The experience comes back to me whenever I tighten a bolt or lid.

During one long-ago collegiate year, I was piloting my 1974 Chevy Vega GT along a twisting mountain road when I felt something amiss. A slight vibration in the steering wheel was the first indication of trouble. Now, mind you, Chevy Vegas were not famous for their first-class amenities or quiet road manners. Their infamy lay in another, less complimentary direction. But this new feeling as I rounded another corner was becoming alarming. The shaking increased, and a furious rumble from the front end convinced me to pull over at the next turn out.

Mystified, I opened the door and stepped out to survey the car. Everything looked normal — at least until I looked closer at the left front wheel. Where there should have been five lug nuts holding the wheel securely to the axle, only three remained, and they had loosened almost to the point of dropping off.

With quickened pulse, I remembered my efforts to rotate the tires earlier that day. Distracted by a friendly phone call, I had forgotten to tighten those five lug nuts, a mistake that could have led to tragedy on the road that day.

Some things are intended to be tight. Wheels, lids, plumbing and diapers — the last two closely related — all are meant to be tightly fastened. I’ve heard that abs (abdominal muscles) are also supposed to be tight, but my own experience runs counter to that theory.

Other items are designed to be fluid and moveable. A brake can freeze up, preventing forward movement. A childproof lid, when too tightly closed, may frustrate the most vigorous adult. And what about spirituality?

I’ve met people who are too tight, and not just with money. They suffer with spiritual rigor mortis — an unwillingness to move beyond their chosen pathway, a restrictive cognitive diet of their own making. Worse, they seem to feel as if all others should be afflicted with the same disorder.

I’ve been on that pathway, favoring head knowledge of right and wrong over the subtle nuances of the Spirit. I found myself narrowly observing others with a spiritual performance checklist in mind. The mote in my vision obscured the true measure of their unique journeys and my own need of grace.

Through hard experience I have come to realize that both head and heart are needed for spiritual health and vigor. My stony heart, as described in Ezekiel 19, has to be replaced daily with a heart of flesh, ready and willing to beat in time with the Spirit. Only then can the obstructive mote be removed and my vision cleared. Only then can the justice of conviction be applied to my life instead of everyone else.

Some have spent years carefully weaving compression garments of religion. How foolish, when God has offered us each a robe tailored in heaven.

Featured in: October 2016


Steve Vistaunet

North Pacific Union assistant to the president for communication and Gleaner editor, 1996–2019

You may also like