I confess that, at times, I can be a bit spoiled. Blame it on the fact that I'm the youngest girl in our family of seven kids made up of five "older kids", then a gap of five years which separated them from me and my little brother. We were "the babies". Anyway, there are certain situations in which I like to be taken care of, pampered even. The gas station is one such situation.
A year ago we moved from the land of gas stations with attendants, Portland, Oregon, across the Columbia River to the land of pump your own gas, Vancouver Washington. I hate pumping my own gas. In fact, I believe someone should resurrect the old concept of service stations. Back in the good old days, you'd drive in to the service station and an attendant dressed in a clean and pressed uniform topped with a jaunty hat would come up and ask you if you wanted regular or "ethyl". (I have no idea what, or who, ethyl is.) Besides that, the attendant, or attendants, would check your tire pressure, check your oil level, and wash your windshield. (Can you hear me singing, "that's the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it"?) Since moving, I have had to experience the antithesis of that, having to pump my own gas. I try to avoid it if at all possible,
manipulating, bribing, cajoling, whining, nicely asking my husband to fill up my car for me. The problem is, I don't always remember to ask ahead of time, and don't always notice, that the gas gauge is dangerously near E until it's too late and I'm already out and about. Such was the case last Saturday. It was a very rainy day, of course. I had my two youngest granddaughters in the back seat and we were just making a quick run to the grocery store to buy the ingredients to make homemade soup. I looked down at my gas gauge and realized I would not be able to return my granddaughters to their mama later that evening unless I filled up with gas. Drat! I pulled up to the pump and got out in the rain to walk over to the attendant in his warm and dry little booth to prepay for my gas, then proceeded back to the pump to fill up. In my "I hate to pump my own gas" stupor, I accidentally pressed the button for premium gas instead of regular, noticing only after it was too late and I was already filling up my tank. Double drat!
Fast forward to yesterday. As I was running some errands, I noticed that my eight year old car, with well over 100,000 miles under her belt, seemed to have a bit more pep in her step. She seemed to be running more smoothly. Perhaps it was my imagination, but the old gal seemed to like whatever was in that premium gas.
I've got a bit of wear and tear over the years myself, quite a bit of mileage under my belt, not unlike my old car. I don't think you can wander the roads of this world year after year without it taking its toll on body, soul and spirit. Being "a bit spoiled", as I confessed previously, I'd like the convenience of pulling up to a service station, (aka church), and being fully attended to. I'd like a whole army of well groomed, well trained professionals to fill me up and check me over and fix whatever needs to be fixed in order for me to hit the road with enough pep to get me through 'til the next time I pull in. There's one problem with that, that's not the way Jesus modeled for things to be. Even in the well known case of the paralytic who's friends brought him to Jesus for healing, while his friends had to carry the paralyzed man to Jesus for healing, he had to respond to the words of Jesus for himself and take up his bed and walk. Should I be so blessed as to find a perfect full service church that meets all of my needs, that fills me up and fixes me up, there's going to come a time when I'm out there on the road alone and I'm going to need to know how to fill up my own tank. The church won't be there to do it for me, my husband, family, or friends won't be there to do it for me. Sometimes it's just me out there on that long and lonely road with nary a full service gas station in sight.
My husband would be doing me a disservice if he had always pumped my gas for me and never taught me how to fill up the tank of my car myself. He had to teach me how to be self sufficient enough to be able to keep going when he wasn't around. The body of Christ is meant to care for one another and to be able to depend on one another, but we should also be teaching our young believers how to keep filled up and functioning when they face those times that they're out on the road alone. We also need to let them know that they don't have to settle for ho-hum regular fuel, the kind that gets you from one place to the next, but with only enough energy to get you from point A to point B. That's survival. In Christ, all of us have the option to be fueled up with the good premium fuel, the kind that doesn't just get you from one place to the other, but gets you there with some joy, some hope, some extra pep in your step. That's thriving.
There's a time and place for being pampered, the nail salon, the spa. In my opinion, the church is not that place. The church is the place, not for us to be pampered, but for us to be equipped to face the long road before us and to reach our final destination without running out of fuel, joy and hope. It's the equipping station where we should be taught to thrive on life's long and winding road.