When God tries to get your attention, He has a way of making Himself heard.
I have recently gone through a few experiences in which God has beamed it into my brain that He is trustworthy and that I need to turn over my circumstances – and even harder yet my expectations – to Him.
And what can I say? Sometimes I’m something of a slow learner.
I related my story involving my ruptured biceps tendon and the surgery that I (finally!) had to reattach it. And how God inserted Himself into the story at certain key moments before finally, gloriously coming through beyond anything I had been hoping for. I say that last because I had heard the attending surgeon tell me that it was too late to do the surgery and that the way I damaged my tendon – the MRI indicated that it had been torn strand by strand by strand – made the outcome questionable at best from the outset. He had compared my tendon to spaghetti that had been left out too long. And on top of that, over time a tendon will shorten and contract and slip down the arm making it difficult if not impossible for a surgeon to find as he literally slices his way down the arm looking for the ruptured end.
In my mind, if this tendon could even BE reattached, I had already counted it a miracle.
And so, imagine my joy and surprise when I woke up from surgery to hear the surgeon tell me that he couldn’t explain it, had never heard about it happening before, but somehow my tendon had become caught or hung-up on the bone. And as a result of that “coincidence” my tendon had NOT shortened and they did NOT have to slice down my arm to find it. It was right where it was supposed to be, such that the minimum three-inch incision they told me I’d have is half that long and the two-hour surgery that was scheduled took 45 minutes. And surprised a surgeon. And somehow, that tendon that the attending surgeon said was probably inoperable was in good shape.
In my write-up, I pointed out my belief that if we could just know how things would turn out in the end, we wouldn’t mind going through the “adventure” of a difficult process. But instead of trusting that everything will work out, we become fearful. And get bogged down in complaining about every unpleasant new development.
Well, I had another such experience with God last night. And I didn’t even have to go through surgery this time to receive my lesson. Which you have to agree is an improvement.
As a result of the reattachment surgery, riding a heavy cruiser motorcycle is a bad idea. I’m not supposed to be lifting anything for a while, and pushing and pulling on those handlebars is a definite no-no for a while. When I asked the surgeon how long before I could ride my bike again, he said, “I can’t tell you. I’ve never been asked that question before.” He’ll get back to me on that one.
So I dusted off my old car that I have kept as a stand-by and got it running again.
“It” is a giant Pontiac 4-door luxury car from the early 1970s with a giant 455 cubic inch engine that is blissfully unaware whether it is going uphill or downhill.
I’m a motorcycle guy through and through. So I like to have a nice bike – and a car for when “a nice bike” won’t due (such as when I need to bring home lumber or something that my saddlebags just won’t handle). The last time I drove the car I’d taken my dog to the vet for her shots. And for the record it’s getting close to time to get her shots again.
Well, anyway, the fuel gauge float got stuck in the gas tank, and when I put gas in, it started working again – but we don’t really know how reliable it is yet. And you know how fuel gauges are in general: no two are alike. So I really didn’t know my fuel situation. I knew I was low on gas, but based on my looking over how much I’d put in the tank versus how many miles the odometer recorded, I figured I should have had enough to get around for a little while.
I went to my gym last night, and was among the last people to leave when it closed at 10 p.m. The janitor admired my car for several minutes - it’s a “cherry” with only 62,000 total/original miles - and we chatted about the old car and old cars in general for a little while.
When I started her up, she seemed fine. But when I put her in gear, she kind of hesitated in a way that told me something wasn’t right. But I didn’t connect the dots.
It turned out that I was so low on gas that even had I driven straight to the closest gas station, I would have run empty. And it’s probably for the best, as I would have run out of gas on the main drag at night. But as it was, instead of trying to make the gas station, oblivious me turned the other way to go home.
The car sputtered and stalled as I was in the left lane of a two-lane road. I started her up again and she had JUST enough gas to make it to the curb before dying for good.
Continuing in “oblivious” mode, I tried to crank her over a couple of times. No dice. Fortunately I ended up RIGHT under a nice bright street light. Which in my bankrupt city is actually sort of a miracle in and of itself.
Now I realize I’m in a little bit of trouble. Because all I had was my driver’s license. No phone. No money.
I need gas, but I’ve got no way to call and no way to pay for it.
What else could I do but get out the gas can and start walking toward the closest gas station? I was hoping I could persuade the gas station to keep my I.D. in exchange for a couple of gallons until I could come back with money.
But as it turned out I ran into ONE guy. And I recognized him from my gym. I didn’t know him, but what the heck: I asked him if he had five dollars I could borrow until Friday.
I got the sense that this guy was dirt poor, and that five dollars was a significant sum of money. But he looked at me – holding my gas can and probably wearing an extra-pathetic look on my face – and he handed me a five dollar bill.
Thank God. That’s one hurdle leaped over.
It was probably a mile walk to the gas station. Which meant a mile walk back. I looked at the receipt for my gas and noticed it was quarter to eleven as I started back.
It occurred to me that I might need to prime the carburetor. So I was on the lookout for some kind of container that would hold gasoline as opposed to typical plastic that would have dissolved had I poured gas into it. I didn’t find anything on the way, but as I was walking I noticed one of those little alcohol bottles that they serve on airplanes. I picked it up. It was glass.
