Monday, June 8, 2009

Of vehicles, forgiveness and the Atonement

Sunday, particularly Fast Sunday, is a time for reflection, for pondering the things of God and the blessing he has given us. Today, my mind turned to a recent tremendous blessing we received at the hands of a kind and honest man. Kind and honest are not words one usually associates with mechanics, but in Ray's case, they fit.
He offers a special "student discount," the amount of which is rarely expressly stated but which has always saved us a bit when we've taken our car, Virginia (named for a kind and generous aunt from whom we received the car), in for routine check-ups and oil changes.

Recently, Virginia's cruise control stopped working. This is an annoyance for Emilee, whose hour-long daily commute is made somewhat harder because of it. It was somewhat more of an annoyance during our recent trip to California. Considering our impending journey to Connecticut, we realized that we would really like to have it working. Since we were taking Virginia in for Safety and Emissions inspections (and the new tires and oxygen sensor needed to pass those inspections), we figured it would be a good time to have Ray's people look at the cruise control.

We had the misfortune to be placed under the management of Randy, Ray's number two in command. Randy has a politician's smile, a salesman's smooth talk, a coal miner's handshake and an unfortunate tendency to neglect to call you when he says he will. After several hours of examination Randy told us that we needed a whole new engine computer and that we could either find one ourselves or he could procure one for about $200.

A quick search on eBay revealed an appropriate part for $45. We ordered it, got it in and handed it to Randy. Blake, the beleaguered mechanic who actually did the work, spent a couple of hours prying open our car to get at the engine computer and said, "This isn't the right engine computer - the color coding doesn't match!"

The person from whom we acquired the part refunded our payment without any hassle. I quickly found (using part numbers this time instead of just a description) a correct computer, ordered it and presented it to Randy. Blake confirmed that it was the right part and proceeded to spend a few hours installing it.

It didn't fix the cruise control.

Randy said, at this point, "Well, we've only been able to have a few hours at a time with your car so far - if you let me have it for an entire day, we'll be able to get it fixed." Accordingly, we left Virginia in Randy and Blake's care for over 8 hours on the following Monday, which Emilee happened to have off of work. The word now was that we needed a new Cruise Control Module (Question here: Why skip the Cruise Control Module and go straight for the Engine Computer when you're trying to fix the Cruise Control? Maybe it's because I'm not a mechanic, but that doesn't make much sense to me . . .), with similar options for acquiring one.

At this point, Emilee and I decided to cut our losses. As a friend took me to Ray's, I began a fretful calculation in my head of the number of hours of labor for which we would be charged and the hundreds of dollars we would have sunk into a wild goose chase. When I arrived, I found Ray behind the counter - Monday is Randy's day off. Ray had familiarized himself with our situation and said, "After everything Randy's had you do to try and fix this problem, making you find your own parts and everything . . . I'm not gonna charge you for the labor."

Now THAT'S what I call a Student Discount! Instantly, through nothing I had done, just the simple kindness and generosity of one man, my debt was forgiven. I was elated as I brought Virginia home, feeling truly blessed.

I reflected today that we, as a human race, spend much of our time broken in a spiritual sense. We stumble about through life, looking for help to get fixed but, in the end, no earthly power can truly fix us. The worst of it is that, the longer we're broken, the more spiritual debt we rack up. In the end, though, after all we can do, the great Mechanic of our souls says to us, "After all you've done, I forgive your debt - you owe me nothing. Welcome home." And then He fixes our cruise control anyway.

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