Legs were sticking out from underneath the 1960 something pickup that I was helping to overhaul. Those legs belonged to my dad.
He had always been the tinkerer. If something was broken or wasn't working right he would hop right into the midst of the situation until he came up with an answer. Me? Well, I was content to let him. I would help out if he told me what to do, but frankly I was much more comfortable letting other people handle the fixin' and repairin'.
I had changed the oil in my vehicles for years, but when the advent of the chain quick lube places came, I pretty much swore off changing oil. In fact I haven't done so in years and I don't even feel guilty about it.
But I do remember working with my dad. He would be under a vehicle with a wrench or some other hand held tool trying to loosen or tighten some bolt that invariably would come loose just as he was applying the most elbow grease, thus causing his hand to move at warp speed directly into that path of some metal component that was placed at such an angle by some demented car manufacturer so as to wrench skin from parts of his hand or fingers.
This was often followed by a spirited rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus.
Even today when I see him I can always tell when he's been doing some mechanic type work. The bandages or healing skin gives it away.
One thing my dad taught me was the value of a good work ethic. I started working when I was fourteen. By the time my senior year in high school rolled around I had worked at several different jobs and was the proud owner of a small foreign pick-up. I had secured a loan under my own name and was looking toward the future.
I decided that I had a problem; I didn't want to work. I was a senior and I wanted to participate in the school musical. In order to do that I had to have plenty of free time.
I tried out and was surprised when I landed the lead in "Oklahoma". Lots of singing and action - a dream come true, but what was I supposed to do about my job and the payment on my pickup?
I talked with Dad about it and he came up with a solution. It was one of those good news - bad news situations. Good news - trade my pickup straight across for a car and I would no longer have any vehicle payments - the car would be mine free and clear. What's more - I could stop working. Bad news: The car was about the ugliest thing I had ever seen.
I took the car.
A friend of mine repainted it for me and I finally could participate in the musical without having a job to worry about.
It wasn't long after the curtain closed that I came to the conclusion that employment had its benefits. It may not occur to most eighteen-year-olds that it takes more than wishing and hoping to fill the tank of an eight cylinder vehicle and pay for the insurance necessary to operate the vehicle, let alone the oil and filter that needed changing and the tires that needed replacing. By Christmas I would rejoin the workforce.
I have some pretty wonderful memories of the hard work it took to put a musical together, memories of my dad who helped make that possible and the ugly car I came to love.
There are so many things in my life that have come to me seemingly based on the sweat of my brow or the skin of my knuckles and I learned very well that you work hard at a job and there is a reward in doing a good job.
But I learned two other lessons that were even more important. 1) The work that I do has to be for the One who created me, so it doesn't much matter what I am doing as long as I have firmly fixed in my mind who I'm doing it for and 2) God doesn't factor any of my work in determining whether He can offer His grace to me.
That's mighty important. He doesn't consider whether we believe we've given skinned knuckles in our efforts for Him, He doesn't look at long hours labored on His behalf when He offers salvation. He simply says, "Come unto Me all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
Work can be a satisfying part of your life. You can even be really good at it. However, always keep in mind that the God of this universe wants to give you a gift of eternal life and you can do NOTHING to earn it - NOTHING!!!
It is as if God gives you a test and then tells you that the only way to can pass the test is to let Jesus take it for you. You can't study enough, and you can only ask one Person for help. Jesus is the only one who can pass the test and He's willing to take it for you. You just have to let Him.
If we could earn our way to heaven then why would we need a Savior? We can't save our souls. We can't keep track of every good thing we’ve ever done and present them to Jesus and tell Him that He has to let us in because we've been so good.
Let's take a good hard look at our lives to see if we are allowing God to work through us to accomplish His will, or if we’re simply looking for good things to do to impress a God who counts our best efforts as "filthy rags"?
Skinned knuckles can't hold a candle to nail pierced hands.