Nine years ago a very generous family member purchased a brand new van for my husband and me right off the lot. It had everything. Great stereo system, DVD player, electric windows, keyless entry. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven. It wasn’t long, however, that our dream vehicle turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment.
From the very beginning the paint started to peel in different places all over the van. Since there was a recall on that particular color of paint on that year’s model, it was covered. No big deal. I’ll admit it was a bit of an inconvenience having to take it in every few months to have another part of it repainted. At one point I even suggested that maybe they should just repaint the entire thing once and for all and be done with it. It would save me the trouble of coming in all the time and them the unpleasantness of seeing me. That, of course, is not how they do things.
The real difficulty started once the recall was up. All of a sudden, they weren’t nearly as accommodating. In an effort to get them to take care of this issue I’ve sent 13 letters to all 13 members of this company’s Board of Directors with pictures. It cost me a small fortune. I’ve been on the phone with headquarters several times trying to get them to understand what it means to stand behind a product. I’ve searched high and low for paperwork they insist I have to have in order for them to even start to address the problem. Apparently they purge their files every 18 months if you haven’t been in to see them.
I asked if maybe my information was somewhere in cyberspace and that they would need to dig a little deeper. They assured me that, despite the fact that this is indeed the computer age, all of my information was on paper documents that would take days even weeks to locate.
I got of the phone and cried out of sheer frustration. There is nothing worse than feeling like you’ve been given the runaround, like the powers that be think you’re stupid and will buy just any story you’re given, like if they frustrate you enough you’ll just give in and trade up. They haven’t met me. This van has 140,000 miles. I plan on driving it at least to 200,000. That’s three more years for me, that is, unless the rust on the roof is not addressed in which case, I’ll be driving around town with a sunken roof and snow on my head in the middle of winter! I really can’t take it.
Up to this point when I’ve thought about engaging my culture my understanding of the concept has been limited to situations in which I am intentionally witnessing or trying to lead someone to Christ. I don’t think about the way I respond to the bank teller that tells me to have a nice day when she’s taken about ten minutes too long to process a check or the person at AT&T who just can’t figure out why I don’t have internet service and happily tells me they’ll send someone out in a few days to look at it, or the guy at the dealership that tells me there’s really nothing that he can do for me until I find the paperwork he needs.
There were so many things I wanted to say to the dealership like how it’s their job to fix their product, like this is the 21st century, the age of computers, and how it’s not my fault if they can’t get it together, how they should be embarrassed to have their product driving around town looking as bad as it looks, how a $1,000 paint job is a drop in the bucket to a multi-billion dollar company, like how the customer is always right, etc. Yes, I know. I had an adult-sized temper tantrum in my head until the Holy Spirit reminded me that engaging our culture is something we do every time we leave our house and enter society. If you’re alive and functioning you’re engaging whether you want to or not. How you do it is really dependent on how much you buy into the idea of the role of the Holy Spirit in your life.
So this week, we take the “G” in engage. Gift of the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 1 before Jesus ascended into heaven he was eating with His apostles and said this:
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:4,5,8, NIV).
Yes, the Holy Spirit is given to believers as a gift to help carry on the message of Jesus, but He’s the gift that keeps on giving.
He’s the Counselor, John 16:7
He’s the Spirit of truth, John 16:13.
He’s the Comforter John 14:26.
And the piece de resistance: He is the same power living in us that raised Christ from the dead, Romans 8:11.
During this whole process I’ve become acutely aware of my need for help from the Holy Spirit, not just in my feeble attempts at evangelizing the human race, but also in my day-to-day interaction with them. On my own I simply do not have what it takes to interact with the outside world in a manner pleasing to God. But I have this promise:
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 2:3, NIV).