A garage is a homely place. It’s a place of rejection. It’s where you put things that are old and worn out, but don’t want to get rid of yet. In that sense it’s not unlike a nursing home. For a man, it may be the physical equivalent of the doghouse, as in “Boy, I spilled beer all over her brand new carpet and now am I ever in the doghouse!” We don’t go to an actual doghouse, but if we’ve set it up appropriately with a lawn chair or two, we can go out to the garage.
You never invest much in a garage; it’s almost an afterthought when you design your new house – it’s 2X4 studs are nakedly exposed to the air. It’s the place where you cram everything that won’t fit in the regular part of your home.
Garages almost always look terrible – even worse than closets. No one ever wants to clean them. It’s the punishment we give our teenagers when they’ve broken their curfew. A garage can go months getting dirtier and dirtier, like a dog during the winter months.
What an appropriate place for AIM to be birthed. AIM was birthed in rejection. I’d prefer a revisionist history, but the fact is, I made it two years in my prior place of employment before being fired. I was looking for a place to go and lick my wounds – what better place than the garage, by the rakes, bags of clothes for the Good Will, and the potting soil waiting for springtime.
If Jesus was born in a manger, then surely the modern day corollary is the garage. It is a humble place. You don’t expect great things to start there. Ships get christened with champagne. Marriages start with weddings. Presidencies start with inaugural balls. But look where all those high expectations get us – most marriages and presidencies don’t end well. We’d do better if we followed Jesus’ example of a manger.
When you start in a garage, you attract the right people – people who don’t come for the salaries. When Ron and Darla Campbell, Lisa and Rob Finney, and Sue Mast joined me, I had little to offer them other than my good humor and a flimsy stack of dreams.
I learned to not despise my time in the garage. I learned that if you’ve got a dream that God gave you and the world needs that God has a garage for you to start in. All God wants is available space. Your surroundings don’t dictate potential.
When we started the Gateway in Mexico, it was a garage experience. There was nothing to back us. All we had was God’s dream, and in the space of half a year, the resources came together to make the dream happen.
When Bruce Wilkinson shared with me the dream God had given him for Swaziland, we had no staff, curriculum, or budget. AIM staff were doing good to keep the place running while I ran off to something that felt like an African garage.
And when Serena, Anna Marie and I started the World Race in 2005, our offices may have looked well-equipped, but we felt like we were in a garage. It’s easy to forget how quickly we’ve come flying out of that place of obscurity.
Too many of us have never seen our garage for what it is – a place of humble beginnings. There are things we’re hanging onto in our lives that have lost their usefulness and are getting in the way of God’s dream. Periodically we need to de-clutter so that we can expand and take in new things. He doesn’t ask us to fill the space with furniture. He works with empty garages.
What garage does God want to move you to birth his dreams? We mustn’t be afraid of the humble place. The dream we’ve been dreaming for 20 years is that a generation of radical disciples would rise up and go to the nations. We’ve seen signs of hope, but nothing like a movement yet. Andrew Shearman feels like God told him it would be 100,000 trained leaders. This past March, out of a garage in Spain, he started with five.
The media and even many Christians who look at this generation may see a valley of dry bones. But I see young men and women finding their garage. It may look as bare and smelly as a manger, but it’s a place where God’s dreams are birthed. His dreams are so big and so world-changing that he has to equip us with humility before he equips us with power.