Life is Like a Car Wash…

 I distinctly remember the first time we took our daughter, who was maybe eighteen months old at the time, through an automated car wash.  Her big brothers were on either side of her car seat in the back seat of our turquoise Dodge Intrepid, and they were regaling her with stories of how cool it was, watching the machines as they did the hard work of cleaning the winter salt residue from our car.  It all started so well.

She seemed to enjoy the young men who used a power wash sprayer to pretreat the car, but the trouble began when the car started to move (without Mommy driving it) and the brushes and sprayers commenced their work.  She screamed, cried, and wailed, desperate to wrench herself out of the car seat and escape from the terror of the heavy wash curtain, which went thump, thump, as it draped itself across the roof of our car.  Nothing that I could say (or her brothers, for that matter) would convince her that she was in no danger and that the result would be good (a clean car).

The other day, my daughter and I took our family’s van (not turquoise) through an automated car wash to clean off the salt residue from our winter driving.  I wish I could say that the process of an automated car wash has become better or at least different than it was over twelve years ago, but it’s not.  This time, however, my daughter and I chatted while the brushes, sprayers, and heavy wash curtain did their thing.  No screams, no tears, no trying to get out of the van.  What has changed?

Our daughter has changed.  She’s turning fourteen years old tomorrow, and now when we go through the car wash, she understands the purpose of the machines and what the ultimate result will be.  I cannot tell you how many car washes it took before she no longer cried, but sometime during that period, she began to listen to her brothers and me as we reassured her that it would turn out OK.    Her ability to reason grew, along with her experience, which taught her that even though this car wash situation looks terrifying, it does work out all right.

I recently read an ancient saying, “The still is the master of unrest.”  This made me think of another ancient saying, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  As we grow and mature, we undoubtedly will be faced with unpleasantness and difficulties.  If we are still and calm, we can more easily remember the previous times in our lives when we faced trials and walked through them.  By taking time for stillness, we also can better hear the whispers of the Father, Son, and Spirit, who offer us comfort and peace.

Sometimes life is like that car wash.  Situations which have many unknowns are scary, and they can make us want to cry, wail, and wrench ourselves out of there.  Often, there is no way out and only a choice to go forward.   Through stillness and calmness, we can move ahead as if we’re in the eye of the storm.

 ~by Nan Kuhlman

2 comments so far

  1. janehinrichs on

    Nan, Car washes — they mean a lot in our family too but in a different way. My younger kids love to go through car washes. They are like amusement rides to them and me — it is the closest we get to Disney World! We yell “OOOOOOO” when the water starts. Then we scream together as the big washer brushes (whatever they’re called) “attack” our car. We lift our hands like we’re on a roller coaster (there isn’t a lot of entertainment in central South Dakota).

    But as I read your post I thought of my own 14 year old daughter and her different reactions to a car wash. Long ago she was like her younger siblings. But now she rolls her eyes and tells me when I make all the fun noises, “Mom, don’t be so embarrassing!”

    • Nan Kuhlman on


      Thanks for your comment and funny story!


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