The mechanic looked at his notes and came out from behind the desk, and I knew I was doomed.
Well. No. I knew I was doomed the night before, when I’d gotten out of my car only to find a distinct scent in the air that time has taught me is “eau de bad brakes.” Still, I had hoped I wasn’t doomed and that the burning smell could be blamed on something significantly less expensive.
“We found the problem,” he said cheerfully. “It’s the calipers.”
“Oh, really?” I said. Calipers…how expensive are calipers? On just one brake or–
“And the rotors and the brake pads and the hoses,” he continued, checking his notes. “On the front brakes. Everything. Everything is pretty much shot.” He took me to my car and showed me the warped disaster my brakes had become. I felt bad for them. And for me.
Scratching my mental estimate, I started again. Calipers, rotors, brake pads, hoses–
“And the two back brakes,” he added, “need new pads and rotors too. But they’re in better shape than the front.”
I looked at him. He looked back. “Lay it on me,” I said, and he gave me the estimated cost.
When I came to from my bout of unconsciousness, I wondered if there was any way to somehow put off the process or refrain from parts of it to mitigate the cost. But there wasn’t. Sure, you can put off an oil change or a minor maintenance issue or wait a little too long to change out your windshield wipers. But brakes are brakes.
If you don’t replace them, the car stops functioning. If you replace one bad one and not another, it can make things even worse. No, with brakes as bad as mine the only solution is to go whole-hog: everything old out, everything new in, everything flushed and fixed and made new. And so that’s what we did.
My car drives like a dream right now. It feels different.
Sometimes a positive outcome requires drastic, complete, and even unwanted change. That’s true for cars and it’s true for the Christian life, too. We’re always wanting to mitigate it or bargain it down, but change is inevitable.
God, if you could just leave this alone–
I’ll do anything you want, really, but if we could keep this one area of my life off limits–
But I don’t feel like I’m ready to do that yet–
Sometimes the change that God introduces into our lives is the slow, pleasant kind that we adjust to incrementally and with great joy. Other times it’s a typhoon that leaves everything looking different than before. Sometimes, tearing down and starting anew is necessary for everything to run properly. But we kick against that kind of change because it is so drastic and so uncomfortable.
My 2018 has been wild so far. My career has been wrenched out of my control, my faithful car gave up the braking ghost, my family members have been experiencing all sorts of struggles from the minor to the really major, and even my dental health took a random and unexpected turn. It’s only February! And yet I have the profound season that this is, as I expressed to my mom this morning, “that kind of a season”: the time of stripping-away and breaking-down that always precedes renewal.
I’m not mad about the timing, either. It is Lent, after all.
In the meantime, I’m keeping my car’s new lease on life in mind. I drove her home today and the drive was smooth and calm. No jerkiness or shudders. When I pulled into the garage, there was blessedly no alarming burning scent. I got out and looked: the car looks exactly the same. Same tires, same chassis, same glass, same engine. But a whole new braking system hidden under there, too.
“See,” said God in Isaiah 43:19, “I am doing a new thing!” And so He is, for all of us.
My car reminded me of that.