Friday, December 23, 2011

“Don’t you just love that new car smell?”

A lot of folks seem to get excited about the smell of a new car. But with 30 years between now and the only time I owned a new new car, I can’t say I could even recognize that smell. What I do remember, quite vividly, is the “did I just get taken to the cleaners?” period that followed every car purchase -- those first few times you put the key in the ignition and close your eyes, literally say a quick prayer, then turn the key, wondering if the engine will actually turn over; maybe even being surprised when it did! 

My first car buying experience since becoming widowed went like this: the repairman tells me that my recently rear-ended car is totaled. I ask, “Where’s a good dealer for me to go look for a replacement?” He says, “I have a good car I’ll sell you.” I say, “How much is it?” He tells me and then I say, “I can afford that, I’ll buy it.” In case you weren’t paying attention here, let me point out that I had just bought a car not knowing the make, model, year, or mileage, and not even laying eyes on it.

If you’re horrified at my foolishness, you’re not alone. It horrifies me too. And I knew better. My mechanic of a husband bought, re-built, and then sold more cars than I can remember and I knew this was no way to make a sound purchase. But God is good. The car was passed on to my son-in-law a year later and it has yet to fail any of us in faithfully getting from point A to point B. It was, as promised, “a good car”. And as an added bonus, I really could afford the car – so there were no monthly payments to make! What more could you want from a car? 

As Christians, there are other, more important, “major purchases” you make in life. One of them is finding a good church home. With our military background and moving from town to town so much, I’ve had a lot of experience in “church hunting”. I don’t really care for that phrase. But it is quite accurate because you tend to carry around a fully-loaded shotgun, ready to fire at any church the moment they don’t measure up to your standards. The biggest downside to “church hunting” is that every church has problems to shoot at; the most glaring of which is that they all have sinners in the pulpit and in the pews – I mean really, they’re everywhere you look! There’s even one who shows up in my bathroom mirror every morning….

Two years ago I came to WCC, but with no hunting and no shotgun. I had bought this church, much like that car, sight unseen. I had just completed my first time watching “The Truth Project” by Focus on the Family. The 12th week was about community involvement and the Lord used that final segment to show me how foolish I was to attend a church 20 miles from my home, knowing I would never become really involved because of the hassle of driving back and forth. I spoke to my pastor and told him I needed to stop spinning my wheels at his church and start being involved in the one right in my own neighborhood. He asked me the church’s name, I told him, and he said, “That’s a good one”. 

And again, in case you weren’t paying attention, let me point out that I had just decided to join a church without meeting a single staff person, hearing a sermon, knowing the type of music they liked, what Sunday School or Bible Study programs they offered or even what color carpet was in the sanctuary! And yes, you and I are both horrified at my foolishness. But God is good. And WCC has proven to be a good church. The folks here have yet to fail in showing me Christian love or holding up the Bible as the Word of God. And as an added bonus, I really do live so close that I can’t help but be involved in this community of believers. What more could you want from a church?

Hindsight has led me to believe that the Lord carefully placed me here, living right down the street from WCC, so I could later make this “blind” church choice. I also believe He carefully guided me to a Christian mechanic who would make sure this widow didn’t get a lemon for her “new” car. In both cases, I feel the Lord used these godly men to guide me with their knowledge and expertise – a mechanic to say “that’s a good car”, and a pastor to say “that’s a good church”. We all need people like these two men; folks who will help steer us clear of obstacles as we navigate through life.

But that car won’t stay good; it has needed some maintenance over the years: new tires, new oil, new windshield wipers, and the list continues to grow. As the owner now, I’m responsible to do what I can to keep everything running as smooth as possible. Churches need maintenance too if they are to continue being good. And as a member, I’m responsible to do what I can to keep everything running as smooth as possible.

It seems some folks like the “smell” of a new church almost as much as others like the smell of a new car. They get bored with the same old routines and look for any excuse to “shoot at” so they can justify their move to a new church. But personally, I think it is time to put away the shotguns, roll up our sleeves, and get to work maintaining the good church God has so graciously given us. As for me, this newsletter I’m writing is part of my doing maintenance for this church. Maybe tomorrow I can drop by with a new set of tires for the pastor.

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