Thank God. Another hurdle crossed. Maybe pathetically crawled over, but cleared.
Putting gas in my tank is never a joyful experience. Because some brilliant engineer had decided that it would be really smart to put the gas filler tube behind the license plate underneath the rear bumper. Even when you’re using the fuel hose at the gas station, gassing up is akin to a giraffe trying to drink water from a lake. It is just AWKWARD.
Was the tube on my gas can long enough to reach into the filler tube? Don’t be silly. Of COURSE it wasn’t.
I rummaged through the trunk, saying my prayers. I found a funnel that was JUST BARELY long enough to allow me to pour the gas into the tank’s filler tube.
It was particularly awkward as I had one functioning arm. Remember, I just had surgery a little over a week ago and I was told in no uncertain terms DON’T DO ANYTHING STUPID. In fact, just don’t do anything with that arm for a while.
But I got the gas in.
Another hurdle less than gracefully leaped over.
I saved a little bit of gas at the end to put in my glass container that had been tossed by some wino who had unknowingly served as an agent of divine provision. I was really hoping I wouldn’t need it. If I had to prime that carb, it meant lifting my hood. And the hood on that car weighs, well, probably more than your whole CAR does. The thing is metal and it is massive.
I tried repeatedly to start the car, trying to let it turn over long enough to let the mechanical fuel pump do it’s job but not so long that I flood it.
It was a precarious balance. And I erred on the side of flooding.
One of my problems at this point was the fact that – in addition to not having a phone or money – I didn’t have a watch. I had no idea how to gauge how long between trying to turn the car over and how long was long enough to wait before trying to turn it over again.
Anyway. I couldn’t get it started. I realized I would have to prime the carburetor.
It is at this point in the story where I might relate that I have a rather badly torn rotator cuff in the arm that I DIDN’T have surgery on. I was supposed to have surgery on that arm first, but Mr. Biceps Tendon decided to declare independence and that meant having surgery on that arm instead. Anyway, suffice it to say it was something of a challenge to get that hood open.
Another hurdle. Clearing them more and more feebly, but getting over them.
Well, there was a couple of ounces of gas. I tried to use as little as possible in that giant 4-barrel, with the thought that I might have to try this trick a couple of times.
And sure enough, the first time it didn’t catch, the second time it almost started, the third time it started but immediately died.
And I was down to less than an ounce of gas. One last attempt.
Now, don’t think that I hadn’t already been praying. But I was down to one last prayer here.
I should probably tell you at this point that situations like this don’t tend to bring out the best in me. In fact, if I had to have my life broadcast on a big screen for all my friends and family to see, this type of situation would have been like second from the very bottom on my list of “please don’t let anyone see that” moments. If I’m not shouting or screaming in frustration, well, I’m whining in a high-pitched voice that would be beyond embarrassing if it were coming out of the mouth of a little girl, let alone a grown man.
But I never did that last night. I took the steps I needed to take, and just kept praying and hoping for the best.
So here I was, down to my last half ounce of gas and my last attempt to start the car before walking three miles home through the desert in the dark. And I said to the Lord, “If you want me to walk home, I will walk home. If you want that car to start, it will start. It is up to You, Lord. You are in control here. And I will be more joyful if I’m driving home, but if I have to walk home, I will be open to whatever you have for me as I walk home.”
And I turned the key for the last time.
And the engine roared to life as if it had never been hibernating for the past hour while I tried desperately to start it.
I replaced the air box lid and shut the giant hood and climbed back into the car and drove home.
And the thing that occurred to me was how JOYFUL I was.
God had delivered me. Oh, He had taught me a lesson in patience. He had taught me a lesson in trusting Him beyond my circumstances. But here I was driving home.
I realized something: let’s say the “ideal” happened and I’d made it home to begin with. I would have got home two hours earlier, true. But I wouldn’t have been able to experience the joy of that engine coming to life after all the seemingly futile effort and all the seemingly crushed hope.
I realized it’s worth going through a hard time just to watch God come through for you. Because I was JOYFUL that I was driving home in the dark rather than walking on my very bad knees.
I know as I write this that an atheist would compare my prayers and my thanking God for the car starting to my rubbing a rabbit’s foot and attributing my success to my lucky charm.
I also know that if you’re inclined to see God, you can find Him EVERYWHERE. And if you’re not, you won’t find Him anywhere.
And I know that I wouldn’t trade my joy that some how, in some way, the Creator of the entire universe was looking down upon me, and teaching me, and caring for me, and ultimately delivering me, for ANYTHING.
And so I say what I said last night as I was driving home, thinking about how a guy with no money and no phone and a two bad arms and two bad knees managed to make it home: thank you, Lord.
God is trying to tell me that I need to trust Him regardless of my circumstances and just count on Him in spite of anything that happens. And I had this thought: I considered the child whose parents never made time for him, for whom even negative attention is better than no attention at all. And I thank my God for giving me His attention – even if it DOES come down to a long walk home in the dark.
Hopefully, the next time I go through a trial – and I WILL go through another trial – I will remember how this one turned out.
Ultimately, I’m gong to be with my Lord Jesus in heaven. What on earth should I be complaining about when I’ve got that kind of eternal future in store for me???