I bought an old car a couple of months back. New to me, though built in entirely different millennium altogether.
When I bought the car, they alerted me to a minor fault they’d ‘just discovered’ that they needed to remedy. They were waiting on the part to arrive so I’d need to bring the beast back another day. No biggie, unless you’re 45 minutes from the car yard.
They referred to the problem as the “Three Amigos” (it seemed it was so commonplace that it had acquired its own euphemism and web page!). The Three Amigos were three warning lights: one for an ABS fault, one for hill descent, another for traction control.
They assured me that the vehicle didn’t actually have a problem with those things. Rather, the fault was with the sensors that detected those particular problems.
For someone as mechanically gifted as me, this offered little assurance. I thought disconnecting the sensors altogether might be a good move — I’m sure they’d have been up for it — but decided that a car of this vintage coupled with the motoring genius of its driver wasn’t a good combination.
We agreed that I’d return when the part arrived and get the problem sorted.
A couple of Wednesday nights later, I hiked out to Maddington and swapped one stylish saloon for another even finer loan car so the job could be done. They even took the opportunity to fit me a new car stereo. Stylin’ it!
The following Saturday, I made the trek again to pick up the car. I thanked them and drove away, stopping a little way down the road to get my new stereo doing its thing. It even has a remote control (for those with incredibly short arms, I guess).
While parked on the side of the road, I noticed that my Three Amigos were back again. Turkeys. I fought apathy for a moment before driving back to the yard. The tale continued: come back again, we’ll fit a new one. I returned – the ‘new’ one didn’t work either – the second-hand unit was already faulty.
The third time around, my car drove itself to Maddington while I played with the remote control of my new stereo. Well, almost.
As I drove away this time, to my delight, the Three Amigos were no more. The problem was dealt with and I was driving a fault-free car. For about 20 minutes. Then two of them returned. Minutes later, one more departed leaving me with just the ABS-Amigo to light my dash. A couple of hours later when I drove, he too was gone. Clear again. I have a feeling they’ll be back. My short dalliance with the vehicle tells me it’s highly likely.
The fault with my car may be bogus. It may highlight a problem that isn’t there, but that’s not how it’s meant to function. It’s supposed to be an early warning system for genuine problems so those problems don’t become catastrophic.
As I was driving along with the quiet euphoria that only comes from having said goodbye to Three Amigos, I realised that I have plenty more amigos where they came from.
One of the most beautiful exchanges we’ll ever enjoy is when God takes our heart of stone and in its place brings a heart of flesh; a heart inclined to holiness and godliness. It’s a heart that’s still capable of being influenced by our susceptibility to ‘product defects’, but its desire is no longer in this direction.
In its place, there are guardians of the heart; early warning systems (EWS) that lead us away from harm—the harm we would cause others, the harm that we cause ourselves, and the harm that puts distance between God and us.
I need my fleet of amigos. I’m thankful for them. I believe that part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is recognising and discerning these amigos and realising that they are for my good. They speak in quiet and noisy ways through testifying truth, giving early warning and reminding me that ‘a’ leads to ‘b’ which will head to ‘c’. Or ‘x’ will lead to ‘y’ which in turn will land at ‘z’.
James writes to the church: “The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.”
These amigos are for our good and our protection. They guide us towards love, holiness and, always, back to grace. They help us play the video forward so we can take action and realign ourselves with our bigger story in Jesus.
Of course, you can ‘disable’ your amigos but, like ignoring friends, it’s a poor plan. Come to think of it, you can disconnect the EWS altogether so you run headlong into those long and short term problems oblivious to either their presence or ramifications.
In time, you may even forget the EWS and revel in the absence of any rudder that highlights any cause for alarm. We do this at our own peril.
Our EWS (let’s call Him the Holy Spirit) doesn’t challenge or convict us for the purpose of condemnation or shame but to grow us more deeply into the new creation that we have become in Jesus.
Be alert to your host of amigos by all means, but don’t be frightened or dismissive of them. They’re for your good and God’s glory.
My car, on the other hand? Well, it’s just anticipating the resurrection.