Lessons from the Junk Yard

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I have always been a car nut and even when I was a small lad, I somehow felt it was my duty to know every make and model that we passed on the road. I still do that, and it does make for great conversation.

Many years ago in one of my pastorates, I found that more and more of my ministry duties would be enhanced by the use of a small pickup. The family budget did not have room for this, but I nevertheless kept it on the back burner. While meeting with an elder in a nearby congregation, he happened to mention that he just did not know what to do about a family problem that was now several years old. It seems that his two grown boys had moved several old pickup trucks into his back yard planning to rebuild them and now they were through college and married and [you guessed it] those trucks were still sitting there. I quickly asked him how much he wanted for a solution to his problem and he said he just wanted them gone: his wife had been upset about the eyesore for over a year.

Within days I had them both in my backyard and the men of our congregation scouting for other wrecks to fill in for parts. While rebuilding this pickup I had the opportunity to do what I had longed to do since childhood, just visit junk yards, but now I had a real reason to go. Not only did I eventually find all the parts, I made some valuable observations I want to share.

  1. The vast majority of cars in junk yards are there not because some sudden catastrophic event happened to them, but rather very small and little events of neglect or oversight caused their ruin. Maybe it was a lack of proper maintenance. Perhaps it was one brief moment of inattention while rounding a curve or on a busy road, answering a cell phone or sending a text, or just a little day dreaming at the wrong time.   
  2. Much to my surprise, I found a lot of good-looking vehicles in those junk yard trips, and one I especially remember. It was a beautiful, large, white, Chevrolet station-wagon perched high up on one of the piles. When I got a closer look at it, there was hardly a scratch on it, and it still had the factory seat covers on. Curiosity got the best of me, so I asked about it. For some unknown reason, someone drove the car either without an oil plug installed, or the plug blew out shortly after starting, but the driver kept going.  Needless to say, all the interior engine parts heated up, then froze, and then melted into one wad of metal. By the way, for those who may not know, an engine oil plug is about the size of the end of your index finger.
  3. Something else I found to be the norm that I never expected to find was that almost all the wrecked cars had very poor, slick tires on them. My father always drilled into us growing up that a car is no safer than its tires, so that was a rather penetrating finding for me.

So, what life lessons can we take away from the junk yard? In the Song of Solomon 2:15 we read, “Catch the little foxes, for it is the little ones that destroy the vines.”  That same thought is mentioned at least five others times in the Bible using almost the same figure. Most lives are ruined by the little things they allow to go amiss day after day. Things go a little wrong and are never corrected or bad habits are allowed to grow and then gain control.

The Christian life is a disciplined life and a life that requires the daily structure that most of our reformed spiritual forefathers and mothers emphasized as “habits of holiness.”  We are not so into that in our day, are we? Yet the daily maintenance and taking care of the little things does matter. There is a great deal of talk and emphasis in our day about physical fitness and keeping fit for life, and that is a good thing, for our bodies belong to God. [“We will use our bodies in ways that are holy and honorable, and abstain from immorality and impurity.Psalter Hymnal, responsive readings of the law, p. 1017 ]  But there needs to be at least an equal emphasis on seeking spiritual fitness among those who love our Lord and seek to follow Him. Much as a car is no safer than its tires, we are no better, no more fit as servants of Christ than our weakest spiritual discipline.

...hold firmly to the faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have already suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.” --I Tim. 1:19 NET

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Good article!

Great piece, George,

Readable and thought-provoking.

Thomas Niehof