We’re certainly familiar with the name Mercedes Benz. We may be less familiar with the name Karl Benz, the man who built the first practical automotive.
But I don’t want to talk about Karl. I want to tell a story about his wife. Let’s give a shout out to Bertha Benz, whose birthday is celebrated this week (May 3). Without Bertha, we may never have heard of Karl.
Karl was a pretty sharp guy. In the 1870s, he was building gas engines, and he patented a few things we take for granted today: things like spark plugs, radiators, carburetors, and gear shifts. His business did well, leaving him time to play around with another idea: creating a horseless carriage.
And that’s what he did. Karl invented the first automobile. Only problem was that he wasn’t ready to sell it. The vehicle worked—and it worked fine—but he kept wanting to tinker with it.
Enter Karl’s wife, Bertha. She was his business partner and the business brains in their marriage and company. She knew her husband was on to something. She wanted him to manufacture and sell, but Karl wanted to perfect it. So he kept tinkering.
In August 1888, without telling her husband what she was doing, Bertha took the car on a road trip. The first road trip. She took along their two teenage sons and drove 66 miles to her mother’s house. She accomplished three great feats.
- She proved to her husband that his automobile was reliable and road worthy.
- She showed curious onlookers that the automobile could serve a useful purpose.
- She survived the first road trip with two teenage boys.
Karl was convinced. They immediately began to manufacture and sell. And the rest is history.
Too many Christians think we have to be perfect before we tell others about Christ. They’re wary of “putting Him on display” until they’ve matured, learned more about the Bible, overcome a particular habit, or … well, you get the idea. We want to keep tinkering with our walk with Christ before we put it out there for all to see. After all, we don’t want to make Jesus look bad.
Perfection is our goal, but you ain’t there—and you won’t be any time soon. Spiritual maturity and growth in Christ is a lifelong journey.
The attraction of the Christian life comes in seeing us as real people who love Jesus. I’m convinced people respond positively when they see Christ in us—even with our imperfections.
Paul wrote about his own imperfections.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
It’s OK to keep on tinkering. Even Karl Benz, after he began selling cars, kept tinkering and making improvements. But his wife taught him that tinkering should not keep us from getting on the road.
So get on the road, and don’t be afraid to live out your faith in front of others.