I was in the parking lot of the grocery store on my way back to the car, when I found myself having trouble finding it. It hadn’t been stolen, and I hadn’t forgotten where I’d left it — I just had trouble recognizing it. The previous week of warm weather had resulted in so much mud and slush on the roads that my car had changed color from all the grime. Even the green license plate had become a nondescript beige.
The day was sunny and the roads were now dry, so I decided it was time to head for the carwash across town. But as I got there, my heart sank. A lot of other people were similarly inspired. The line of cars was backed up all the way out to the road. There were at least a dozen cars ahead of me. For a moment, I considered leaving and coming back next week, but the weather is so unpredictable this time of year that I decided to stay and wait my turn. Needless to say, it gave me a lot of time to think.
As I sat there, it occurred to me that the experience I was having was not unlike the spiritual journey many of us find themselves on. Our lives, just like our cars, occasionally need to be cleansed from the accumulated “mud” that we’ve picked up along Life’s way. Stress, illness, workplace disappointments, financial problems, losses (large or small) all leave their marks on our souls. Just as it’s hard to live in Vermont without ever having to drive on dirt roads, it’s hard to get through Life without hitting some rough, “muddy patches” along the way. Sooner or later, we find ourselves in need of a “spiritual carwash.”
But like my carwash experience, we’ll often be tempted to give up and go home prematurely. For various reasons, we conclude that there are too many obstacles standing in our way. Finding the cleansing we need will definitely require a commitment – a firm decision that it’s all worth the trouble. It requires a degree of discipline to get in line when there are so many more enjoyable things that we’d rather be doing. Are we ready to inconvenience ourselves or do we just want to go home and stay the way we are?
Once we decide to take that first important step, then we need to be prepared to wait. Slowing down from our hectic pace is essential. The line to the “spiritual carwash” moves slowly. We don’t usually reach our goal instantly. Having overcome our initial reticence, we now have time to anticipate the benefits that lie ahead of us. Just as washing a car not only improves its appearance but also increases its longevity, so our spiritual cleansing offers us release from the burdensome grit and grime that threatens our overall welfare. Spiritual practices don’t often bear their fruit overnight but emerge gradually over time. If we want the benefits of God’s cleansing, then we have to be willing to wait to see the results. In that sense, waiting is an act of faith.
Select Wash Options
Once we finally are ready to enter the carwash, we have to decide what type of wash cycle to use. Will it be just a light, superficial wash, or one that cleans the undercarriage as well? Will we be satisfied with removing surface dirt, or will we also want to prolong the cleaning with a coat of wax?
Will our spiritual cleansing be quick drive-through experience, or will we expose the unseen and unseemly parts of ourselves to the cleansing waters? That decision is often harder to make than we expect. But it’s a decision that will make a big difference in the long run.
The same is true spiritually. We don’t cleanse ourselves but put ourselves in a position to let the Divine Mystery have its way with us. We don’t like to admit that it’s something that we can’t do for ourselves, but it’s true. (We’ve tried, and if that had worked, we wouldn’t need to be here today . . . but obviously, we do!) And even though we’re just sitting there, the change we see afterward is dramatic!
Repeat . . . Often
Of course, this cleansing won’t last forever. We’ll drive through the mud again and eventually need to repeat the process. (Here in Vermont, that will probably be sooner rather than later!)
The same is true with our spiritual lives. Life happens. Mud happens. God happens. The Divine carwash stands ready to get us back on the road again in much better condition than before. It makes the next stage of the journey much more enjoyable for us and for others. But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself. Visit your local “spiritual carwash” today!