Running Gunk-Free

Hebrews 12:1-3 (TNIV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

It was pouring rain. I was filling up my car at the cheapest local brand-name station and just got tickled by this sign. That technical term… “Engine gunk” just slayed me. After I turned off the pump and before I headed on my way, I snapped a picture of their promo out my window…


At first I wondered what marketing genius came up with the phrase. Vague memories of high school science class, piston engines and driver’s ed. reminded me that pistons can develop a carbon “residue” if the fuel does not burn cleanly or if parts are worn and don’t fire the cylinder correctly. I realized it was a point of genius to call it something memorable – like “gunk”.

The “gunk” is there from the moment we fire up the engine on a new car until it blows its last master cylinder. The problem is that we, the normal driver and consumer, don’t measure the output of our car’s cylinders. We just realize when things have gone very, very bad (i.e. we suddenly realize where there’s a haze of blue smoke – or worse – there’s too much “gunk” deposited on them and they don’t move!)

Time and attention to the little details of a cylinder’s output are part of regular car maintenance. “Regular” now means when the little yellow light blinks on when I start my car. Time to have an oil change. Or preventive maintenance on the belts, tires, hoses, etc. I don’t intentionally ignore the warning light on my car, but sometime i let busy-ness put it too far down on my list.

The spiritual “gunk” build-up is easy to ignore, as well.

I’m starting up a new semester with just a week off from the last one. But in the time between, I had the opportunity to read and pray through areas of my spiritual life that had “gunk” on them. It wasn’t quite enough time to have a full engine tune-up, but at least I am seeing where I need to spend more time with God (the “Master” Mechanic, if you will.)

Here’s what I’m learning…

Some of the gunk in my life is self-imposed. I get a terminal case of the mindset woulda-coulda-shoulda. I get a B+ instead of an A and the “tape” in my head says I’m stupid. I set aside a project or chore because I want to enjoy the people around me, and then have a partly done task “scolding” me for leaving things un-done. (As if things could talk. Geesh.) Or I listen to the voices of society who think women are only one role or voice, to the exclusion of the multiple ways that God uses gifted female leaders in commerce, government, churches, and the home. I let them define, re-design or regulate where God is leading me. It’s so wrong. It’s GUNK!!

Some of the gunk is guilt-imposed by others. If-then statements probably put me into an emotional state of guilt faster than any others. Without stopping to analyze (is this true? is this real? is this honest?) I respond from my primary motivator, feelings. I feel guilty, so I respond to get rid of the guilt. I take on side-cars of projects or expectations because I think that they are valid for me… and they might not be! Or I labor under the impression that “IF” I want to be X “THEN” I must do Y. It’s GUNK!!

Some of it is spiritually-imposed. It’s as if Satan says, “OK, I can’t side-track her with societal guilt. I can’t get her in the old “tapes” of the past. Let’s just throw some roadblocks in her life to distract her or pull her off course.” It’s GUNK!!

I don’t think the writer of Hebrews had “engine gunk” in mind she used the analogy of the “road race of life” — but it works for me.
I am purposing to throw off the GUNK that hinders and so easily entangles… and to fix my eyes on Jesus, the Master Mechanic, pioneer, and perfecter of my faith.

I’m on a life-long road race, not a drag race. I need regular pit-stops, oil changes and engine re-builds. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll do it with less “engine GUNK” in my life.


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