I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Pastor Tara L. Eastman’s reflection “Car Wash Prayer By.”
Recently, when heading to my local gas station to fill up my car, the cashier swiped my “discount card” and said, “Hey there, you have points for a free car wash.” So, with gas tank filled, my reusable coffee mug re-filled and my “Free Car Wash” points in hand – I pulled around to the back of the store. There were lots of things on my mind and lots of places I could have run off too; but the “Free Car Wash” points and my slushy, salt covered car beaconed for a moment of pause. And while I didn’t know it a first, that free car wash could not have come at a better time – for me and for my winter weary car.
Truth be told, I have a thing for automatic car washes. I love the sound of water whooshing, the juicy-fruit smell of the soap, colorful stripes of bubbles streaming down my windshield and how my car is gently pulled through the car wash bay. The multi-sensory experience and the clean car was something I needed.
First, I pulled up to the car wash bay to find two workers waiting to attack the dirty exterior of my car. They brushed, scrubbed and sprayed away the excess dirt, ice and buildup away. Slowly, by their direction, I pulled into the car wash bay, carefully lined up my wheels to rest on the tracking belt to lead my car through the wash process. Next, I was told to place my car in neutral and release the brake.
As directed, I shifted gears. Nothing happened. The worker tapped on my window, and emphasized the word, “NEUTRAL”.
I looked down and to my great embarrassment and surprise. Yes, I was in gear but the gear I was in was not “NEUTRAL”, but reverse. To the frustration of the car wash staff and my flushed face – I was beginning to wonder if this free car wash was worth it. Stuck in reverse, my car strained against the tracking belt and no one was going anywhere.
I took a deep breath. Then looked down to the gear shift, placed it in neutral, and held my foot on the brake until the car wash staff gave me the go ahead to let go.
The track pulled my car into the automated full sensory experience of the automatic car wash. I took another deep breath and I reminded of how prayer, rest and being in a heart, mind and body posture of “NEUTRAL” sets the stage for contemplation. Neutral, is necessary, to enter the sacred space of prayer.
As the water whooshed, the pulley pulled, and the bubbles did their work; I closed my tearful eyes and prayed. I prayed for God to lead me in my decisions, for the help to shift into neutral, when I’m in reverse or drive, to allow for the washing away of things that need to go. Neutral, it turns out is necessary for forward motion in automated car washes, and life. In that free car wash, I experienced a sacred space of worship and release. In the free car wash, I was reminded of my baptism and received God’s love.
It turned out that my car wasn’t the only thing going through a transformation inside the car wash bay. In the car wash prayer, I was reminded that my life can be trusted in God’s hands, that the debris that gunk’s things up can be washed away, and if I’m willing to shift into a “NEUTRAL” stance – prayer can change things.
A free car wash taught me, that prayer changes me.
If you ever have the chance to redeem points for a free car wash at your local gas station; I hope you are quick to pull around the side of the store and get ready to place your gear into “NEUTRAL’. Not only will your car be clean and shiny – but your heart will be invited to a sacred, every day, space for peace and prayer.
Dear God – Don’t allow me see prayer as a routine task to be completed. Move me to prayer, so it can be the vehicle to process every part of life. Through prayer, help me to shift out of reverse or drive and into the neutral space where you can work in and through me. Amen
1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Pastor Tara Lamont Eastman has been writing, drawing and painting since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Tara’s writing has been published by Sparkhouse (a division of Augsburg Fortress). Pastor Eastman, is currently serving as a Pastor in the Upstate NY Synod, combines her love of ministry with her love of writing, music and visual arts in numerous projects locally in Western New York and nationally. She is a graduate of Wartburg Theological Seminary’s Theological Education for Emerging Ministry Program and the Youth and Theology Certificate Program at Princeton Seminary. She has served in various ministry roles over the last twenty-five years in the fields of ministry, writing, visual art and music. She was the Artist-in-Residence and member of the faculty at the 2013 Forums on Youth Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary and the Artist-in-Residence and workshop presenter at the 2012 Inhabit Conference in Seattle, Washington. Her personal blog, Uphill Idealist, has been an ongoing source of expression of her theological and creative work for over ten years. She/her lives and serves in congregational ministry in CNY.