Do You Need New Wipers?

Last week I was blessed to have my oldest son travel with me to Virginia.  His company was a bright spot in an otherwise sad journey to the funeral of an old friend.  Since the whole trip began and ended in less than thirty hours, his driving was also needed to finish the trip in such a short time.

We left after our evening worship service on Sunday, and by four o’clock on Monday we were headed back to Knoxville.  Driving through the town of Franklin, Virginia,  just as we were starting our return trip, Josh pointed to an auto parts store and told me to stop there.  I was alarmed.  My fear was that he had detected some problem with the truck that I had not noticed.

When I asked him what was wrong he told me that I needed new windshield wipers.  I could not disagree with him, though I had not reached that conclusion myself.  Granted, on the driver’s side there was a thin strip of rubber about three inches long flapping loosely from the wiper.  In my mind, the wiper was obviously not in the best of shape, but it was still wiping two-thirds to three-quarters of the windshield.  Without really thinking about it, I had adjusted to this slight deficiency by either scrunching down just a little in the seat or by leaning slightly toward the center of the truck.  I did not even notice the repetitious tapping sound that Joshua described as nerve-wracking.

Since he was going to be driving, and the weather seemed to indicate that something wet was going to be falling from the sky, I did not protest his insistence that we stop at the parts store.  The only argument I had was that since there was as yet no metal touching glass, the blades still had some life in them.  At any rate, he spoke so emphatically that I halfway thought that he intended to purchase the new wiper blades himself.

I should have known better when he immediately started singing the praises of the most expensive blades the store carried.  He insisted that they were worth the extra money.  I was skeptical, but I was struck by the conviction in his voice.  With new wiper blades installed, we continued our journey home.

A day or so later I found myself driving in the rain. I turned on the wipers and the impact of the new wiper blades was definitely noticeable.  I called Josh to thank him for his suggestion.

A few days later I was driving through some drizzle.  As I turned on the wipers, I was already starting to scrunch down a little in anticipation of that part of the windshield that I had grown accustomed to not being wiped clean.   I had forgotten that I had new wiper blades until they made the first swipe.  Imagine my astonishment when I found myself looking through a crystal clear windshield.

What struck me about that experience was how normal it had become for me to expect the driver’s side blade to not clean the whole window.  I had grown used to it to the point of adjusting my posture to compensate for its inadequacy.

I started to wonder about other aspects of life, particularly my spiritual life.  Are there pieces of my spiritual life that need attention that I do not notice because I have gotten used to them being the way they are?  Is there something I could do differently, in the way that I spend time with God, that could impact prayer life the same way that new wiper blades impacted the view through my truck’s windshield?

As we journey toward Good Friday and the cross, the Lenten season is the ideal time to look at our spiritual lives with an eye toward noticing what we might otherwise be overlooking.  Is there something there for you that you have just gotten used to?   Would a new spiritual practice impact the way you are seeing God?  Would a new prayer time or devotional guide enable you to experience God in a more intimate way?  Perhaps there is some routine in your day that could be adjusted that would result in a new perspective on life.

While there is a never-changing sameness to God, we should not confuse God’s unchanging nature with our own spiritual stagnation.  Nor should we assume that the only way we can ever expect to experience God is in a way similar to or identical to the ways that we have already experienced God.  Every day is new with God, yet we risk missing that newness if we have grown too accustomed with life as it is.

The spiritual journey is a bit more complicated than obstructed windshields and worn out wiper blades.  However, isn’t it exciting to think that some little something, that we could add or subtract from our living and relating to God, would give us a fresh picture of God at work in our lives?  It was not my idea to get new wiper blades, nor did I think they were really necessary.  Nonetheless, those new blades changed the way I see what is in front of me.


Ash Wednesday, Lent and the Cross

From the side, it isn’t much of a cross sitting there on the communion table. A thin sliver of metal pointing toward the ceiling makes me wonder what all the fuss is about. With apologies to Monty Python it appears to be more a wafer thin mint than an instrument of death.

Now, the crown of thorns hanging on it looks rather menacing. Those thorns would hurt, but would they kill a man? Wound? Yes, to be certain and left untreated a nasty infection might follow, but death by thorns seems a stretch.

No, to kill Jesus with this cross we would have to take hold of it and beat him with it. One hit would likely not be enough. Death would come after repeated blows.  Then we would have bludgeoned him to death. Surely, none of us have the stomach for that.

Jesus is safe.

Safe that is, unless of course he persists in this notion of living in me. Then I have a thousand ways to put him to death, to make his living irrelevant, to make his teaching impractical and his dying mere nostalgia.

So then, maybe this cross is not the cross of Christ meant for his killing. Maybe it is my cross.  A cross meant to remind me each day that I am the one that needs to do the dying as impossible as that may be.

How is it possible? I never have to be reminded to think of myself, to serve myself, to protect myself, to do what is best for me. Only through indulgence, sloth and pride do I harm myself. Where would I find the will, the courage to die so that he might live in me?

Is it possible that God’s grace is that sufficient?