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Moments In Time - The Engine Block

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

I have been fortunate to own a variety of cars over the years. Most of them have been pre-owned, but that made no difference to the excitement I felt whenever I picked up my “new” car and drove it for the first time. In fact, so significant were these occasions, that I don’t have much trouble recalling the circumstances that accompanied each car on the day I took possession of them.

However, there is one car in particular which I have the strongest memories of and that was a 1973 HQ Holden Kingswood, mustard in colour with a white roof. I had bought it from a dealer in Melbourne so had to drive it home from the city during peak hour traffic. It was 8 years old, but drove like a new car, and I still remember pulling up beside a Rolls Royce and thinking at the time that I wouldn’t swap my HQ even for the Rolls. I guess that is what one may call being “totally besotted”. I named her, Ruby, after my Mum’s horse which used to pull the family cart along Cotham road Kew when she was a little girl. “How old is he?” I hear you ask.

Well that HQ and I had many adventures over the years which unfortunately took a heavy toll on the old girl and consequently I found myself making all sorts of modifications to Ruby just to keep her on the road. For example, I remember having to pull all the carpet out of the car and drill holes in the floor pans so that the water, which had leaked in through the windscreen seals, would drain out. It used to be particularly embarrassing when I had a passenger in the front seat and forgot to tell them to lift their feet as we drove down a hill, because all the water that had settled in the back seat would come flooding through to the front and soak their feet. The sound of the water sloshing around the car gave you the sense that you were in a boat. It was quite appealing in a funny sort of way.

However, my fondest modification was when the motor developed a crack and starting pressurizing the sump forcing the oil out of the dipstick holder. It was costing me a fortune in oil, so I got the bright idea of drilling a hole in the rocker cover at the top of the motor and running some garden hose from the dip stick holder back through the top of the motor. Worked like a treat and old “Ruby” stayed on the road for another 3 months as a result.

Unfortunately, there came a time, despite all my best efforts, when I just couldn’t coax old Ruby to keep going. However, I couldn’t part with her so decided to give her a new lease on life with a reconditioned motor. She was very excited, well at least that is what I thought.

It took months to find a motor from a wreck which could be reconditioned by a friend’s father. This chap was a real gentleman who loved tinkering with motors and offered to do the job as a labour of love, so long as I paid for all the parts.

So that was what happened, and after quite a few weekends, Ruby was fitted with her “new” motor which shone like a jewel in her engine bay. I could hardly contain my joy…

Oh, how I wish I could tell you this story went according to plan… but it did not.

Do you think I could get that motor to start???

Despite getting friends around and doing everything we could think of, that sparkling red 202 refused to start. Days went by until eventually I towed it around to a local mechanic who after some extensive testing informed me the block of the motor was cracked!!!

The block was the very foundation of the motor which needed to be totally free from flaws. It didn’t matter how many new or reconditioned parts I fitted to the motor, if the block was not in good order, nothing was going to work properly.

I was devastated because I had spent a lot of money adding new parts to that motor, but all to no avail whatsoever. The mechanic informed me that the very first thing I should have done was to have the engine pressure tested to see if it had any cracks in it. Such a test involves subjecting the engine to more pressure then normal to see if it leaks. Such a test will reveal if the basic, foundational components of the motor, such as the engine block, are without flaw.

Oh, the wisdom of hindsight!!!

I haven’t thought about this problem I had with old Ruby for years. However, last week when we were forced to re-enter strict lock down procedures due to the increase in COVID cases it came back to mind.

You see Jenny and I were probably hit harder from this latest round of lockdown restrictions than the first time. The prolonged nature of the COVID crisis is no small factor in our reaction, because it is often harder to maintain emotional strength and resilience over a longer period of time. The temptation to blame, to despair, to fear and not trust God is very real to us and frankly, I suspect we are not alone in such reactions. All of us have to come to grips with the fact that we find ourselves in a marathon and not a sprint race.

We, like many, are feeling the pressure of the drawn-out battle we find ourselves in, and I suspect no-one enjoys the pressure which comes upon them during such difficult times. It was at this point I was reminded of the engine problems with the HQ.

Why??? Bear with me a little longer…

Paul in the letter to the Romans writes…

“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Rick Warren, when teaching on this scripture, makes the point that God will use all the circumstances we find ourselves in, even the difficult ones, for our good if we trust Him. He goes on to point out that part of this process of drawing out good from bad, involves our co-operation with God as we look for ways He might want to use it for good. By doing this we can well end up “thriving rather than surviving” during difficult times.

How does God draw good out of such times?

Well, it will vary for each of us, however can I suggest that one of the ways God draws good out troubled times is to use the resultant pressure to reveal aspects of ourselves that He wants us to see and work on. That is, those cracks or shortcomings in our character which during normal operating pressures don’t show themselves.

To quote Rick Warren…

“God is much more interested in our integrity than our image, image is what everyone else can see. Integrity is what you are in the dark, when no-one else is listening and watching. God looks at our hearts and our motivations, because what we do is not nearly as important to God as to why we do it”

Otherwise, if these cracks are not revealed to us, we can spend a lot of time and energy “reconditioning” our lives with shiny new parts, programs and rule keeping, only to be left at the end of the day stressed and perplexed wondering why “the motor won’t start”.

It’s worth noting that the reason I replaced the motor in the HQ in the first place was because it had a cracked block. Isn’t it ironic that ignorance on my part meant that I replaced this broken motor with one that, although shiny and new looking, had the same problem as its predecessor, a cracked block? You think I would have learnt something about cracked blocks the first time I was confronted with it.

The Israelites spent forty years walking around in the wilderness on their trip from Egypt to the promised land, it should have only taken a few months at most. However, the pressure they felt during their wilderness experience revealed a number of their flaws, which they chose not to address. Consequently, they did quite a few laps of the desert before, as a nation, they were ready to enter the promised land.

We are told in Deuteronomy 8:2.

And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what is in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.”

What am I trying to say?

One of the ways God can draw good out of difficult times is to use the resultant pressure to show us things about ourselves that He wants to heal, because he loves us and wants to see us whole and at peace. Things that normally we wouldn’t necessarily see, or want to see. Things that during normal times we can limp along with and not have to address. If we ignore these things the first time, don’t be surprised if we end up doing a few “laps of the oval”

Can I encourage us all to ask ourselves this week a question?

What do these troubled times reveal about me?

May God bless us all as we dare to let the Him “search our hearts and try our ways” this week.



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