I have to confess that I am a little over-the-top when it comes to keeping a clean car. I like my car to look its best both inside and out. It’s in my DNA… my dad was the same way, and his father before him. I still remember driving home from college and my dad meeting me in the driveway with a hose in hand. Before the bags were carried into the house, the car was washed and a coat of Armor All was applied to the tires. Even now, there are moments when I’ve been known to drive home from a long trip, and wash the car before I go to bed. I knew I would rest easier just knowing that all the bugs were off the windshield and the road grime erased from the fenders.
I did a dumb thing last weekend. I was actually pulling into a carwash place to select the desired wash and insert my credit card. I was concerned that I needed to be a little bit closer to the computer screen and so I steered a little closer to the curb… too close in fact. I heard a slight “grinding noise” and I knew immediately that I had scraped my left-front alloy rim on the curb. And sure enough, as soon as the wash was complete, I stepped out to survey the damage. A small scrape, not more than an inch, was glaring at me from my clean car. I have to admit that it bothered me more than it should have. The car looked great… clean and shiny from one end to the other, but all I saw, was the scrape on the rim. Before the afternoon was over, I had already researched businesses in my area that could restore the rim to its pristine condition. Appointments have been made.
I’m not sure I can explain the need to set things right again, but some of that is in all of us. Maybe it’s in our spiritual DNA. For surely our Heavenly Father is the same way, not about cars, but about persons. It goes something like this… Often, we make bad choices. We make mistakes. We err. We sin. We disobey. And suddenly our once bright and shiny lives contain an ugly scrape. We are not as pure as we once were. We are not as clean, and maybe not as presentable. But whenever we see ourselves as unclean, or marred, or even unworthy, we are looking through the wrong set of eyes. When viewed through the eyes of the Father, there is no guilt or shame, only the rush to make things new again. Where we might see only the mistake, the Father sees only the joy that will come when everything is restored again.
It bothers God whenever we see ourselves as less than He created us to be. He does not want us to languish or live under a load of remorse or failure. He stands in the driveway, with a hose in hand, waiting to help us remove all the grime that life has forced us to carry. Before we can even begin to unpack our shame, He is in the process of wiping it all away. He longs to set things right again. 1 John 2:2 states, “Jesus himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins – and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” Before you even realize the gravity of your mistakes, God is in the process of renewal. Make no mistake, our sins always represent failure and they grieve the heart of God. But God never sees “us” as failures. He longs for restoration and wholeness. Remember that there is a commonality to our humanity. All of us… all of us, will make mistakes. We will experience our share of bumps, bruises, and scrapes along the way. Admittedly, it’s hard for us to see anything but the ugly deeds that have destroyed our self-image. But God does not dwell on the scrape, but on the beauty that is to be revealed when all things are made new.
I’m looking forward to getting my rim repaired. I will take care of that as soon as I can. But what will be important moving forward, is that I have learned from my mistake. If I am wise, I will remember what I did and will make a better decision in the future. I hope I don’t have to make the same mistake twice, or even a third time. Because we are human, and flawed, and fragile, we will make some mistakes. The real tragedy is not that things get broken, but that they don’t get mended. God is gracious. He will forgive our sinful deeds. His grace is dependent on His generosity, not our worthiness to claim it. And hopefully, once we have traveled the journey from guilt to grace, from brokenness to renewal, we will learn from our mistakes. Genuine repentance sets us off in a new direction. We can be better. We can make better choices. But whenever the next scrape comes along… and it will… be reminded that God will be in a rush to make things new again.