I didn’t really think anything the first time I saw the stain. Driveways have stains. Big deal. But then the stain started to grow. That’s when I knew that I had a problem. And this problem was leaking from gently used 1992 Toyota 4Runner.
I did what any self-respecting American male in my situation would do. I called a friend and asked him what was going on. Our conversation went a little like this.
“Hey, what’s it mean when stuff is pouring out from the front of my car?”
“Check the hose underneath the car. Is it tight?”
“Well, there’s a thing-a-ma-jigger clamped on to another thingy pretty tight.”
Nothing makes you feel less manly than using the word thingy in regards to an automobile. I’m pretty sure that my grandfather never said thingy. Ever. If Dale Sr. would have been there, I would have gotten a beating.
Leading up to all of this, I was feeling pretty confident. Less than an hour before, I was laying under another car. A minivan. A woman from California was pulling into my neighborhood with a tire that looked like it belonged on the side of the interstate.
I got out to help.
Before I did anything, I prayed. Not for her. For myself. And it wasn’t one of those out loud prayers either. This was the kind of prayer that’s best kept quiet.
“God, help me. Help me not to do something stupid. Help me not to kill myself. Or this woman’s minivan.”
If you’re a single mother of four young girls, the last thing you want to hear from the guy changing your tire on the side of the road is, “God, help me not to blow something up like last time.”
Half of my neighborhood stopped to check on us. I was afraid that they were going to check how long it took me to change this lady’s tire. Instead, they were just offering to help. They were just worried for this lady. And me. One neighbor, with tools much more equipped for the job than my roll of duct tape and a pocket knife, got out to help me. The woman from California stood on the side of the road and watched us change her tire while her four daughters played with my son.
When she drove off, I prayed again. Not for her. For myself. Quietly.
“God, please help that tire I just put on to stay put on. And if it doesn’t, please help this woman to forget where I live.”
For as far as I could see the lady’s minivan driving off, my prayer was answered. To date, there have been no legal notifications sent to my home regarding the improper changing of a tire.
Laying under my own car was much more difficult. A tire is one thing. A radiator thingy is quite another. There’s not even a mark to tell you where to put the duct tape. While I was under there, I thought it would look silly for me to immediately get back up. So I just stayed there underneath my leaking radiator and jiggled some wires.
That didn’t help.
Early the next morning, I dropped my problems off at my mechanic’s place. Less than an hour later, I got the call. I was nervous when the lady on the other end said my name. Her voice sounded kind of like the voice of the college math professor in my dreams when he tells me that I forgot to do an entire semester’s worth of work and that I’m still wearing my pajamas in front of the whole school. I was worried.
She said that my radiator looked fine.
The radiator hose was the problem.
“How much?” I asked with fear and trembling.
“Less than a hundred dollars.”
I was relieved. And then I thought about what that relief meant.
When I was a kid, my mom’s car broke down a lot. A hundred dollars worth of repairs would have devastated us. But when those repairs came, so did the people who were willing to help. I grew up witnessing these broken down blessings quite frequently. Then I thought about the woman from California with the shredded tire. Her van probably wasn’t even worth a hundred dollars. She told us that where she was from people would never stop to help her. Broken down blessings.
My car didn’t break down in a strange neighborhood on the other side of the continent with some weirdo working on it. It started leaking in my driveway. Usually, when something like that happens, I’m tempted to ask God why.
It’s funny but I never ask why he gives me the means to take care of these little problems.
“God why have you made it where a one hundred dollar radiator thingy is not financially devastating to my family? Why?! And why have you given me another car to use for taking my kids to soccer practice? Have you forgotten me?” saith the young pastor as he lamented in sackcloth and ashes.
I tend to associate God’s blessings with getting something for free or not having to deal with inconveniences. Certainly, those blessings do exist. But there are also blessings in our difficulties. Broken down blessings. Sometimes those difficulties serve as good reminders of God’s faithfulness.
I don’t know what set of circumstances brought that woman and her daughters all the way across the country to Jackson, Georgia. Just like I don’t know why God allowed my radiator thingy to start leaking. Or why he allowed it to be easily repaired.
But I do know that God is good.
And with each new day comes a new flood of his mercies.
Sometimes it just takes a shredded tire and a leaking thingy to notice them.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:22-24 (ESV)