One of my favorite movies is The Karate Kid. Who can’t identify in some way with Daniel Larusso, uprooted from all that is familiar by his single mom and plopped down in a new environment where he is the outsider, the new kid who becomes automatic bully bait for the tough guys at school?
A lot of people think the main lesson of the story is that perseverance and hard work pay off in the end. And while that’s certainly true in this story—Daniel does win the big karate championship in the end—that’s not the main point.
The key moment in the movie is when the inscrutable Miyagi tells Daniel to wax his car. Daniel has made a deal that if Miyagi will teach him karate, he must do what Miyagi wants, no questions asked.
Miyagi: First, wash all car. Then wax. Wax on …
Daniel: Hey, why do I have to? …
Miyagi: Ah, ah! Remember deal! No questions!
Daniel: Yeah, but …
[makes circular gestures with each hand]
Miyagi: Wax on, right hand. Wax off, left hand. Wax on, wax off.
Daniel thought he was being taken advantage of, but as we learn later, Miyagi was teaching him karate. Daniel was learning an important skill while strengthening the muscles needed to practice that skill, all while doing something that seemed completely unrelated to what Daniel wanted. He was also learning something very important, something the wise Miyagi knew he wouldn’t learn any other way: trust and self-discipline.
I think God takes us through similar wax-on, wax-off moments. I know I’ve had many in the nearly 30 years since I first trusted Him. God will put me through an experience or have me do something that seems completely unrelated to what I think I need to be doing to serve Him. (And usually it’s something I just don’t want to do, just as the last thing Daniel wanted to do was wash and wax a car.) In the end, the skill I learned in going through a hard time came in handy later. More often, the skill was simply learning to trust God and wait on His grace and provision.
How about you? Struggling with finances or job loss? Wax on. Wax off. Fighting loneliness? Worried you’ll never find a husband or wife? Wax on. Wax off. As long as you’re doing what God wants of you at the moment, consider it your chance to wash and wax the car.
Yes, it’s easier said than done. But it needs to be done if you’re to learn and grow. We do it, not for a cheap karate trophy, but for an everlasting crown.