My parents had an old green station wagon which suffered the kind of abuse that only a student driver can inflict. My older sister was the first to take out her driver’s training anxiety on the old green monster, leaving it with a dented door. Two years later, when it became my turn to be unleashed upon our nation’s highways, I vowed not to make the same mistake.
I didn’t. I made my own mistake.
Just two weeks after getting my driver’s license, I was backing out of our driveway. I looked both ways – the coast was clear, so I proceeded to back out of the driveway and into the street when I heard a sickening crunch of metal.
There is no sound like it in the world. I looked up to discover that a telephone pole had jumped into the middle of the street and hit my car – or rather – hit my parents’ car. I got out and saw that the telephone pole had scurried to the other side of the street, trying to look nonchalant with a light coating of green car paint on its side. I went around to the back of the station wagon and there was a perfect V-shaped dent running from the bumper through the back door and up to the top of the station wagon.
As a teenager, my only worry was telling my parents, who took the news of the telephone attack with a good deal of grace. It is now, only as an adult, that I wonder how much my little accident cost them.
Now that I pay for car insurance, I am well aware that deductibles can be costly and don’t cover everything. It was a while before the old green station wagon was repaired, and the V-shaped dent in the back was a constant reminder of my own carelessness.
Sin is something like that. Most of us don’t wake up with the thought, “I’m going to sin today!” For the most part, it just happens, like an accident. We bump into something or something bumps into us and we are marked by that encounter. There might be no bodily dent but something has been bent out of shape in our soul and we could ride around for a long time before getting it repaired.
For many Christians, the season of Lent, which begins this Ash Wednesday, is a time when we acknowledge that we are bent out of shape by our own sin; that we don’t look or act as our God would have us look and act. But Ash Wednesday doesn’t stop there or it would just be another pity party: “Look how bad I’ve been, God, no one has done what I’ve done; or thank God no one knows what I’ve done; thank God no one can see the dent in my soul.”
This is a day to offer up all those bumps and dings to God and ask for the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ to make us new again. Brand new – not just good as new – but brand, spanking new.
A while back, I had someone try to jump-start my car. They ended up blowing up the battery, spewing acid all over the front of my car. I was going to leave it but then realized that the acid was eating away at the car and would cause more harm in the future. I finally took it in and had it repaired. When I picked up my car a couple of days later, it was whole again. I couldn’t see where the damage had been. That’s what happens when we go to God with the worst of the damage within us – he takes us, heals us and makes us whole.
May this Lent truly be a holy time to grow into the holiness and wholeness that Jesus wants for you. Keep watch for how Jesus will be speaking to you this season, and keep watch for how you back out of your driveway. There are telephone poles out there.
THE REV. CYNTHIA TAYLOR IS THE PASTOR OF CHURCH OF THE HOLY COMFORTER IN MARTINEZ.