For most of my life I was told repeatedly that I was saved my grace not by works, but I swear all anyone seemed to care about was my works. Whether it was me not understanding what I was being told (which is a high probability) or being taught incorrectly, the impression I had was I was saved by faith in Jesus Christ as a gift of grace not based on my works. But, in order to keep that gift of salvation I had to keep up my end of the bargain with my works. In the event that I dropped the ball, the gift that I had been given would be taken away from me, from a God who was disappointed I couldn’t keep up my end of the bargain. For a good part of my life, my serving God had more to do with the fact that I was afraid if I tried to run he would keep tripping me. In my head a vindictive God, unhappy with my mistakes, would go to great lengths to make sure I stayed in line. He would make girls hiding sex with their boyfriend get pregnant. He would have youth group kids doing drugs get arrested so everyone would find out. That’s what a God who’s watching to make sure I keep up my end of the bargain would do. Flat tires, car’s breaking down, and cancer were all just weapons in the arsenal of God to make sure I didn’t get away. No one ever said it out loud but we all kind of thought it. Bad things happen in my life because I do bad things.
For some of us, this gave us enough fear to try to stay in line, but for others it just caused us to perfect our frequently used talent of hypocrisy. We became masters at hiding our faults and somehow convincing ourselves if we were good enough to hide it from the public, maybe we could hide it from God. I guess that’s the reason 29 years into my life I still find it really difficult to look my Christian brothers and sisters in the eye and admit I’m broken. I guess I’m afraid they will be disappointed in me or even worse God might be disappointed in me. And if that’s the case, I could get cancer or the alternator will keep going out in my car.
I’m actually not much of a car guy at all. I know very little about them. A few years back my wife and I were sharing one car, and I would use the church van as my second vehicle as much as possible. Finally, one day the pastor came and told me the elders didn’t want the youth pastor using the church van anymore for personal use so I started looking to find a dependable cheap car for my family. I called a buddy of mine who owned a used car lot and told him to keep his eyes open. He called 2 weeks later and told me he had just had a minivan traded in and thought it was perfect for me. I decided to go and test-drive it, but, since I know nothing about cars, I talked my cousin into riding an hour with me to the car lot. The van had just been traded in and hadn’t even been cleaned yet but the price was right so we took it out for a drive. As I drove, my cousin inspected every facet of the car. Five minutes into the drive he told me everything checked out and it looked good, so we turned around and headed back to the dealership with every intent to buy the van. As we were on our way back I noticed a light in the dashboard wasn’t going off, so I asked my cousin what it was. It was the door ajar light, so he began to open and close doors to figure out which door was open. As he was getting around to the last door, he opened the back passenger sliding door, and in a scene that could only be captured on film he watched as it slid all the way back and off the hinges into the street while I was still driving about 25 mph. He yelled for me to stop and we turned around, went back, and retrieved the door. I called the dealership and let them know we were on our way back but the back door had fallen off. We made our way back to the dealership with my cousin holding a van door in his lap. It was probably the first time the dealership ever had someone hand them a door after a test drive, but that’s what we did. After they did some research they found out the door was missing screws it needed, and the previous owner had traded it in without opening that particular door. Surprisingly, I decided to pass on buying that van, but the image of my cousin, and I standing on the side of the road looking at a door that had just fallen off a van has stuck with me forever.
I realize now, I’m the van. God took a trade in, and while I thought I was tricking him into believing my condition was better off than it actually was, He wasn’t fooled at all. God buys crappy cars. He bought me.
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