by Maj Steve Mansdoerfer, USAFR
In the movie, Karate Kid, part I, Mr. Miyogi was attempting to teach Daniel a way to defend himself against bullies. Mr. Miyogi began his teaching in a very unorthodox manner. He gave Daniel chores around his house…wax the cars, paint the fence, sand the deck floor and paint the house.
After some time of doing these chores with no other lessons, Daniel, in frustration, questioned Mr. Miyogi. Mr. Miyogi demonstrated to Daniel just what he had been learning, by attacking him.
Attack after attack by Mr. Miyogi was fended off by Daniel using the very moves that he used in painting, waxing and sanding. Wax the car, paint the fence, sand the floor, paint the house; all experiences that were used in effective ways. Mr. Miyogi did not say anything after showing Daniel what he had learned other than, “Come back tomorrow.”
A Model of God’s Grace
To me, this is a model of God’s grace. We consistently go through times of learning, tough times in which we don’t hear God’s voice or sense His presence. Healing does not come to us or our loved ones.
We lose a job. Promotion does not come to us. We report to someone with whom we have conflicts and there is no end in sight. The list of challenges is endless. Rather than wax the car, I want to drive the car. God wants to teach me something much more valuable.
Genesis 37-50 tells the story of Joseph, a young dreamer and favorite of his father. Two dreams that he shared with his family showed that they would be bowing to him in the future. His brothers weren’t amused, soon learned to hate him, and eventually sold him into slavery. He then spent ten years in an Egyptian prison. God, in His perfect timing, took Joseph from a prison to make him second-in-command over the nation of Egypt.
The Grace of God moved Joseph from being unjustly locked up to being Prime Minister of Egypt after more than ten years of testing and challenges. As a result, the dreams that Joseph had those many years before came true and God put him in a position to save his family and the people in that part of the world. But first, he spent years in prison, “waxing the car…sanding the floor.”
Arguing With God
Then there was Moses. Moses was raised in the palace of Pharaoh, yet through a chain of circumstances murdered an Egyptian and was thrown out of the country and banished to the wilderness. After forty years, God sent him back to lead Israel out of Egypt and on the way to Canaan. Before that, however, Moses argued that he was too weak and could not speak publicly to the Pharoah.
How many times do we try God’s patience by telling Him that we can’t do something He has led us to do? God doesn’t make mistakes. As you read through the last half of Exodus, you find that God’s grace overcame the objections and weaknesses within Moses. Instead, Moses became a true but humble leader of Israel. He had, after all, spent years, “waxing the car…sanding the floor.”
Joshua developed his strengths over years of being in obscurity in Egypt as a slave and then as an assistant to Moses for the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Joshua and Caleb were the only two spies that came back from Canaan with a positive report about what they thought God could do in spite of the giants in the land.
After years of being in the background and assisting others, Joshua was promoted to lead Israel into Canaan and overcome enemies much stronger than the Jews. By the grace and strength of God, Joshua was able to lead Israel through battles and challenges into a time of peace in the land. Wandering in the wilderness for forty years, Joshua had, “waxed the car…sanded the floor.”
The story of Gideon is told in Judges 6-8. This is one of my favorite stories in the Bible regarding God’s view of a man before he saw himself. The nation of Midian so impoverished Israel that they were crying out to God for help. In Judges 6:11 we find Gideon threshing grain in secret when suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
Gideon’s first question after hearing this was, “But sir, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all His wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.” Gideon simply could not believe all this, asked several more questions, and wanted a sign from God before he would continue. God not only gave him a sign but also provided unorthodox instructions on how to defeat the enemy. Gideon became a mighty warrior because of God’s grace in his life. God chose him because He saw within Gideon the ability to develop as a leader dependent on Him. Gideon had, “waxed the car…sanded the floor.”
There are many other examples within the Bible showing God’s abundant grace. But, my own life is a vast example of God’s grace in action.
As a teenager I spent less than two years in college and dropped out. From that point until I was twenty-four, I could not find what God wanted me to do. I finally got to the place where I felt that my only alternative was to enlist in the Air Force. The problem was that about four years earlier I had had a stomach ulcer and it caused my rejection.
I then attempted to enlist in the Coast Guard only to have the same problem. I was beginning to learn that sometimes, doing what God wants, I need to keep knocking on doors. I finally obtained a clear set of x-rays and sent them to the Air Force medical board. The struggle was worth the effort and God opened the door into the Air Force and my life has never been the same. I ran into similar struggles getting accepted into Officer Training School. My decision to keep trying with the enlistment was the start of a new direction in which the Lord was moving me. His grace has set me free.
Every time that I struggle with times in my life where He is stretching me, I remember there are times when you must simply, “wax the car…sand the floor.”