Through the Bible Reading: Psalm 81, 88, 92, 93
O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. 2 Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! (Psalm 88:1-2)
I hope you are blessed to have a mechanic you can trust with your car. Who shoots straight with you, charges you fairly, and doesn’t make you feel like an idiot for knowing so little about cars as you do.
If not, I will pray for you right now.
Allen Herrod and his family have run the only remaining full-service gas station in my town (and one of the very few in our state) for generations. If there was Levitical priesthood for mechanics, it would surely be passed through the Herrod family. Allen inherited the gas station from his father, and he will pass it to his son.
I served the church where Allen and his family were members when I first moved to Prattville. I never knew Allen not to have grease under his fingernails, no matter how much his utterly perfect Southern lady mother probably cringed whenever he stuck out his hand to greet you at church. There would be many men’s Bible studies in the evening in which Allen would come in, straight from work, still in his grimy coveralls.
Allen and his family are the real deal. I was once invited to Sunday dinner at the Herrod’s house. If you are a fan of the TV show Blue Bloods, picture Sunday dinner at the Reagan’s, only without the wine and the genuflecting. They held hands to pray. And before the prayer, they would pull the names of all the family members who weren’t able to be there on that given Sunday out of a hat, and pray for each of them by name.
What I love most about Herrod’s Chevron is that no matter what problem I have with my vehicle, Allen receives the vehicle, gets under the hood, performs his diagnostics, and lets me know what’s wrong. All without judgment.
He never says, “Well, of course your tires have to be replaced again. You don’t rotate them often enough.”
He never says, “You know, most men would know how to fix this themselves.”
I believe that I could do the most boneheaded thing someone could do to a car, and Allen would receive it with grace and patience. Then he would kindly say, “Actually, vegetable oil and motor oil really aren’t interchangeable, James.” And he would fix the problem.
Once when I was still fairly new to the church, I dropped my car off for a repair. At the end of the day, I came to pick it up. I reached for my wallet, but Allen shook his head, and handed me my keys with the invoice. Across the top of the invoice, the word “paid” was stamped in big red letters.
Customers aren’t allowed in the service bays, of course. Like any professional garage, Herrod’s is a mess. There are car parts everywhere, tires leaning against posts, parts catalogs that are barely legible from all the grimy hands that have thumbed through them; the smell of exhaust and grease and dirt. But Allen and his crew are completely comfortable in the mess. They can navigate the mess and find exactly the right tool or part to do what needs to be done.
Psalm 88 is a picture of bringing a troubled heart to the Master Mechanic. Heman the Ezrahite was in a dark place. His soul is full of troubles (v. 3). He feels shunned by his friends (v.8). He has been crying so hard and for so long that his eyes are swollen shut (v. 9).
And the Maker of Hearts receives Heman’s broken heart gently. Without judgment. Without finger pointing. And He says, “I can fix this.”
God receives our hearts the same way. We say, “But it’s a mess.”
And the Mecahnic says, “I work in the mess every day. You can trust Me with your mess.”
And I say, “But it’s my fault! I knew I should have taken better care of it. The warning lights came on, and I just kept driving.”
And the Mechanic says, “I know. But I’ve never seen a heart yet that I can’t repair. And I should know. I designed the heart.”
I say, “But how much is this going to cost me?”
And the Master Mechanic, the Maker of Hearts, pulls out an ancient rubber stamp, caked with years of dirt and dust and grime and—as I look closer—blood.
He stamps it down on my bill with the force of a wooden hammer on an iron stake, and I see the word, stamped in red: