Life in the Proving Grounds

Written by Tabitha White

Before I accepted my position as Children’s Pastor at VRC, I worked for a company that handled arbitrations for car dealers. As I explained to anyone that asked what my job entailed, I basically tried to teach generally grumpy car dealers how to compromise with each other. Yes, it was just as fun as you can imagine. One of the random requirements of my job was to read automotive news magazines. In general, I would skim the pages to see if anything piqued my attention, and as I’m far from a car buff, it was usually a pretty quick skim.

However, one day an article caught my eye. Along with a group of fellow journalists, the author had been invited to tour the “Arizona Proving Grounds.” The name “Arizona Proving Grounds” caught my eye, along with the picture of a Volkswagen covered in camo. I had to see what these “proving grounds” were.

The article went into details of how Volkswagen used this property in Arizona to, quite literally, put their vehicles to the test. The facility is a 1,600 acre compound where each model is put through rigorous testing. Can the interior of a Passat withstand an Arizona summer? What will happen to the paint of a black Jetta if it’s in direct sunlight for months and months at a time? They even have the ability to inflict 12 years’ worth of corrosion on a vehicle in 16 weeks! This process pulled me into the article.

According to the author, the engineers place the vehicles in a salt sauna for 16 weeks. In his words, “The fog is so thick that you can hardly see your hand when it’s extended, and the air so salty that before long your lips taste like the bottom of a bowl of pretzels.” At the end of the 16 week period, the car is taken apart piece by piece. Every weld is taken apart, and every square inch of each panel is examined to make sure the cars are safe enough for the precious cargo that they carry on a daily basis.

For days after I read the article, the “proving ground” term kept coming back to my mind. I kept thinking about how the cars had to be proven structurally sound and safe before they were released to the public. The process is so meticulous and planned. The engineers don’t haphazardly throw the cars into the desert and hope they can figure out how the cars will fare in real life. No, they carefully monitor their experiments. They plan, document, and track throughout the whole process.

The phrase “proving ground” has come back to me many times since I read that article several years ago. There have been moments in my life that felt like my faith was in the middle of a “proving ground.” Have you ever been there? No, you weren’t fully questioning your faith, but you felt the strain deep into your bones.

You’re learning where your strength comes from; you’re learning the strength and character that He’s placed in you; you’re learning, like Paul, that “patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope” (Romans 5:4).

The proving grounds aren’t fun, but they are so very necessary. Can you imagine buying a car that had never been tested and putting your little ones inside? Well, let’s just hope for the best!

Um, no! We want something that is proven! And God wants His people to be proven…to have been through the fire and have His story of hope to share. Our “hope is not a disappointing fantasy” (Romans 5:5)! Our hope is that we are never alone in those proving grounds. God is right beside us every step of the way. He’s never surprised by the battles that we are facing! He’s not eating popcorn and wondering how this will turn out! No, He’s holding our hand and reassuring us there’s a reason for our struggle. As Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” He will strengthen us, help us, and hold us!

James 1:3-4 says it like this, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Nothing missing and nothing lacking! That’s how I want my faith to stand! Nothing missing and nothing lacking! At that point, all of the “proving” and testing will be worth it!

We aren’t alone in the proving grounds! He’s there holding us together and perfecting His plan.

But rest in that, He’s there!

No Comments