Puzzling Pictures 6: A Close Examination

He approached the car with quiet confidence, a slight smile suggesting his sense of superiority when it came to all things mechanical. His friend stood on the doorstep with his arms folded, already exasperated at not being able to open the bonnet. The next five minutes were fun – but only for me, looking on from inside the house. It ended with the bonnet still shut tight, and red faces and raised voices all round. “Where’s the handbook?” “I don’t know!” “Well go and find it!” “Why do you want it? You’re the one who’s supposed to know about these things!” 

Later on, when he’d gone, I asked his friend how he filled the washer bottle if he couldn’t open the bonnet. “They do that as part of the servicing. If it runs out before then, I wait till it’s raining.”

Oh, right. When was the last time you checked your tyre pressures?” He looked at me as though I was a simpleton. “They do that when they service it, as well! That’s what you pay them for!” “Oh, I see.”

To my eternal credit, I kept my face straight until I was in my own car and on my way home.

I was wondering: am I the only one who checks over his car on a regular basis? Indeed, am I the only one left who washes his own car? Does everyone else go through a car wash, or let half a dozen damp young desperadoes swarm all over it with sponges and soapy water and power washers? 

I’ve never had a new car; I buy them second or third hand, clean them up, then keep them running for as long as I can. Recently, I’ve had to spend some money on mechanical repairs – my present vehicle is twelve years old, so that’s only to be expected. That done, I thought I might as well do a little work on the exterior, since I’m not planning on getting rid of it any time soon.

And that explains “Puzzling Pictures 6: Job Done”. (See last Saturday’s entry, if you haven’t looked at it already.) Allow me to explain the process.

1 Wash car properly: i.e. power wash, including under wheel arches, shampoo, wash off, dry off.

2 Check paintwork, clean up and treat rust, respray patches as necessary, touch up scratches and stone chips with fine brush and cocktail sticks.

3 T-Cut or T-Cut Colour Fast for bodywork, Back To Black for plastic.

4 Wax all over, one section at a time.

5 Clean glass, inside and out.

6 Clean interior as necessary.

7 Clean off stubborn stains on alloys – the hardest part of the process!

It took me many hours, spread over several days, and it made my arms ache.

Was it worth it? I’ll let you decide.

One advantage of looking carefully at your car as you do these jobs is that you can spot lots of things which might cause unnecessary trouble and expense later on. Even if you have to pay someone else to do the repairs, you’ll be better off in the long run. The exercise will do you good, too.

And of course, the car will now go faster and do more miles to the gallon, since a shiny car is aerodynamically superior to a dirty one.

No, of course it won’t – but it will feel like it!

Close examination of another kind is also a good idea in the Christian life.

At Salem, as we approach the Lord’s Supper, we are often encouraged to consider our spiritual condition before coming to the table: Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (1 Corinthians 11.27-28)

As you well know, the bible often urges us to give close and careful attention to our selves and to our actions – but we would much prefer to apply ourselves to finding fault with those around us. It makes us feel so much better! You will have noticed that I’ve deliberately held up two people to ridicule at the start of this entry, just so that my own expertise and effort will shine the more brightly later on.

Paul writes in Galatians: Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbour. For each will have to bear his own load. (Galatians 6.1-5)

R. C. Sproul comments: Paul urges the Galatian Christians to examine themselves as Christians before God, rather than drawing false confidence from relative comparisons with others (cf. 2 Corinthians 13.5-6).

And what about those sermons on Sunday? Do they just wash over us as we suck our sweets, a mildly entertaining interlude in an otherwise uneventful day – or are we listening with the expectation of being led into some serious self-examination and soul searching? 

I’ll let you answer that one for yourself.

As for me, I think I’ll go out and wash the car again. I thought I saw one or two specks of dust on it the other day. Don’t worry, it won’t be a complete waste of time: I’ll be wearing my Walkman and listening to E. A Johnston all the while.