “debit card declined 3 times” scary, but it’s certainly unnerving.
You look around and that guy is nowhere in sight. Where did he go? And the exact moment you think about turning back, you feel a rumble and then something begins moving below you. Oh, wow, you’re moving. Oh, this better not mess up your tires, you just had that one plugged and it’s gotta last you at least a year. It’s sort of quiet, as your car ascends into the humming darkness. You are all alone in this place. You thought for sure there would be at least one other person in here. That guy that talked you in here, or maybe someone that works for him, could at least be here to hold your hand through this, or tell you this is just a part of the process. This is a part of the process right?
There’s almost a calmness… if you don’t mind the darkness, or the uncertainty, or the loud, inexplicable whirring noise. You almost get comfortable. “Okay, I’m gonna get on to the other side in no time” you tell yourself. And then… water starts to rain down overhead. First, a slow gentle mist, slight trickles that make you wish you had used the bathroom first, quickly transcend into angry, pelting sheets that rattle the roof and you definitely wish you had used the bathroom first. What is this? You begin to panic, are all the windows up? Is there somewhere water can get in? I mean, you drive this car in the rain with no qualms, but being in a dark tunnel that is filling with water can make you second guess these kinds of things. You did your hair today, and you just can’t handle getting soaked right now.
Just as you begin to scramble for something to shield yourself, perhaps an umbrella or an old McDonald’s bag, the rain passes. You still don’t have control of navigation, or how quickly you can move, but this isn’t so bad now that the water has stopped. You can almost catch your breath… What is that? What’s tha- “Don’t put that on my window!” Cloudy globs of who-knows-what spreads across your windshield like frosting, and you’re now blind to your surroundings. The sounds, the darkness, the shaking as things whir all around you, and you can’t see any of it.
You want to tell yourself you’re nice and content here and that it’ll all be over soon, but in that exact moment, with so much going on around you, you just can’t. All you want to do is stick your head out the window, risking these -what appear to be, but you still have no real confirmation of, giant mops as they oscillate all around your car. But being socked by one would still almost be worth it, just so you could have a glimpse at the end of this tunnel, because clearly now you’re losing faith in what this man signed you up for. Right now you are alone, and you have no real inkling that you will make it out in one piece.
It suddenly dies down a bit, and you think ‘ah, the worst has passed, I bet they’re going to let me out any minute’… And then it starts to rain, again. But, in good news, your vision is getting clearer as the gunk melts off your windows. You, again, feel yourself being thrust forward and not by your own doing. More gears crank, engines whine, and you can’t actually see what that loud noise is that you’re headed into, but the light at the end of the tunnel is growing bigger.
Louder and louder an intense thundering sound grows until you are right in the middle of what you could only assume is a tornado. The pressure of the wind beating down literally shakes the car and all of its contents, including that large fountain pop you just got on the way here and, on top of all of this, now the ice is going to be melted, and the pop watered down, and although it’s not a big deal, you can’t help but be so aggravated. This guy is getting a piece of your mind, that is, if you ever get out of here. You can’t help but wonder, why would he even put you through this?
Everything you have since you’ve driven into this place feels like it’s been tested. But this? This horrible, ground shaking, nerve rattling, deafening roar of mach-force winds seems to be more than you can bear. Just get me to the other side already. But it doesn’t stop, certainly not when you’re practically begging here. The fans have to reach every last inch of the vehicle. You rev the engine a little and red lights begin flashing, like a warning you had better back down. “Sit back and relax, you’re done when I say you’re done” the fans practically tease as they move at a turtle’s pace. You glance at the clock. You think, “I don’t have time for this, I had other places I could have already been by now. That man never told me it would take so much time. It looked like such a short tunnel on the outside, so why do I feel like I’ve fought a mini war once inside?”
And then… a sound you almost didn’t recognize. Silence slowly fell over the entire place. You can see remarkably clearer, but the light outside shines in so bright compared to the dark of the tunnel and you still can’t make out what lies just ahead. What once were angry, flashing red lights now turned a friendly go-as-you-please green and you feel the release of the tires from the tracks. “I can go on my own?” you ask. It felt too good to be true. You drive out of the darkness, only slightly hissing at the sunshine the way anyone would if they felt like they had been underground for the last
80 years 3 minutes. You look all around so excited for this treasure that surely would greet you on the other side and you find… the other side of the building. Nothing was different. Nothing had changed. No pot of gold, no treasure chest, not even a replacement fountain pop. Nada. You put the car in park, and hop out just as fast as you can. “I’m going to find that man and he is going to explain to me why I just went through 3 minutes of hell to come out to a completely unchanged everything.”
You’ve been rained on, gooped on, shaken about, scared, lonely, and confused. You spin on your heels, full of fire and rage, and slam the door shut when a glisten catches your eye. You double take, practically fall a step back and HOLY COW! “Is that my car?” That baby shined so bright I think there’s now a glare on a NASA camera somewhere in space. It looked good. And now, only at this moment do you realize this place wasn’t trying to destroy you… it was trying to polish you right up. It was finding a diamond out of all that rough. All the dirt, all the debris, the leaves and the bugs and the bird poop, all that ugly stuff you’ve been carrying around are just gone. Ain’t that something?
A lot of times we don’t understand, nor even like, the process of God molding us into what we are meant to be. It’s scary and unnerving and you feel powerless almost all of the time. To let go of the reins, to not see the finished product but still having to endure the process, can be one of the hardest things Christians have to do, especially if you are as impatient as me.
