Thursday, September 5, 2013

Inside Out

I'm not allowed to tell you where I work.


When I started my job, I signed an agreement stating it was illegal for me to name, describe or mention my place of employment by name, in photographs, on blogs, or in social media. So, if we were to hang out together, I could tell you where I work. I could tell you all about my job, but since this is a blog, I can't mention it.

I can, however tell you that I work for the nation's largest quick-lube chain, and that if you bring your car in, we'll get you out in a jiffy.

As part of my job, I get to see a lot of cars. Some are complete beaters, driven by hoarders, loaded from floor to ceiling with more clutter and junk than I have in my entire home. Others are beautiful pieces of automotive machinery, like the Scion FR-s in cobalt blue with custom Lamborghini-inspired doors. 

I've always liked cars. However, up until this job, I never knew much about what was under the hood. I merely appreciated them from a driver's point-of-view - how they look, how comfortable the interior is, what features they offer, how fast are they, how they handle, accelerate, & how cool I might look driving one. Now, I know a bit more. My knowledge and appreciation is now deeper, and therefore, my care and concern that they are properly maintained. 

One of the most frustrating aspects of my job is when a customer comes in with an amazing sports car, or a beautiful European luxury car - they look beautiful on the outside, freshly washed and waxed, after-market rims and low-profile tires gleaming - with the inside in a state of complete disarray. When you lift the hood, you realize that this person either can't afford to properly maintain their vehicle, or they don't care to. 

They aren't putting quality oils and fluids into it, instead opting for the cheapest grade possible. They aren't performing regular preventative maintenance, according to their manufacturers recommendations, nor according to the advice of the knowledgable professionals servicing their vehicle. They want their car to look good on the outside, but they aren't concerned enough with the care of it's most vital parts. It can be all too easy to skip a service here, ignore that clicking sound there, or neglect the things you may not even be aware need doing.

From the outside, you'd never know the difference. Once you see the inside, however, there's no denying the decay. 

Believe it or not, this reminds me of something that Jesus once said:

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

The Pharisees were the ├╝ber religious guys, the spiritual elites. They were given special honor in Jewish culture - people stepped out of the way when they passed, gave them the best seats in the house, treated them with honor everywhere they went. 

Here, Jesus basically calls them used coffins. They may be beautifully adorned, polished and waxed, and look very expensive, but inside it's all death, stench and rot. 

The Pharisees, not unlike many religious people today, were full-of-themselves - prideful, self-righteous, condescending. Jesus says that that kind of hypocrisy is like washing only the outside of a bowl that had moldy food inside, and trying to serve someone soup out of it. 

If Jesus' disciples had been auto-mechanics, instead of fishermen; if he were preaching in our time, he might have worded the metaphor a bit like this:

"You holier-than-thou religious hypocrites are like a luxury car that looks beautiful on the outside, but under the hood - it's all grease and dirt and leaks. You spend so much time cleaning up the outside so that you and your status symbol look good on the streets, but you ignore the insides. Pretty soon you're going to find yourself stuck on the side of the road with a really good-looking piece of trash. Where will you be then? Worry first about the inside of your car - the parts that make it run - and then take care of the paint and the rims."

Whichever metaphor you use, the point remains the same. If you don't feed your dog, all the brushing and bathing in the world won't keep it healthy, and the same is true for your spiritual life. Things need caring for from the inside out, whether cars, dogs, dishes, our bodies or our souls, and we need to be especially careful of the latter, specifically those of us who are more of the religious-types, we Christians. As far as society was concerned, the Pharisees were the good-guys, the church-going, upright religious folks, the ones who had it all together. Jesus says that they're spiritually blind, and what's worse, spiritually dead, but so conceited that they can't see it.

Jesus said that folks like that have received their reward in full. They may have gotten the admiration of strangers. They may have stacked street cred like Kanye stacks cash, but that's all they're gonna get. At the end of their days, none of it will do them any good. They gained the world, but forfeited their souls.

What about you? Are you trying to live a life that looks squeaky-clean, but neglecting preventative maintenance for your soul™? If you're like me, you like others to think you've got it all together, but you aren't nearly concerned enough for your soul's most vital parts. It's all too easy to skip a prayer time here, ignore that discipline there, or neglect the things you may not even be aware need doing.

But they do need doing. 

Ultimately, it's God who cares for your soul. Sanctification is something we do in partnership with the Spirit. There are things we need to be doing regularly, maintenance parameters established by your manufacturer to help keep your spiritual self running at optimal levels.

A few examples include:

~ Prayer ~
~ Meditation on the Scriptures ~
~ Spiritual Singing (even if you're not musically inclined, singing is commanded in scripture more than almost any other thing) ~
~ Service ~
~ Humility ~
~ Silence & Solitude (great spaces for reflection and spiritual meditation) ~

I know there are a number of things on that list that need more attention in my life. How about you? Together, let's pray that God might grant us the grace to desire more of these things in our lives, and provide us with the strength to commit to them. That He would give us both the motivation and the ability to follow through on His commands to care for ourselves from the inside out. 

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