Next month, my youngest son turns sixteen. He will be receiving the family car, a 2005 Honda Accord. This particular car has been handed down from me to my oldest son. Now, it’s being handed down from my oldest son to my youngest son. At first, my youngest was not too keen on the idea of getting a third hand car, but once we started talking it over his enthusiasm began to increase as we discussed a new paint job and new tint for the windows (not to mention the new stereo system with subwoofers his older brother installed a year before he left for Boston).
Over the weekend, I began the process of getting estimates on how much it was going cost to get this old, but reliable, car ready for its new driver. I began with the new paint job. Wow! Then, I talked to a tinting company. Who knew dark stickers cost so much? Finally, I went to the mechanic. Thankfully, everything that needed to be addressed was routine maintenance, but it was still going to cost a pretty penny or two. After I spoke with my son about the costs, we formulated a plan. We would start with the work on the engine, brakes, and tires, because as he rightly concluded, “It does’t matter what the outside of the car looks like, if nothing works right under the hood.”
“It does’t matter what the outside of the car looks like, if nothing works right under the hood.”
In this one sentence, my youngest son captured a deep personal truth for all of us to ponder. For what good does it do to polish the outside of our lives, if our hearts, minds, and souls are decaying? How many of us neglect regular maintenance under our spiritual hoods, concentrating more on the worldly exterior for others to see? Sure, we use new paint and shiny objects to hide what is truly under our hoods; all the while, more and more rust continues to mount as the years go by. Our faith, our hope, our joy, our peace, and our love begin to falter because we have focused all of our attention on outward priorities, neglecting what’s inside.
When the inside begins to fail, it gets harder and harder to start our engines in the morning. We get so busy and get going so fast on life’s highway that at times our brakes fail to work, sending us crashing off the road. We roll down the streets like nothing is wrong, when all of sudden a blow out sends us swerving out of control. And here is the sad fact of it all, many us are even aware of these internal problems. Our personal dashboards look like a Christmas tree displaying warnings: “Low Tire Pressure, find some room to breath; Service Maintenance Soon, find a friend or community quickly; Headlight Out, let God direct your path; Low Oil, let the Holy Spirit provide you peace.”
Jesus once said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:26a). My fifteen year old son might say it this way, “For what does it profit us if we paint the outside of our cars, if our engines don’t work under our hoods?” For the purpose of journeying through life, what’s under the hood is so much more important than what color paint covers the surface of our cars. May we all take time today to look under our hoods and offer the maintenance we need to move forward and live in faith.