“How much should it weigh?” I questioned.
Dismayed at the weight deficit, I asked hopefully, “Do you have any weights?”
“No, but maybe one of the other dads has some extras.”
This evening I found myself in a place completely out of my element—the weigh-in for my son’s Boy Scout Pinewood Derby. See, I did the Girl Scout thing with our daughter and my husband does the Boy Scout thing with our son. It’s the way it works around here. For the most part the arrangement works well, except when Dan travels and I have to fill in—like tonight.
“Just bring the car for the weigh-in about 7:00. You’ll be in and out in no time,” he breezily instructed this afternoon.
Sounded easy enough. Except the car wasn’t exactly finished. Luckily my son knew what to do. He put the wheels on, then spruced it up with some decorations. I added an electrical tape stripe down the center and voila a race car was born. (Although my attempt to help straighten the wheels didn’t go so well. I pray the car doesn’t crash into anything.)
With our underweight car, we joined the other Scouts waiting their turn for the official weigh-in. With no solution to our problem readily available, my son saved our place in line while I ran to the car hoping to discover a clever answer. I located some coins and grabbed tape from the first aid kit to attach them. (Certainly not an elegant solution.) On my way back in, I bumped into a dad who had observed my dilemma. He handed me his supply box, “Here, you can have all my extra weights. There’s double-sided tape to stick them on, too.”
"Wow! Thanks!"I gratefully offered. I headed back to my son, victorious.
In case you don’t know, at the Pinewood Derby, everyone starts with exactly the same block of wood. Within a few specifications, there’s no limit to what kind of car one can create. Judging by the ones I viewed as we waited in line, creating these cars is serious business! Power tools had been wielded skillfully, paint applied masterfully and creativity lavished generously. Many a dad had obviously relived (or created) his own childhood memories. We saw an Army tank, a Batmobile (complete with tail fins), a pink pig with a curlicue tail, a high-tech Formula One race car and more! Extra weights were strategically placed and cleverly hidden in trap doors and recessed holes.
When it came to placing the weights I had no clue where they should go or what was even “legal.” Thankfully, this is Boy Scouts and not the Indianapolis 500, so my son’s leader showed him where to affix the weights. We got busy with double-sided tape and, when that ran out, an unknown person’s glue gun. The finished product was more Franken-car than streamlined racer, but it should get the job done—and the scale confirmed it was a perfect five ounces. The best news is that my son is perfectly happy with the results and looking forward to the race on Friday.
Tonight, I entered an environment where I didn’t know the rules or culture. I’m thankful a few kind people softened the experience, but I felt foolishly out of place—like everyone had received “the memo” except me. Forty-five minutes after we arrived, I was thrilled to head back home to the comfort of the familiar.
The experience got me thinking. What impression do “outsiders” have when they visit our churches or Bible studies? Does our language and culture unintentionally exclude? Do we act like a club for insiders only? Do visitors feel like they didn’t get the “memo?”
In the past I’ve been the outsider and have visited churches and Bible studies where my answer to all these questions was “yes.” I never went back to those places again.
Nothing is more off-putting to seekers and the unchurched than the feeling that they don’t fit in. That somewhere credentials were issued and they just don’t measure up.
Jesus fought against that. Again and again, to all kinds of people, He said, “Come.” (Mt. 14:29)
“Come and you will see.” (John 1:39)As Jesus’ disciples, we must extend the same invitation to all who enter our churches and Bible studies. We need to meet people where they are: Come in and you will see.
“Come, follow me.” (Mk 1:17)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28)
Are you offering your extra weights or protecting your winning design? In the end, we run the same race. Some may arrive may arrive gracefully and in style. Others of us will haul ourselves, wheels falling off, across the finish line. The most important thing is that we’ve entered the race.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)