Holding up the garage door

Years ago, we lived in a cute little neighborhood in Southern California.  It would take my dad all Saturday, and sometimes Sunday afternoon as well, to finish mowing and edging our postage-stamp front yard.  The minute he stepped out front and lit up the mower,  Art would walk across the street to talk.  Gerald would meander over from two doors down a few minutes later.  Sometimes Joe would amble across the street in his bowlegged strut to join the conversation, too.   They would spend hours out there, talking about cars, motorcycles, and work.  Dad knew better than to plan on actually washing a car as well over the weekend – he’d never get done.  Probably where I learned to wash and wax the car at 10 pm….

But later, when we’d moved to the bigger house and yard, he missed the interruptions from friends who spoke his language and understood what made him tick.  It’s only recently that I’ve seen how blessed it was to have four neighbors within sight of one another who all valued the same things.

C.S. Lewis notes that friendship is not about the other person; it is a shared interest in something both parties value highly that also feeds both immensely.  If we turn our focus on the other person, the friendship usually falters.  And because the interest is outside the relationship, more people with the belief that this topic is important make the party better.  It’s just really rare to find someone else with the same passions as ourselves.

I think back to my days on the beach, when we dreaded having to visit the restroom for fear of being harpooned by Campus Crusaders.  They would lay in wait for their prey outside the doors, and if you could get in without being trapped and wetting the walk, you’d never get back out.  At least on the way out, only your vanity was in peril.   I actually went to one of their meetings once.  It was this big hoopla about how many newbies each one had brought, and how everybody present needed to bring “at least one” to the next meeting.  I couldn’t figure out why anybody came, if this was just a big head count and back patting session.  I thought we were there for God’s glory, but all focus was on the other people.  A crucial piece was missing.

Somehow I missed the same thing when I became serious about my faith,  and tried to become a “Christian.”  Every one I’d ever met drove a beat-up Corolla and discussed lofty spiritual concepts over potluck dinners.  I knew I needed to give up my selfish outside interests, so I unwittingly made myself into something I wasn’t with nothing to offer anyone.  Including myself.

It took a long time to realize that I am not my pastor’s wife, or Amy Carmichael, or any other “Perfect Christian” I admired.  While I can look to them for encouragement, I cannot copy them.  It is only when I am me,  washing the car in the driveway, scrubbing whitewalls, and admiring others’ liveries, that I am true to my creator.   I avoided those things I love because I couldn’t imagine that they would be from God.   I didn’t understand what it meant to give up myself,  and ended up with only emptiness inside.  I no longer had any joy in life and couldn’t figure out why God wasn’t filling this huge void.

Meanwhile, I remembered that we had never failed to have crashers drawn to laughter and fellowship around our beach fires.

God had to reach out and show me that when my dad died,  my loves and passions didn’t have to go with him.  My old friends were still out there, and they and others still cared that even a restored Volkswagen have the proper door handle for the body year.  I heard someone mention a special pressure washer that made water spots a part of history.  People still care about correctness and “Dad Clean”?  Hallelujah!  I had thought that, in order to put my car in its proper materialistic place, it had to become a  grungy vehicle for transport from Point A to Point B – a concept I’ve always disliked.

But then I found something so life-giving in Scripture:  God created all that has been created.  If He didn’t believe that beautiful vehicles were worthwhile, then why did He create the lightweight, versatile Arabian horse, mentioned as the pride of the Egyptians?  Or the heavy, blue-black Friesian with flowing mane and tail, used by knights and farmers alike?  Why did he impress people like Daimler and Renault to develop the first gas-powered vehicles?   In giving glory to the creator by enjoying His creation, I was freed to admire cars and horses again.

Then I saw a clip on TV about a talented skateboarder who was a Christian.  The cameras loved when he came up off a ramp and turned around midair to roll back down it, so he painted Scripture verses on the bottom of his board.  Tim Tebow has done the same thing in football with his eye black.  These two men have been blessed by glorifying God in whatever they do.  I couldn’t believe that God created and loved skateboarders and football, but He does.

