Car Trouble/Heart Trouble...Sometimes the Same Thing.
Gripping the wheel, panic rose. This was not supposed to be the way the evening ended.
"Ok, God, please, I know you can do anything and this is a selfish prayer, but PLEASE start the engine!" I pleaded silently as I turned the key.
The engine didn't so much as click this time as the lights began to dim.
"YOU have got to be kidding me!" I yelled at God as much as myself. I thought about the things that kept getting in the way earlier this morning: I didn't get up on time, I was going to pack additional clothing but the dog ate my flip flop, the car started just sluggish enough to get my attention but not poorly enough to send me to the garage, and I received a traffic alert before picking up the kids that there was an accident on our route. I debated on whether to come, to fulfill our commitment, and made the choice to continue. And now I felt like an idiot for it.
The diagnosis for the car ended up being a dead, fused, gone to the netherworld of car parts, starter. We were stuck, 2 1/2 hours from home with a bank card, lots of strangers, a lantern, a blanket, a sweater, and the back of the SUV to sleep in. But all calculations, this shouldn't be the worse way or place to be stranded. Still, I suddenly felt very alone and very annoyed with myself, and God.
I wanted to pray. I wanted to be my positive, grateful self. Through gritted teeth I told my friend, the father of the kids, that it was a beautiful night and that we would be fine. I refused to be grumpy with the staff member who drove me to the ATM so we talked about astronomy and the 28 years that he has been volunteering. I thanked the mechanic with a smile for his efforts despite the knowing that things seemed to get worse, and more expensive every time I talked to him. I hated how much pain I was in and feared how painful the night would be so I swallowed ibuprofen from the bottle that I had the foresight to pack. The dance party with Rapture Ruckus was blaring and I asked my companions if they wanted to go since we were stuck. I wanted to be positive for the kids. I did. But I was barely tolerating the fear and pain and frustration myself.
As I sat in the car blankly wondering what to do, a woman passed smoking. I was both turned off and excited. It was a Christian music festival after all. And there was this person who wasn't playing by the rules. She would probably give me a cigarette if I asked. But I took a deep breath and let it go.
Then the next woman passed. I had been stewing for too long. Chewing on this resentment against God and myself. I leapt out of the truck and asked for a smoke. When she and her husband asked about the car, I explained the situation and she empathized so strongly cooing in her North Carolinian drawl, "Oh, honey! Please, take the rest of the pack! You probably need them and I have more." I accepted, ignoring that voice that told me I was walking a dangerous road. It was the same voice that told me earlier not to get on the road at all, but I ignored it because I was angry that it couldn't have been louder and clearer earlier...and I took a drag.
I had to conserve phone battery for the mechanics call in the morning so we settled the car as best we could for sleeping. I felt alone. I felt responsible. I felt inadequate. Fitfully the three of us took turns attempting to sleep. None sleeping well in a cramped area, cold and without the comforts to which we are accustomed. Morning was both early and welcomed as the sun peeked over the mountain.
I wanted to awaken cheerful as I usually do, but I could not shake that heavy mood. I complained. I whined. I stomped my feet. I did not pray, again. I didn't ask for help. I wasn't grateful for waking in a field of beauty. Whether I did those things externally, I am not completely sure. But I sure did them internally. My spirit was fully aware.
Then I turned on my phone to find this text from my friend: "Been praying for you guys....that you all would go to him to find peace amidst the chaos....Romans 15:13."
I had to look up the verse, but I did so slowly...with a feeling of God about to drop a mic.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And I prayed, "Oh crap!"
I was a faithless twerp. A stupid car breaking down where I have food to eat, music and speakers to hear, staff who drove us and kept us company and let me charge my phone, port-a-potties a few car lengths away, shelter to sleep in, the shelter of the gathered church, the church at home praying for us, and beauty of creation all around us....ummmm, I was an exceedingly blessed faithless twerp.
I hate when I don't see it. I hate when I am blinded by my fear. I hate when I begin to sink in my sea of resentment and churning emotions because I pay more attention to the chaos around me more than Jesus. I hate that I will probably do it again, too.
I am grateful for the trip though. In it, God waited through my tantrum. He took care of my needs despite me. He was gracious when I wanted him, and when I didn't. He quickly forgives my foolishness and embraces me the moment that I turn toward him. Even before it seems. I just realize it when I turn toward him. Perhaps I could just do it a little sooner next time... Amen!