Friday, July 12, 2019

Finding Repair: A Life Lesson in Auto Care

Have you ever had a leaky tire plugged? I had that done a few weeks ago and was struck by the imagery of it. A short while beforehand, I had noticed that one of my tires was looking a little flat. It wasn’t by much, not as if I was riding on the rims, but enough that I could see that bit of widening at the bottom.

It doesn’t always seem like much, but low pressure in a tire is a serious issue. Run on one long enough, and you risk a blowout. If that were to happen at high speed, it could lead to a loss of control. It would be hard in that case to avoid massive damage to the vehicle, let alone injury or death.

My tires are past the point where I have road hazard on them, but I am not quite ready to replace them yet. At least, I would prefer to shop around rather than having to settle on the first place that has the four I need. Since the leak seemed like it had to be a slow one, I decided to take it up to our local mechanic and see if anything could be done.

Now, I am not at all a car guy myself. I had never seen the process before, and I was intrigued by how counterintuitive it is. First, he put the car on a lift and sprayed the tire down with a light film of soapy water. As the air continued to leak out, it created bubbles on the surface that allowed him to track down the culprit.

It is truly amazing how a hole that small could cause the tire to lose air the way it did. It was no wider than a fingernail and it could not have been even 1/16th of an inch long. A thumbtack would have left more of a mark. It was so small that you never could have found it by searching for the air it produced. It simply did not allow enough pressure to pass through for that. But there were the bubbles, pointing it out clear as day.

That wasn’t the surprising part, though. I did enough work with pipes in my father’s remodeling business to know the concept. It was what happened after the mechanic found it. He grabbed a pointed augur that looked about six inches long, ½ inch wide most of the way, and that had a pretty aggressive spiral running up it. He lined it up with that tiny little scrape and drove it right through the tire, creating a massive hole. Where it once would have been impossible to notice, the sound of escaping air was now impossible to ignore.

It didn’t last long, of course. As soon as the hole was large enough, he used another tool to insert a length of rubber string into the tire, cut off some of the excess, added some air, and then I was good to go. It’s a simple procedure that could not have taken more than 10 minutes, but it really got me thinking. The whole thing is so much like life in general.

Sin is so often this way. The danger is real, but the cause is barely noticeable. Sometimes it is like a gaping hole in our lives, but often it seems like little more than a scratch that we can easily ignore. Slowly, it starts to bend us out of shape. And it is so subtle that we still may not see it happening. Even when we notice something is wrong, we may not know how to discover the reason behind it. We are deaf and blind to the thing that can bring about a cataclysm.

The beginnings of a cure can be just as subtle. It takes being willing to sense that something is wrong, and to seek out a way of finding the issue that is more objective than our self-perception. That is the role of morality, and of God’s revelation of His holiness in Scripture. It brings to light the truths we cannot know on our own. This “washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26) shows us where the damage is.

And then there is the first step in the cure. Doing as God says can feel like it does more harm than good. Life is rolling along smoothly enough. Gutting it seems like an overreaction. We might prefer to slap a patch over it in the form of some good works, but that isn’t enough. We need to make the greater effort of admitting that our way of life has been leading to self-destruction. Acknowledging that we are accountable to God and that we have been going the wrong way can feel like a knife to the heart. But that repentance is the only path to peace with Him. We have to open up to receive healing. Of course, repentance is a hopeless thing without finding the love of the Lord. It would be like putting a hole in a tire without having anything to stop it up.

Healing comes from without. Once we are prepared to accept it, God’s grace enters us. Christ’s sacrifice allows us to be justified in the eyes of the Father, and the presence of the Spirit makes us whole. That is what we also must be willing to receive. When we do, sin’s power is defeated and the disaster of eternal judgment is averted.

It’s not the perfect analogy, I’ll admit. Just some musings that popped into my head while an experienced worker did what I could not. But I still think the comparison is an apt one. Don’t ignore the damage that sin can do, even if the solution seems painful. You’ll be much better off in the end.

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