We ask, “Please, Lord, change this life I am living. I can’t take it anymore. There’s so many things that I want, and places I want to reach. Please, Lord, help me get there.” And before you know it, you’re thrust upon your very own tracks to your very own car wash. You don’t know what the purpose is, but it feels like you don’t have much choice. You can’t go back, you can’t fast forward. You just move down the tracks in His time. You know He has led you here, and you know He just wants you to have faith as you go but, once you’re actually in that process you feel so alone. You can’t see anyone. You can’t hear anyone. You only know of the storm that is raging on around you, and you are scared.
I think God’s grace is a lot like how we don’t get soaked to the bone or pummeled to death by rotating, overgrown feather dusters while in a car wash. Our car gives us protection from the world around us and God’s grace gives us protection, just the same. We might be in emotional warfare, and I know that certainly isn’t a walk in the park, but it is much better than weathering alone what is going on around you. We see dark and frightening things looming in the future, things that we can’t help but feel anxious over, and uncertain outcomes that make us want to up and run.
And, man, can we be ungrateful. We want that finished product, we want it all said and done, but we are so unwilling to exchange things in the process. God wants you to be unafraid of popping a few tires, or losing your precious drink, or even ruining your good hair (gasps! the shock! the horror!). He wants you to be willing to forfeit it all. And if it doesn’t fit into his final blueprint of what you’re designed to be, then believe me he will ask you for it all. And your willingness to comply will dictate how quickly you make it on down the tracks, every time.
God sees you
double triple-checking the windows and the cracks and panicking that water will seep in, somehow. He’s already prepared this journey for you, this all inclusive, front row pass, and can you imagine how disappointed He must be to see us second-guessing all the time? Sometimes we are so panicked about what the future holds that we are willing to forsake what He is doing for us, what He is blinding us from seeing or keeping us from doing, that we are willing to stick our head out the window, forsaking His protection, so that we can physically see security with our own eyes rather than feel it with our own heart. He takes care of you in the sunshine, what makes you think He isn’t going to take care of you in the darkness, too?
Thankfully, He is a merciful God, and we slowly regain our composure. The rain lets up, or the thunder dies down, and we think “Ah ha! I survived! Okay, let me have what I asked for now.” Some storms do come to toughen our path, and that is true; a lot like when your vision was clouded with soap. But some storms, they come to clear our path, not destroy it. They come, despite how much you dread the rain, because God knows it’s the only way to melt away all that you don’t need, in order to make room for what you do.
And when we are in the thick of it, very little seems to make sense. We were led in here, on the promise of something beautiful on the other side, but now it just feels like it’s all for nothing. Like whatever is out there isn’t worth the trial we’re facing in here. We feel alone, because God is out there manning the controls. He can’t be here holding our hand all the time; He’s busy steering the ship and calming the sea, and we have the nerve to ask “Why would He even put me through this?”
He knows best. That’s the plain, simple truth. And when you hop out, madder than a wet hen and ready to say “What more do you possibly want from me? What else do I have to go through? And why? How does this fit into the plan?” God just laughs. I mean, I’m sure He does… if He even has time. He’s so busy shielding us from evil, and harm, and aligning us exactly where we need to be in order to get exactly what we need. That isn’t always perfect, and it certainly isn’t always what was on your wish list. But nonetheless, when you finally look around, out on the other side, you can say “Ohhh… I see what you did there. Okay. Yeah, no, you’re definitely right. That all makes sense.”
The time can feel like forever when you’re sitting and waiting and wondering if this is all going to work out the way you want. Diamonds go through thousands of years of pressure before they really shine, so if you’ve been in this process with God for a few months, or even a few years, and you think He should go ahead and fork it over… God is going to take one look at you and see you’re nowhere near ready. His time, not mine. Second, third, even more storms may come, and He will scrub, file, and polish every inch, regardless of how it may inconvenience you, because your time is not the objective here.
Can you even picture that? Jesus working so hard on you, swatting the devil left and right for you, giving you grace and mercy every day, only for you to stand there impatiently tapping your foot asking “Are we done yet?”
Thank God He loves us, and continues to work on us, no matter how undeserving we may be. Even when we’re looking for another layer of protection like a McDonald’s bag and even when we’re saying we don’t have time to do the work He asks of us… He loves us and guides us anyway. He’s even generous enough to give us a warning shot, every now and again, too. If you would have gunned it and tried to drive out of the car wash as fast as you could it would have done serious damage. God kept you still, even when you so desperately wanted to go, because that’s what you needed. End of story. Period. He isn’t doing it to prolong some type of torture but because it’s what. you. need.
Eventually, when we are on the other side, and the sun starts to shine upon our face, and we look around… we see not that much is really different. Same struggles, same bills to pay, same aches and pains, same old same old that was supposed to be transformed when you asked God to “change this life I am living.” So when you emerge, and you don’t immediately see the difference, it’s because you are not looking at the right thing. Sometimes God changes the situation, but always God changes the child, first. It wasn’t something tangible, ready and waiting for you on the other side of the car wash, but rather it was you who came out polished and ready.
He makes you ready for all that you ask for. He first makes you wise. He makes you calm. He makes you patient. He makes you strong. He makes you work for it. And most importantly, he makes you worth it. He makes it all worth it.
It’s a journey. It certainly isn’t always a pretty one, nor a relaxing one, but once you finally have in your grasp what you’ve asked for, what you and God worked so hard for, and you step back and say “Wow, that’s mine?” It will be worth every single second, and slice of sanity, and watered down soda you had to exchange in order to get there.