My two year old, Katie, has never been a huge fan of the drive through car wash. I am not sure of their technical name, but the hanging carpet like strips and the sprayers that rinse the soap, must in her little mind, resemble a giant monster threatening to engulf our car. Not long ago, the car had gone a while without a wash and with three young children as passengers, it was desperate for a washing. That particular day, without my wits about me, I gave Katie the option of going or staying home. She seems to cling to me like velcro so I suppose the desire to be with Mom outweighed the fear of the Loch Ness car wash. I thought perhaps she had outgrown her fear, so we loaded up and headed toward the car wash.
She gave herself a few pep talks on the way attempting to convince herself that she was no longer scared of the car wash. "Me no scared car wash, Mommy?" she asked over and over. I assured her that there was nothing to be scared of and that she was safe in the car with me. As we pulled into the line though, her banter quickly changed to "No me go car wash, Mommy!" and she began to kick her legs and flail her arms. "No me go car wash, Mommy! Me go home!" she screamed as she quickly realized that the joy of being with Mom did not outweigh the fear of the car wash after all.
I seriously began questioning my parenting skills at this point and wondered why in the world I would give a two year old the option of going or staying home. Obviously I should have made that decision for her, but at this point, it was too late as we were already in the line and there was no turning back. The only option at this point was handing her to the car wash attendant and having him meet me on the other side, but that did not seem like a viable option, so I unbuckled her car seat, put her in my lap, and attempted to console her as we got closer and closer to the entrance. We made our way to the front of the line where the attendant stood pointing to a sign that advised us to put our car in neutral, take our foot off the brake, and take our hands off the steering wheel. Katie, certain that he could not possibly know what was best for her, held onto the steering wheel as tightly as she possibly could.
"No me go car wash, Mommy. No me go car wash, Mommy," she continually repeated. I spoke to her loudly over the noises of the car wash and continued to comfort her by explaining that the tentacle like strips could not come through the windshield and that we were safe in the car.
I knew that the car was a place of refuge for us, a bubble of protection from the tentacles and sprayers, and I knew that we would make it safely to the other side of the car wash. But her little two year old mind could not possibly understand that. She watched with eyes wide open as the strips beat relentlessly against the windows, moved back and forth over the windshield, and then disappeared over the back of the car. She was shaking as she moved her head quickly back and forth, waiting to see what the monster would do next.
About the time the sprayers moved into action, she decided that this experience was simply too much to bear, so she took her hands off the steering wheel, turned to face me, clinched my shirt with both hands and buried her head in my chest. It took a few seconds, but as she took her eyes off of the chaos surrounding her, she began to grow quiet, and her body gradually began to relax. She finally felt confident that she was safe in my arms.
We continued on through the sprayers and the drier, exited the car wash, and moved toward the vacuums. Sunlight flooded the car upon our exit, and Katie began to smile again saying, "No me scared car wash, Mommy?" As I parked my car and stepped out to begin vacuuming, something on the ground caught my eye. There was a thin plastic shrinky-dink-like rainbow that must have escaped the vacuum of a previous customer. Although it seemed somewhat unsanitary to pick up someone else's trash, for some reason, I couldn't bring myself to throw it away so I put it in my console and began vacuuming.
The rainbow took my thoughts to Noah and the ark. Just as I knew Katie was safe in my arms in the car in the midst of the chaos, God knew Noah was safe in his ark in the midst of the forty day storm. Noah was required to do nothing except build the ark and get in. The rest of the journey his boat was in neutral being carried by God to a place of safety. He did not have a rudder nor a steering wheel to hold on to. The only thing God gave him to hold on to was his faith in the God who created the storm.
I tend to think of the Old Testament figures as somewhat superhuman, but in reality Noah was no different than you or I. His faith was no stronger than yours or mine. My guess is he had moments of fear like Katie. I imagine in the worst of the forty day storm his thoughts must have been "Will the storm engulf me? Did I build this thing right? What if I messed up the dimensions? Will this be the wave that takes us under? Will this storm ever end?" In the midst of the sea, Noah had a choice just like we do. He could choose to focus on the storm and the what ifs or he could choose to turn, just as Katie did toward me in the car, and cling to God with all his might, trusting God to carry him to dry land. Noah did just that, and God delivered him from the storm just as He had promised and then set a rainbow in the sky promising to never flood the earth again.
Often, more like Katie and less like Noah, I sit with hands on the steering wheel, moving my head back and forth staring at the circumstances of life coming toward me. I lose faith that the car is a refuge, that God is carrying me. I want to ignore the advice of the One who says to me, "Put your car in neutral, take your foot off the brake and your hands off the steering wheel." I don't want to walk through the difficult things. I want to turn around and, like Katie, say to God "No me go car wash, Daddy!" But there is no turning the steering wheel as hard as I try, and to put on the brake would only prolong my time in the car wash, so at some point I must surrender, turn my face towards God, bury my head in his chest, and cling to him with all my might. I am forced to trust him in the midst of the circumstances and have faith that on the other side of the car wash, there is sunlight and a shrinky dink rainbow. There is hope in the midst of the storm because we know that the rainbow will come, and it will not be a shrinky dink one, but a huge and powerful promise that God is with us.
Just as Noah's storm cleansed the earth and the car wash cleanses the car, the trials that come my way have a way of cleansing me, a way of washing away my self sufficiency and forcing me to depend solely on the One who has greater purposes for me and his kingdom. In this life, things may come against our bodies, against our hearts, and against our minds, but instead of focusing on the monster inside the car wash, I must learn to focus on the rainbow on the other side, the promise that my spirit can never be destroyed. I will always pray for deliverance, but I will also pray that God will use whatever trials come my way to bring about greater dependence and wash away my flesh.
Father, cause me to listen to you when you motion to me to put my car in neutral, take my foot off the brake and my hands off the steering wheel. Cause me to trust that you will hold me in the midst of the storm and carry me safely to the other side. Thank you Lord that you use even the most mundane things to teach your children truth. You even designed the car wash to point us to you and bring you glory. Amen