I realized that I could give testimony to Him with my white whitewalls and sparkling rims.  By keeping my car beautiful and in perfect running order, I reflect Him.  The world around me never loses its tune. The food chain never needs adjusted.   And when it gets dirty, He sends rain to wash it.  He’s charged me with the maintenance of my little corner.  And the minute I accept this charge, fully utilizing the skills and abilities He gave me,  I find joy in being useful.

I went to lunch with a huge group of ladies a couple years ago, full of chit-chat about babies and tea and mommy stuff.  I was bored until  one gal pulled out her photos, which several women admired politely.  Two photos of a grey horse caught my eye.  I looked more closely and saw that it was an amazingly beautiful Egyptian Arab.  I mentioned that he reminded me of a famous showhorse.  She instantly lit up and the entire table faded for both of us.  Her horse was indeed the grandson of that stud, and we instantly tasted the rare friendship of shared passion.  The fellowship of those moments was a gift that brightened both our worlds.

I doubt my dad and his friends spent much time discussing theological issues – the lady and I weren’t –  but God was nurturing every one of them, as well as speaking to me, in their relationship.  It was good for them to just hold up the garage door and shoot the breeze.  Those sessions sent them back to their work weeks with renewed vigor.   They also gave me a picture of what is so important:  in noticing and enjoying the details in God’s creation, He is glorified.  Being a Christian is just sharing the joy that I find there.

Maybe that’s what I was trying to get at a couple posts ago.  “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your father which is in heaven.”  (Matt. 5:16) He is best glorified when we then talk about what we’ve seen.


3 thoughts on “Holding up the garage door

  1. Well said Brenda!
    The world and all its whitewalls would not exist without God, so it is our calling to live and love it all and give thanks to the creator. Care for the injured bird, polish the intake manifold, there is really no difference as long as we keep our heart in the right spot. Its when the pursuit of the “thing” becomes more important than the people that things go pear shaped. People first…then buff the Lamborghini.

    I like the CS Lewis quote on friendship. The shared interest really does erase everything around you and crosses all barriers. On my recent trip I reconnected with a friend and past customer. We have kinda kept in touch now and then, but his path and mine rarely cross as he travels the globe making films, I stay at home in the middle of nowhere and do my thing. Despite being born on complete opposite ends of the globe and living completely different existances, when we get together our shared passion for old cars and motorcycles completely bridges the gap. If he was my neighbor and not a movie star, we would probably spend way too much time together tinkering on stuff and going on rides and drives to look at more old junk. Instead we share pictures via email and perhaps once a year we see each other and enjoy the connection. The surreal part of the friendship is seeing him on the big screen after seeing him in my garage with dirty hands…the two things don’t compute…but when we are hanging out together I think it feeds us both and the differences between us and everything else out there in the world fade to the backround. Its powerful stuff.

    God brings other people into our lives. These connections, even the random, split second glance ones, are all gifts to us that can enrich us greatly. Don’t miss the chances to gather with others, help others, and share your thoughts and dreams. Our life experience is different for each person, but when we commune with others we realize that we are all the same and we are all on our voyage through our days. Passion and enthusiasm for anything is what life is all about… snow white rings around our wheels, having the perfect lawn, finding that elusive souvenier spoon from Atlantis or sharing your connection with God…all good, all a blessing, and all what we are here for. Live a passionate life and surround yourself with other passionate people and never hide your passions…it is what draws others to you. And these people are the real gift in the scenario.

  2. Wow, Randy. You hit the nail right on the head. I’ve spent the last couple of months connecting with my spirituality, and with the help of some very special people in my life, am coming to a point of tremendous change. It is both hellishly painful and frightening, and indescribeably wonderful. Surrounding yourself with people that help you grow and returning the favor, is one of the most important things you can do. Yes, Brenda, I’m still alive and kicking. I can see the clearing that leads back to my true path, and I’m gathering what I need to get there.

  3. Hey Brenda,enjoyed your post. I love learing more about you and what the Lord has done/is doing in your life. I may not be passionate about cars and horses, but I sure do lke people who are genuine and who will call a spade a spade. Here’s to being REAL in Christ–Scarlett

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