I heard my phone vibrating on the countertop. I stretched to look at it, trying to catch a glimpse of who was calling me. It was one of ‘those’ numbers. So I answered and turned the speaker on.
“Hi, my name is Jenny. I have been informed that you have been in a car accident recently that wasn’t your fault, is that right?”
I didn’t respond. I couldn’t respond. In fact, at that point I had ran out of responses for such calls. It’s almost as though these guys actually want you to have an accident so they can feel somewhat useful in their lives. Of course I know they really don’t wish me any harm, but it’s hard to think otherwise when someone repeatedly calls me to say they heard I was in an accident.
But as I think about the Blame-and-Claim culture of the West, my mind is drawn to something else. I remember a certain group of people I have never seen in these parts, popularly known as ‘Panel Beaters’. Before I tell you who they are (for those of you who don’t know), I’ll let you on something that happened a while ago. One day on his way to work, Boo of life had a little incident that left him with a dented bumper, fender and hood. As would normally happen, insurance details were exchanged and the car was taken to the auto body shop to be fixed. By the time the job was done and the bill came back, I was shocked to see the price on it. I think my shock came mostly from the fact that after my own expert assessment, I didn’t think there was really much to do to fix up the car. A little panel beating here and there and the car should be as good as new.
Oh, sorry, I used the word panel beat without first telling the meaning. So here it goes: Panel Beating (according to Oxford Dictionary) is the action of beating out the bodywork of motor vehicles into shape, especially after an accident. (emphasis added)
(Aha! You knew that already, right? Good)
So with the pricey bill in my hand, I tried hard to ignore the slight nudge in my mind which seemed to suggest that just maybe the company had inflated the price, considering the money would come from insurance anyway . . . yes, I tried to ignore that thought, and I did. This left me wondering to myself what type of repairs were done that would cost so much. Panel beating isn’t that expensive, at least not where I come from. You place the car right in front of you to get a good view of the damage, wield your hammer with all the strength you have and begin to hit it back to shape. Smoothen. Spray. Done. That was panel beating in my opinion.
But now, as I read about the processes in the work of panel beating and analyse all the tools used in the trade, all I can think about is the pain the car must go through. The torture in the repair process would appear to produce a greater pain than the pain it experienced from the accident that got it there in the first place. To me, the initial impact of the accident that causes a dent must be like the sharp pain you experience when you bump your head on something hard. Excruciating. But panel beating sounds like the pain you feel when someone places an ice pack on your bump or tries to massage it with some hot balm. DEAD!
Back to the bill.
After cracking every part of my head, my inner Sherlock gave up and asked Boo of life why the repairs cost so much, and his response was staggering. According to them, they had gone ahead to REPLACE all the dented parts.
Who does that?
And I will give you a NEW HEART, and I will put a NEW SPIRIT in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)
My heart in the over 30 years it has existed has gone through a good bashing with many cracks, dents and scratches. Like a salvaged broken pottery, my heart has had its pieces glued back together many times, with a few pieces missing in the process. From loss, disappointment, failure, anger, hurt and SIN, the greatest of all. What about my spirit? Same story. It’s been broken as much. Crushed by the very same things that vowed to make it whole. The words of others and those from me, the dreams that came close but never came true and the desires that only pushed me to hurt myself some more.
Now in these many years, I have gone from one panel beater to the other and they had all promised to fix me, and to be honest, many of them did mean well.
I’ve had friends who when the hurt was heavy chose to look me in the eyes and bring down the hammer on me by saying “deal with it, that’s just life”, and surely I have been such a friend to many. There have been voices who while running away from one sin have suggested to smooth the surface over by hiding in another, and I listened. Smooth for just a little while; didn’t take long before the dents started to show again. And there were those choices I took on my own, to cover up the cracks by spraying them all over with my very own self-righteous spray paint. Of course, how long did that last before it started to wear out again? Not long. And through these times, the fixings were a lot harder to take than the mess that got me there in the first place . . . hurt upon hurt; woe upon woe; sorrow upon sorrow; pain upon pain.
Then I heard Him say, “I can give you a new heart, my child.”
“Why would you do that?” I asked.
It was expensive. Like the bill I held in my hand that just couldn’t add up. It would cost a lot. I held unto His bill and couldn’t understand why He would spend so much on me when there was a cheaper option: panel beat me.
Maybe it was because someone else was paying . . . or someone else had paid. Surely He must have padded the cost . . . damn expensive! Then I looked again. He couldn’t have. Yes it did look like someone else was paying, and yes, someone else did . . . HIM!
Never in my life did I think it possible to heal without the bashing and the hammering and the scrapping and spraying. I never knew I didn’t have to be only as good as new, I could be NEW, all new. You see, the thing about surviving a panel-beating is the possibility that no one might know that you are still hurting. On the surface, you’re all clean, but the fibres of your being never stopped feeling the dents, and the subsequent hammering. The portion of you that’s all nicely made up still carries in its depth the reality of what you’ve been through. But does it have to be so? I don’t think so. And the moment I knew I had another choice, I received it with thanksgiving, my fully REPLACED heart!
Now any time I have an accident, I don’t wait for that call, I know where to go. To Him who has new parts in abundance. And who is able to fix me, anytime, no matter the cost.
Back to the bill . . .
. . . not important. The car is new.
But if like me you’ve ever felt like you need a new heart, you can say this with me:
Lord, fix me!