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Wednesday, February 09, 2011


It was the summer before my junior year of high school. The father of a teammate had called and asked if I would be interested in some part-time work to earn a little money. I was thrilled. Just like any high school boy, I needed some cash to fill up my car and to pay for my dates. So, I jumped at the chance to work at his full-service gas station (that should tell you how long ago this was).

I was thrown right into the fire at a place I didn't belong. I had no clue what I was doing. Pumping the gas was the easy part. I had that down with no problem. It was the other 75% of the work that was killing me. Replacing tires, changing oil, replacing belts--I wasn't even sure I could find half of that stuff on a car, much less fix it. I know I must have looked like a fool.

Recognizing my, er, "limitations", the owner of the station put me onto a simpler task. The station offered a car washing service where we would pick up and return your cars for you. So, one day, I arrived at the station to find this incredible, black Ford Cobra sitting in the washing area. This was the kind of car a teen age boy could dream of owning. It was amazing! I washed it quickly, making sure that she was shining like the sun. I hollered to Kevin's dad that she was finished. Then, the most amazing thing happened. He tossed me the keys and said, "Drive the car over to the hospital for me. It's a manual (stick-shift). Can you handle that?"

"Yes, sir!" I replied. What an idiot! I didn't have a clue. I had never even sat in the driver's seat of a stick-shift, much less driven one. And I sure didn't need to be driving this one. But the excitement of driving that car for all of my friends to see (remember, it was a smaaalll town) was just too much for my common sense. I was about to learn a valuable lesson.

The route from the station to the hospital took me around the square of the small town. I got her started and into first gear easily enough (I knew that much from watching my friend, Scott, drive his car). That's as far as I could go. I couldn't get her into second gear. Every time I tried, the car would just make this awful grinding noise.

Picture this...proud young man driving a high-powered sports car. He's about to round the square in the middle of the day when it's at its busiest. And he's driving this sleek machine in first gear...with an occasional grinding noise from his attempts to change the gears.

I was completely humiliated. I passed friends, neighbors, and complete strangers. There were kids passing me on their bicycles and farm trucks honking at me to pull over so they could pass. The three mile drive seemed like an eternity. But I was too proud to admit that I couldn't handle it on my own.

I lost more than my pride that day. I lost my job. But I learned an important lesson about integrity and pretending to know more than you really do. If I had just been man enough to say "no," I could have saved myself from all of the problems. But I chose otherwise.

There is nothing good about pretending to be something you're not. While you may look good riding down the road, the "grinding noises" will give away what's really on the inside. People will know you for who you really are. When the pressure gets intense, what is on the inside will begin to show. You'll lose more than you gain. You'll find nothing but frustration as you try to keep up a facade and pull off your hypocrisy. In the end, it always comes back to bite you.

I've since learned to drive a stick-shift and can find the dipstick on my engine to check my oil. I even think I regained my "cool points" before the summer came to an end. But the lessons on integrity from that summer have lingered to this day. I am who God made me. I should never apologize for being anything but that.

1 comment:

scott said...

I knew I should have taught you how to drive a stick. Scott