A while back, a Baptist church on the other side of town had invited me to speak to their youth about “answering the call to follow Jesus”.
My wife and I loaded in the car to go to the engagement when it began to rain. Now, I should probably tell you that the car had a bad radiator in it, which I did not have the money to replace. This is the main reason I had agreed to talk to these kids – They had agreed to pay me $200 and I needed that $200 to fix our radiator.
We had not gone six blocks when the car began to overheat. We hit every red light, and I cursed at each one, watching the needle on the gauge creep ever higher. I had the heat on, hoping to keep the engine cool. But the windows are rolled up to keep from getting wet from the rain. Sweat is rolling down my face, and the defogger is no longer working.
As the rain pours down and the wipers beat back and forth, I try to peer through the foggy windshield and wipe the fog off with a pair of gloves my wife handed me from her purse. Halfway to the church, it is obvious the car is in serious danger of engine damage – steam is rolling from under the hood and the temperature gauge is pegged.
I pull into an empty parking lot and stop the car. I want to scream. My wife is doing that silent thing she does, when she is afraid to talk to me because she knows how angry I am.
I take a deep breath, then pop the hood and the trunk both. I jump out in the rain, rush to the trunk to pull out the jugs of water we kept there to refill the radiator. I then run around front and prop the hood up and promptly burn my hand on the hot radiator cap.
I want to scream. Rain is pouring down my forehead into my eyes while the water pours from the jug into the damaged radiator. Steam is everywhere, scalding any body parts I let get in its way. I pour in the last of the water, screw the radiator cap on tight and throw the jugs in the trunk and duck back in the car. Thankfully, the temperature gauge has dropped back to normal levels, where it stays until we pull in the church parking lot. After we park, we see steam seeping from under the edges of the hood. I really hope no one else notices .
We run into the church, soaking wet, but on time.
I get a great introduction and then it is my turn to talk. All eyes are on me.
I want to tell those kids to ignore this Jesus thing. I want to tell them that following Jesus could mean you end up being 37 years old and unable to support your wife. It could mean that you will have to throw away a career where you are known and respected and where you make good money. I want to tell them that following Jesus could mean you cannot afford to fix your radiator, and that it could mean parking in an out of the way location so people don’t notice your car is a piece of crap.
I almost tell them that following Jesus means being soaking wet, talking to a group I don’t want to talk to because I need their money. This, I want to say, is what following Jesus has done for me. I want to tell them,”You should run away as fast as you can.”
My friend Kathy says that authentic discipleship will look to the world like failure. Maybe she is right. All I know is that night, it looked like failure to me too.
Of course, I told those kids none of that. I was funny, I was poignant. I made them laugh, I made them cry. I talked about listening to where they felt God leading them, and that following that path is not always easy, but it is never boring. You know – speaker shit. I killed that night – they loved me.
Of course they did. Everyone always loves you when you don’t tell them the truth.