I’m starting this evening with a somewhat un-Sabbatic question: Is it ever a good thing to get a car repair estimate of $448.58? I discovered this week that the answer to that question depends on your perspective. My Toyota Corolla recently developed a strange high-pitched rattling noise during acceleration, and after some home diagnostic work, I hoped fervently that it was only going to be a loose heat shield. I decided to take it to the experts, however, since I had never heard a car make that kind of noise before. I dropped off the car in the morning, anticipating a nominal fee for an extra screw through the heat shield.
Later in the day I called the garage and the kind-spirited lady at the desk delivered the verdict: “We have good news and we have bad news.” (My heart sank. When it comes to car repair, the good news never outweighs the bad.) She continued, “The good news is that you don’t have to repair the car immediately. The bad news is that your catalytic converter is starting to fail. I’m working on an estimate for that job right now.” (Whenever the garage needs to take time to “work on an estimate” that’s not a good sign either, I’ve discovered.) My heart plunged to my toes as I hung up the phone and waited for the verdict. Then I decided not to wait, so I googled “cost for a catalytic converter for a Toyota Corolla.” The search results did not improve my mood.
The estimates ranged, but the number that stuck in my head was between $1,500 and $2,000. At that point, it becomes a question of whether or not it’s time to get rid of the car. I began imagining the Craigslist ad: 2009 Toyota Corolla. 110,000 miles. Runs great. No rust. Four new tires (at this point every person in the state of NH is reaching for the cell phone.) Next line: Needs a new catalytic converter (at this point everyone puts the phone away again.) Needless to say, I couldn’t see any way that this story was going to end well.
Later in the day, however, I returned to the garage to pick up the car, and the receptionist handed me the estimate for a new converter: $448.58. I was shocked. Stunned. Amazed. Now if she had handed me that estimate when I dropped off the car in the morning, I would also have been shocked, stunned, and amazed, but with disgust. Now I was amazed with joy. Nothing had changed except my perspective. I had been braced for the worst, and had gotten something far better than expected. I walked out of the garage giddily anticipating paying a mere $448.58 at some happy day in the future. (Okay, that part was an exaggeration.) But it was a powerful lesson in perspective.
What does this have to do with the Sabbath? Something about this day, I’ve discovered, has a way of changing my perspective. In this case, the perspective shift doesn’t come from considering the worst (we have the news media and doomsday theorists for that purpose) but from considering the best. On this day of rest we are reminded of some basic but powerful truths:
1. God is in control of the universe. (Even if I stop my incredibly-important work for a whole 24 hours, the earth will continue to function quite nicely.)
2. God loves me, and values relationships. (He actually designed a day where I can stop slaving and instead enjoy time with Him and with others.)
3. God wins. (The Sabbath is a foretaste of the end of the age, when Satan has been defeated and all flesh is fully yielded to God.)
When we slow down to breathe and consider these three great truths, letting them percolate down to our hearts, they will change our perspective. They bring us from gloom to peace, from fear to joy, and from pessimism to praise. We desperately need that perspective shift regularly, because there are enough things in society conveying the opposite message. If we immerse ourselves in the world too long, we not only adopt its styles and behaviors, we adopt the undercurrent of fear that runs through those who do not know God.
I felt an undercurrent of fear from the garage repair estimate, and was delivered by the truth that things could have been a lot worse. As believers, we feel the worldly undercurrent of fear as well, but we can be delivered by the truth that things are going to be a lot better. Given the choice, I’d rather be delivered by hopeful truth than by depressing truth, and that is what the Sabbath offers.
The Sabbath is not just a nice option to fit into a week when we don’t have much to do anyway. In these days of deception, the Sabbath is a non-optional, desperately-needed vision cleanser. Let’s not allow work, or stress, or the to-do list, or any other distraction to encroach on our keeping of this day. We need our perspective regularly lined up with the ways of God, and the Sabbath provides that precious gift every week. Let’s rest in Him today and find our vision cleared.
Resting with you,