Monday, April 23, 2007

Admonition to a young man

...being loaned a much nicer car than he'll be able to afford in a long time.

To be Scotch taped to the dash in some location where it is visible but does not interfere with safe driving.

It has been your incredible good fortune to have bestowed on you the use of this vehicle for the next several months, subject to your appropriate use of same. In the interest of encouraging said appropriate use, I suggest you contemplate the following analogy:

The loan of the car may be viewed as a literary symbol of Free Grace. It's not much of a stretch when you consider the gasoline costs this change in ride should save you. Think of it this way: you didn't earn it, it isn't owed you, and your benefactor is not without cause to suppose that you might, at some point, prove unworthy of it. Yet it is given you nonetheless. Car:Grace. Grace:Car. See?

Oh, don't worry; I'm not looking to blaspheme here. Salvation metaphors are extremely common in literature. Remember the parables? Remember the Narnia Chronicles? The Song of Solomon? Try to think of the number of times you heard the phrase "Christ Figure" mentioned in your last English class. Had Saint John of the Cross had grease monkey tendencies, I suspect he might have come up with a soteriological allegory much along these lines.

Going back to our analogy, however: the use of the car has been granted. Gratis--well, except for the fact that you'll have to fill it up and wash it. It's not a perfect analogy. Then again, maybe it's not so bad. Once you have Grace, after all, it rests with you to feed it, and to keep it clean as well. Otherwise you just cruise along complacently with your Grace, assuming it will always be there as it weakens from lack of reinforcement and tarnishes from the accumulated stain of sinful behavior. Eventually it gives out completely under the even inch of built-up gunk lining the entire interior of the soul/engine. You know what one of those looks like.

Let's move along with that analogy. Assume you are assiduous about feeding your car/Grace, avoiding occasions of sin and mudding, and at least hosing off the pollen every couple of weeks or so. What else is a benificiary to do?

Well, as anybody who's been there can tell you, you can very easily wreck your car by not following the rules, just as you can very easily wreck your Grace by not following the rules. The Grace rules are those ones that were written in stone back in the book of Exodus, plus those that Christ gave us in the Gospels. The car rules are the ones that were written in ink in that manual you got before you took the licensing test, plus basic courtesy and common sense. Don't drive stupid; you probably won't wreck. Don't speed; likewise. Don't cut off that semi; you get the idea. Don't read the Commandments as a challenge and try to see how close to the line you can get on them; you should stay out of trouble. But only if you also resist thinking about pushing the envelope, and love your neighbor even when he annoys the heck out of you. Not your best buds: you can rationalize excuses for their irritating behavior all day long. I mean the guy down the street with whom you can't wait to find fault.

Finally, I exhort you to assume full responsibility for your car/Grace. (I'll also leave it to you to figure out the metaphors from here on.) You are, after all, the one in control. I don't wanna hear the litany: bad brakes, bad alignment, bad idle, wants to go fast, and so on. It's your job to keep that sucker driving the way it's supposed to. If you have to slow down, so be it. If you have to spend $80 on parts and crawl under the chassis with a wrench, so be it.

So the engine tends to head for fifty: fine (unless you're driving in a thirty-five mile zone.) If you find yourself at seventy-five, you can't blame the engine. Slow the heck down, and pay more attention! So everybody else is passing you as if you're standing still. Your car is still not going to transfigure into a Ferrari, and you're still not on the Daytona Speedway. Get off and take the darn backroad. You know most of them, anyway.

In short, take care of and respect your car, and your Grace. They're both going to be rather difficult to replace if you don't. If you do these things, there is reason to hope that you will drive on the Road of the Lord joyously and well for a long time to come.

Also--and this is not meant metaphorically--the Chief just might decide to let you learn to drive the big red fire engine.

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