Working Through the Car Wash

A few days I ago I decided to take my car in for a long-overdue wash, but because of my poor financial situation I could only go for the $5 drive-through one. Funny enough, God always finds weird places to teach me things – and this time it was in the car wash. The last time I went through one of these I was a child, so it was a whole different kind of experience now.

After giving the attendant my money, he ushered me forward, directed me to put the car into neutral and not to touch the brakes as I went through. When I was little I would’ve given no thought to this, but now being responsible for a car meant that the idea of putting it in neutral and having no control over what happened was somewhat unnerving. I did as told though and waited to enter into the tight squeeze.

I remember as a kid this was a magical sort of experience, wondrous as the water tumbled over the car and I sat inside safely watching from my dry bubble. Waterfalls spilled over the top as squirts of soap began to dash across the windshield. Then the thundering roar of thwapping sent suds in every direction as the bristles and giant loofas took over the car.

Again, as a child this was a magical experience. Yet as an adult I found myself questioning the force of the jet streamed water and monstrous towels whacking against my car. I knew there was very little chance that something would go wrong, after all this had been planned out, but even still I didn’t trust every scenario terrorizing my imagination.

how is that not scary when it’s coming right at you?

That’s when I realized it was all too similar to what happens when I don’t trust God. It always starts by me paying for something I think I can’t afford, then I worry about giving up control because I don’t like putting my car in neutral. I want to be able to put the brakes on if something happens, but instead I sit in a perfectly safe bubble still afraid that something might go wrong.

In the end I come out cleaner with a fresh shine and blow-dried windows that I can see through much easier. No matter what in the end I will come out that way, but when I don’t trust God in the process of that change it isn’t as fun as when I can wonder at the magic of it like I did when I was a kid.

Just as Jesus said in Matthew 18, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” That change requires trusting God with a child-like faith – one that can see the majesty of something new and know that they are safe inside a bubble the whole time.

In the end, the most amusing part was realizing that the car wash was only five minutes of so called “terror” and “change,” but $5 and 5 minutes is nothing in comparison to the real fear and change we must endure as part of a roller-coaster faith. Those periods can last years sometimes, and certainly they seem to cost a lot more, because God takes longer and costs more for good reasons.

Overall it was a funny experience, especially as it can seem inconsequential in retrospect. Even so it’s reassuring to know that even in our American drive-through version, God can still show up to remind us that change isn’t always a bad thing, and we can trust Him by leaving the car in neutral while he directs us through.

Have you ever had an experience like this that helped you understand what it means to trust God?

How is a drive-through car wash an “Americanized” version of real struggle?

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