WINDSHIELD WIPER WISDOM
The rhythmic beat of my windshield wipers almost seemed to be in sync with the music playing on my radio. I was driving home from the office in the midst of an absolute downpour. I assumed the moon and stars were out and shining, but their light was completely hidden by the clouds, forcing my fellow travelers and I to navigate our journey on the freeway with some trepidation on this dark and stormy night.
The traffic was unusually heavy tonight, perhaps slowed by the inclement weather. Even here in the Northwest, where rain is a fairly constant staple of life, a storm like this will cause legitimate caution by most drivers. There are still those who push the envelope, driving well over the speed limit even in such treacherous conditions, but that’s a pet peeve for a different blog post! What struck me this night as I made my way home was the incredible simplicity and effectiveness of my windshield wipers!
Someone once told me they thought I could write a blog or find a sermon illustration in virtually anything…..and at times I think they may be right! But even I would have never thought there was a spiritual truth in something as ordinary as a windshield wiper. Yet, as I crawled through the traffic last night I became more and more impressed with this innovation that is now standard on every car.
American inventor Mary Anderson is popularly credited with devising the first operational windscreen wiper in 1903. She thought it made no sense that New York streetcar drivers had to keep jumping off to clean snow from the windshield. In Anderson’s patent, she called her invention a “window cleaning device” for electric cars and other vehicles. Operated via a lever from inside a vehicle, her version of windscreen wipers closely resembles the windscreen wiper found on many early car models.
Today we take for granted this simple device installed so that we can actually see the road we’re driving on in rain, sleet, hail or snow. That is the sole purpose of the window wiper…..to help you to see forward. Without it in a storm the road becomes a dangerous blur. If you don’t have a functional windshield wipers In a downpour like last night the cars in front of you become unseen obstacles to avoid, corners become a daredevil adventure, and traffic signs a garbled mess. How many potential accidents do we avoid each time we turn on those alternating arms of vision?
The auto manufacturers now install this safety device in every vehicle. And they don’t stop there!! They also install a window defroster to clear your windshield from the inside and headlights on the outside of your car to light the way in front of you! All three innovations are to help you to see where you’re going and avoid the twists and turns of what lies ahead.
Sitting in my car last night, listing to the rain pound on my roof, and watching my wipers go back and forth, I began to consider the correlation between these simple, but essential, systems installed in every vehicle I’ve ever owned so that I could see ahead and the simple, but essential, systems God has given us all that we can see our way forward, even in the midst of life’s storms.
I don’t think it’s stretching the analogy too far to say that, like a windshield wiper, God has installed in each of us a few “devices” to help us clearly see the course ahead. The inevitability of storms in our life cannot be questioned — they will come, often without warning, and each bringing with them some hazardous conditions that we will have to navigate. If we don’t use the resources God has put at our disposal to find our way through the storm we’ll find ourselves in trouble.
Now I know we don’t have windshield wipers in our brains, a defroster in our heart, or headlights installed in our eyes, but there are some things that serve in similar capacities to guide and protect us. For one, God has given us all a conscience to help guide our moral decision making in times of challenge. We inherently know some things — right from wrong, good or bad, wise or unwise. No one really had to teach us those things. Our conscience is somewhat like “standard equipment” on a car. Granted, there are some folks who are “defective” and don’t seem to have a conscience, but that is certainly the very rare exception, not the rule. Our conscience by itself can often guide us forward, helping us the make the right decisions and avoiding storm damage. I don’t know about you, but my conscience has certainly directed me make it through some rough roads.
In addition, most of us have a group of trusted individuals who can provide what we need to un-fog our sightlines. Like a defroster on a windshield, sometimes we just need the warmth of others to see things more clearly. You know who I mean….those people who make you laugh even when you’ve been hurting, sit with you when you’re down in the dumps, get in your face when you’re heading off course, and walk with you through the toughest moments of your life. I’m convinced most of us really don’t have enough of those people in our lives or we just don’t understand the value they bring to our lives. Strengthening these relationships is vital if we are going to handle the downpours of life. Other people are one of the tools God gave us to cope with this disruptive adventure we call life. We really do need each other to face the tempest of our shared human experience.
Perhaps most importantly, God has made Himself available to us to help us see our way forward. One of the ways He does that is through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Holy Spirit’s role is to guide and direct, correct us when we get off course, and bring comfort and reassurance in the times of trial and stress. God doesn’t want us to navigate life without Him, so He’s made Himself available to walk with us. We would be foolish to not take advantage of this resource, whether life seems calm and sunny or when we’re getting hit from all sides. Like it says in the famous “Footprints In The Sand” poem, you never really walk alone on the sands of life He’s promised to be there to carry you!
Another piece of standard equipment God gives us for surviving storms is His Word. I don’t exactly know how it all works, but the Bible is a “living book”. Its timeless wisdom seems to always have just the right thing to say when you need it the most. Not every specific situation we encounter in life is discussed in detail within its pages, but universal principles are clearly outlined. Like headlights on a car, they point the way forward if we will follow that path. The Psalmist seemed to understand that when he wrote “Your word is a lamp under my feet and a light on my path” (Psalms 119:105). You wouldn’t think of driving in the dark without your headlights on would you?
I remember a time driving down I-5 in central California on a cold, wet, very foggy night. You couldn’t see more than a single car length in front of you. Traffic that normally flowed at 70 MPH had slowed to 10 MPH or less. I had my windshield wipers on high, my defroster running full blast, and both my headlights and fog lights on trying to follow the white line on the side of freeway. For the next couple of hours I was completely dependent on those simple devices to get my family safely to our destination.
I sincerely believe there’s some relevant wisdom in that! God has given us all some “standard equipment” because He knows we’re all going to walk through more than our share of stormy nights. Whether it’s through our conscience, our relationships with other, the Bible, or the guidance of His Holy Spirit, He hasn’t left us unequipped. He truly wants us to arrive safely at our destination….and that destination has streets of gold! It should be an “interesting journey”…..AMEN?