I purchased my first car, a khaki Mini 850cc panel van, in December 1972. It was the most basic of vehicles—no extras, no heater, not even rear side windows, although for safety reasons, I fitted those myself with the help of a hacksaw blade.
All went well until winter and the car became a refrigerator. The protests of my girlfriend, who later became my wife,started me on a journey that cost me an extraordinary amount of time and money.
First came the heater. Then I lined the back of the van and reupholstered the seats so they were like armchairs. Then came the door panels and a moulded dash, which I also padded and upholstered. I resprayed the car white.
I changed over from the 850cc to a 1000cc engine with a racing cam shaft. I added extractors and a stainless steel exhaust system, wide mag wheels and, initially, a body kit to cover the wheels. Next came twin SU carburettors, a stick shift, racing harnesses and electric mirrors.
At this point I felt it needed a better layout of instrumentation so I designed, built and installed a personalised dash and centre console with all instrumentation in front of the driver.
I found a set of brake drums with spacer extensions fabricated with the drums that pushed the wheels out even further, so I had to flare the guards over the wheels. This in turn led me to build a spoiler system at the front of the car and over the front wheels. Add to that a smaller racing-style steering wheel, another respray (this time copper bronze) and a security system that had the wail of a police siren and it was a neat little brick that went like the wind!
I recall driving along High Street, Reservoir, in Melbourne and stopping at the traffic lights. Ahead of me was a level crossing and as I waited at the traffic lights the railway boom gates came down. The lights changed and I started to slowly move forward to the gates about 50 metres away when suddenly there was an explosion of power from my car and I was thundering toward the crossing. The accelerator pedal was flat on the floor and not returning.
In those moments of horror I slammed the car into second gear, veered across the traffic that had sat with me at the lights, screamed into a side road just before the crossing and turned the engine off. The car rolled to a stop.
When I finally composed myself and checked the engine, I discovered that the return spring on the accelerator cable had snapped. After all the hours, all the expense and all the work, a $2 spring nearly cost me my life.
As a Salvo officer (minister), I know The Salvation Army and Church generally have invested time and money in leadership development. I’m very grateful for this and believe that I am a better person and leader for the investment, but I also know that this doesn’t automatically make me better connected to God.
I can get so involved and busy in my work and in the cares and challenges of the journey that I can forget what keeps me going and growing in faith. Many of us function out of a depleted state. We’ve run so long with the pedal to the metal that we’ve forgotten what a full tank feels like. Many of us are running on the memory of the vapours as words like, ‘exhaustion,’ ‘overscheduled’ and ‘overwhelmed’ roll off our tongues. Lance Witt, in his book, Leading from a Healthy Soul, says, “For many of us our activity has become synonymous with our identity. It’s how we convince ourselves we have value. To feel better about ourselves we work harder and longer and become prisoners of our own illusions.”
No-one does their best from a depleted tank. No matter what may be the acknowledgments of achievements that we hang on the walls of our lives, they could all be window dressing—like all my car’s extra features—if we don’t take the time to keep our soul healthy through our relationship with Jesus.
That’s a maintenance issue that, if ignored, could bring everything crashing down—just like that faulty $2 spring!