Almost immediately in our test drive, not even a couple miles down the road from his place, the mechanic began troubleshooting what could be the problem. Before we made it back to the shop, he spoke with certainty about what was in need of repair: my brake caliper, which houses and compresses the brake pads around the rotor to stop the car, had seized shut. Dollar signs flashed before my eyes! Oh jeez, what would this cost me? Within minutes of us returning, my car was lifted, tire removed, and broken brake caliper disassembled. Different than other mechanics I had worked with in the past, this one explained every step and piece to me as he worked on it—enlightening me in an area (automotive mechanics) where my knowledge was grossly limited. A couple minutes later, the part was ordered; and in less than an hour it was hand-delivered and installed. The whole process went far more efficiently and smoothly than I had imagined. I asked the mechanic if I could pay him the next day, and he agreed: “Sure, no problem.”
Something I had been dreading, though I knew it was inevitable, actually turned out to be painless, affordable, and educative when it was all said and done. As I drove off, I felt relieved and the car rode significantly better. Reflecting on the experience on my way home, it almost felt holy. The kindness of the mechanic, his good practices, the job not just being a task completed but a relationship formed—it altogether made for an experience that left me thankful and eager to share it with others. The next day I went to pay the mechanic. As I made my way down the gravel country road to his place, I didn’t realize it but I was about to receive something more—something I had not expected, a free gracious gift for which recompense was neither possible nor expected in return. Pulling up to the shop, my mind was set simply on paying my debt. Shaking hands and exchanging money, we made small talk. Needing to get home, I thanked the mechanic again for his excellent work and told him I had to take off. Before I got into my car, he looked at me and asked: “You ok?” Surprised, I responded: “Yeah. Everything’s great.” Not quite satisfied with my quick answer, he replied: “You lying to me?” Set aback, I paused: “No. All is well. I promise.” “Ok. You just look like something’s bothering you. You know, if you ever need to talk my shop’s open.” “Yep. Thanks.” And with a final word that could only be spoken in faith, he tells me: “Take care. I love you, man.” Wow.
What had begun the day before as a frozen brake caliper in need of replacement, culminated in Christ’s presence enveloping us both there at the mechanic’s shop alongside that messy gravel country road outside Mead, Nebraska. I had gone there expecting the worst initially, my fears relieved in time; and before it was all said and done, through this kindhearted, dirty-handed, jovial person I was met and blessed by the gentleness and care of the Risen Christ Jesus. There was no cross atop his red barn shop, no sign designating it a church—still, amidst the tools strewn about and the country music blaring in the background, this mechanic had not only demonstrated an honorable vocation informed by his faith, but in that time he was also Christ for me. Jesus is risen from the grave—Alleluia!—and he is present and at work within and all around us. Christ is not confined to some special place. His work is not reserved for certain situations or times. Jesus, the Crucified and Risen One, is active throughout the cosmos: within others around us—those whom we perhaps don’t expect, and in all places—transforming the secular into sacred. Christ is as present in your neighbor—dirty hands and all—just as much as he is within you. We are always encountering and being blessed by Christ in the other, even when we don’t notice him right away. Who knows, perhaps you’ve come face-to-face with Jesus recently—in the classroom, at work, in a conversation with a stranger, or during time spent with loved ones. I’ll tell you, on Easter Monday I met the Risen Christ in the unintentional ministry of a mechanic.