You’re thinking: What a great place to have one’s car battery go dead. All those people who will help you and, if you need it, even pray for you. If something is going to happen like that, best it happen with Christians around. That’s sort of like having a coronary in the lobby of a hospital.
Are you crazy?
The last place you want your car battery to go dead—and you can trust me on this—is in the church parking lot between worship services. You can’t “cuss and spit” (metaphorically speaking, of course…sort of). You can’t kick the car. You can’t yell. You simply have to smile, look calm and pretend you’re following the biblical mandate to “give God thanks for everything” (Ephesians 5:20).
If you had been there, I would have impressed you with my calm, quiet acceptance of this circumstance as from a sovereign God who is good and good all the time. Everybody was concerned and I thanked them, and said I would be fine. I was nice and very “Christian.”
But can we talk? I wasn’t fine at all.
In fact I was ticked…really, really ticked.
I was thinking, I would rather this happen in the parking lot of the local motorcycle gang. I didn’t feel nice, Christian or calm. I wanted to kick the car, shout at someone—anyone—and spit. I wanted to sue the guy who sold me the car and the company that made it. I wanted to…
…well, you get the idea.
Let me tell you the rest of the story. A couple of church friends tried to help me jump the car with the jumper cables in my trunk. That battery didn’t even try. Then another friend tried his jumper cables with the same result. I was finally forced to call AAA and have them send out a tow truck; and, all this time, I’m up to my ears with Christians who were kind and nice. I hated it!
But there was hope. The guy who showed up to tow my car looked like a member of a local rock band—tattoos, long hair, untrimmed beard and an irritated look on his face. I thought, And they say there’s no God! Thank you, Lord, for sending me someone who will understand my anger and my frustration, someone before whom I don’t have to pretend to be nice. I could hardly wait to get in the tow truck and “let her rip” with my true, less-than-Christian sentiments.
“This your car?” the tow truck driver asked.
“Yeah,” I said, trying to smile, “It’s mine and I’m so glad you’re here.”
“Hey, man!” he said with the first smile he had shown, “I know your voice. You’re Steve Brown? Key Life, right? Man, I listen to you all the time.”
“Lord,” I prayed silently—still with a silly grin on my face—“don’t do this to me. I thought you loved me.”
Now let me move from a small incident to a very big point: I pretended to be something I wasn’t in the very place where I should have been free to be honest. I put on my “Christian mask” around Christians and thought that, when a pagan showed up, I could finally be honest about how I really felt.
Is that warped or what?
The Apostle Paul would never have been able to play poker. He was what he was and he couldn’t hide it. You have to pretend (i.e. bluff) if you’re going to play poker and Paul just couldn’t do that. If he was angry, it was quite clear he was angry. If he was hurt, he showed it. If he was in a really, really good mood, it showed in everything he wrote.
He was honest about his afflictions: “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8).
He was honest about his hurt feelings and felt he had to defend himself: “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?” (2 Corinthians 3:1). “Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one” (2 Corinthians 7:2).
He was quite “in your face” and honest about his feelings of anger: “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). “But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face [for his hypocrisy]” (Galatians 2:11). “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12).
And if Paul was in a good mood, he couldn’t hide that either: He wrote to the Philippians who had stood with him, “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for…Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:1,4).
Do you know why Paul could be that vulnerable? God accepted him without condition and, because of that, he wasn’t driven to be something he wasn’t. In other words, God had ripped off Paul’s mask and hugged him…and Paul never had to wear it again. Paul said that he had been “crucified” with Christ and the life he now lived he lived “by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
I would like to blame my dishonesty in the church parking lot that day on the folks at church. But to be honest, I’m a member of a church where people would have accepted me if I had acted in a less-than-Christian manner. The church is a very open and accepting place where grace is taught and lived.
I was protecting myself. What would they think if they saw me frustrated, angry and kicking a car? After all, I’m a religious professional and we have an image to maintain.
So I faked it.
That’s not the worst part. The worst part is that Jesus told me I had to tell you.
Now I feel better.
So the next time my battery goes dead in a church parking lot (or even the parking lot of a motorcycle gang), you want to get out of the way. And you won’t have to ask me how I’m doing. I’ll tell you clearly and then probably tell you to leave me alone.
I may “cuss and spit,” yell and kick the car in the safe and secure knowledge that Jesus is fond of me.
You can do that too…and for the same reason.
Time to Draw Away
Read Psalm 139 / Romans 8:1-2 / Galatians 5:1
Where and around whom are you most tempted to pretend to be someone you aren’t? Think back over a particular incident. What if you had been honest instead? The God of the universe loves you unconditionally. He has declared you, as a Christian, “free indeed” (John 8:36). Now go live—honest and vulnerable—in that freedom.