February 11, 2024
When my son was still in high school, he and I set out to restore a 70 year old tractor. This tractor was manufactured during the World War II years and had been neglected for about 40 when we got our hands on it. Well, we stripped the thing down to nothing more than a pile of parts with labels, organized an inventory of what we needed, took the engine to the machine shop to get it rebuilt, and that’s when we got a little distracted.
What happened was, shortly after we started working on the tractor, our son turned 15 years old and began the countdown to 16. Having a part time job that he worked very hard at, he had managed to save up quite a nice sum of money – enough in fact to buy his own vehicle. He knew what he wanted and searched diligently in the papers, on the Internet, and by word of mouth. Lo and behold he came across a Dodge pickup sporting a Cummins diesel engine with a five speed transmission – thus meeting his minimum requirements. The tractor priority suddenly became less important.
Did I mention, the truck was 25 years old and had been sitting in the weeds for not more than a few years? He brought it home with great enthusiasm and big dreams.
“What do you think?” he asked with great enthusiasm.
“Well,” I said, “let’s take it for a spin.”
Upon our return he asked again - with even greater enthusiasm: “What do you think, Dad?”
“Oh man, I don’t know – this is going to be a lot of work.”
“We can do it Dad - together – a father/son project,” he said very sincerely. How could I say no?
And so began our project. The first stop we made was the auto parts store. We bought sanding wheels and sand paper and dust masks and little steel wire wheels and anything else we suspected we might need and went home and got to work. All summer long, when he wasn’t working at his job, he was sanding on that old truck, removing the paint right down to the metal. His mother made him take his clothes off in the garage before he came into the house – too much dust and grime embedded in the thread-ware. His face was covered with paint dust and sweat.
In between times, we took it to a diesel shop and had the engine examined from the inside out. We had the heater core removed and soaked in chlorine for two weeks straight. We dismantled the dash and scrubbed every inch of area where a mouse may have been. We replaced the interior carpet. We took the seat out and pressure washed it off, bringing back its original luster, letting it dry in the summer sun. Finally, we talked to a friend who owned a body shop. He agreed to paint it and finish the body work we couldn’t do. We replaced the box and the end gate with ones from Texas that we found on the Internet.
Then we waited. We still had four months before he turned 16 – and we needed all four of them to get the project done. Finally, the body shop called. The truck was ready to go. We held our breath – not wanting to get our expectations too high, but then again, we couldn’t help but have the highest of hopes for this old relic.
We walked into the shop and the sight of the old truck took our breath away. They had done a perfect job. It shone like a proud new truck in the dealer’s showroom. I said to my friend, “this is better than showroom condition.” To which he replied, “Yeah, Dodge didn’t make these trucks to look good, they made them to work.”
But man, this truck looked great!
We took it home, our son turned 16 and the truck has been on the road since. A couple days later he came home and announced, “I had a stranger ask me about my truck.” Someone at Culver’s had commented on its condition and inquired about it.
A few days later, as we prepared to exit a parking lot, someone made a U-turn right in front of us, and jumped out and excitedly asked all about the truck. That old thing was all but dead a few months ago – now it was better than brand new.
During our restoration, we made a few trips to the junkyard. It always intrigued me to think about old cars in the junkyard. At one time, they were someone’s new cars. There was a time when they were driven off the lot shining with that new car smell and a proud owner behind the wheel. But now they sit in junkyards, scrapped out, ruined and worn out, not fulfilling their purposes for which they were made.
God also has created us for a purpose. But for many of us we are not fulfilling that purpose. The bumps and bruises of life have left us sitting in the junkyard, hoping we can salvage something from our lives in the time we have left. Well let me tell you like the bumper sticker I saw says, “God don’t make junk.” He wants to bring you back to life - just like our son's old pickup.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new,” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Why not call out to Him? You won’t be sorry.
Our son still has that first generation Cummins diesel truck. He’s married now. And he and his wife and daughter take it out for Sunday drives in the summer.
(Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin).