Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Check Engine: Clean on the Outside


The yellow light on my car’s dashboard illuminated just as I was turning onto Route 30 for my Saturday morning grocery dash. My heart sank. This was not the first time that pesky glowing signal had appeared. I had already had our Kia Soul into the dealer’s repair shop three times.

When I first saw that strangely shaped yellow light, I frantically dug the user manual out of the glove box, trying to decide what that little puzzle shape represented. Ahhhh. Check Engine. “This indicates a concern with the emission system. Take it to the dealer as soon as you are able.”

May I just say that I hate having things go wrong with my car. It throws my life out of kilter. My husband gets all cranky and irritable, and my already-busy schedule has to be adjusted. Suburban moms depend on our vehicles. We shuttle kids to activities, load up groceries, head to work, or make our requisite stops at Target. I have absolutely no time for disruptions – yet, here it was.

Later that day, the dealer called. Problem solved. They had replaced a faulty coil pack. "We should be good to go," he announced cheerily. "Plus, we washed it for you."

And it did seem better. It definitely looked better. No  yellow light. The car was all shiny with the winter layers of salty grime removed. Ahhhh, my pretty little car was back.

Until, the next morning. As I left for work, the light came on again. “Arrrgggggghhhhh,” my heart sank with disappointment. “Not again!” I called the dealer and begged a ride to work from my gracious neighbor. This time they replaced something else. They said it was fine now. Fixed. "And," the attendant informed me, "We washed it again!"

It looked as good as promised, but this time I was skeptical. My car was like a friend who had betrayed me once too often. I wasn’t sure I could trust my Kia Soul, even if she did appear shiny and clean.

After my latest conversation with the repair shop (yes, the problem is ongoing), I began thinking about that annoying “yellow” light. I was so easily distracted by a nice car wash, when the real problem was never actually fixed at all. No matter how much I tried to ignore it, and how many times they power-washed my car - the problem was not repaired, the yellow light came back on. "Check Engine."

It’s a bit like life. Sometimes we are satisfied with a quick fix to solve our problems, or at least something that distracts us. When I am sad, I tend go shopping or eat massive amounts of chocolate. And, I feel better . . . at least for awhile. But, that temporary fix is never sufficient. The problem still exists, simmering under the surface, waiting to glow again.

The yellow light always comes back on. Always.

What is interesting is that it says "Check Engine." It doesn't say, "Eat Chocolate" or "Go to T.J. Maxx." Cleaning the outside accomplishes very little. Or at least nothing that lasts. I need to dig deeper, see what's lurking under the surface. I need to examine the deeper issues - not just calm the temporary storms.

When I turn to God in prayer, He always offers more than a temporary fix. He is able to see beneath my surface requests, to hear words that I am not even able to say. While I might ask for a source of cash to pay an unexpected bill or a positive solution to a medical concern, God digs deeper. His ways of addressing the needs in our lives are not easy or quick, but I know He can and will discover the root of my problem. 

1 Samuel 16:7 says, "Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart." 

This is not threatening to me, I find it assuring. I rest in the fact that I serve a God who knows me completely and is not easily fooled or distracted by the things I use to seem "clean" or "in control." With God, I have no secrets. I am fully and completely myself. In His presence, I am able to unload my burdens and find true rest.

As for my poor car - well, we're still working on it. I'm hoping it soon gets "cleaned" inside and out. 




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