My job has been in a persistent state of hyper-drive since about 2008. Having a day off work means working longer hours in advance and never really unwinding when you’re gone. (At least, that was my excuse)
Shortly after arriving to work one day, my friend “Bill” came to my desk in need of help. After discovering he had a flat tire, he wondered if I would follow the tow truck from the office lot to the service station a couple of miles away and give him a ride back.
Proverbs 3:27, 28 (ASV) came to mind:
“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, When it is in the power of thy hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbor, Go, and come again, And tomorrow I will give; When thou hast it by thee.”
Still, I said “No,” explaining I was overwhelmed by the many tasks before me. He looked stunned but he moved on and found someone else to assist. That was Monday morning.
Exhausted, I went to bed early that night, awakening around one a.m. with an overwhelming need to pray. I did and kept praying off and on all night until I finally drifted off shortly before my alarm clock rang at six.
When I awoke I was fixated on the workday—on what stories I needed to edit and assign, projects I needed to plan, meetings I needed to hold. As is my habit, I ate breakfast while I read a bit of the Word. That day’s lesson came from James 3.
“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” James 3:13-18
But I read swiftly, interspersing verse readings with periodic checks of my work email, rationalizing that I had little time for an in-depth study or meditation because I had slept little and needed to be at the office by 9:30. Already it was 9. Yet rather than encountering post rush-hour traffic, I found myself in the thick of things. Construction was underway on a small strip of road on the express lanes of I-96.
Then the SUV in front of me swerved, avoiding a large metal cylinder that was rolling across the highway. I swerved too. Boom! The back of my car lifted from the road and then fell with a thud. I held my breath, pulled the vehicle to the side, and turned on my blinkers. When a semi whooshed by inches from my vehicle, I realized I wasn’t in the breakdown lane. In fact, on this stretch of road where there was construction there was no breakdown lane. With every passing vehicle, my SUV vehicle rocked. My hands shook.
But I didn’t pray. I didn’t thank God for keeping me alive. I didn’t ask for wisdom. Instead, I called my friend for advice, and he talked me to the breakdown lane a few hundred yards away. There’s a reliable tow company I usually call in rare times of need but it never came to mind. Instead, I called my insurance company for roadside assistance. The woman on the other end said a tow truck would be there within 30 minutes. Again I talked to my friend, then my brother, and then my job.
Nearly two hours later, after I managed a way to relieve myself on the side of the road without being arrested for indecent exposure, a truck pulled in front of me. The young man—he kept calling me “sweetheart”—said I just needed my tire changed. He did so swiftly, had me sign papers, and got in his vehicle. I sighed in relief as his truck inched away from mine and I put my car in gear. But when my car ground against the road like a pestle against glass, I choked back sobs.
Still, I didn’t pray.
I honked my horn in a desperate attempt to get the tow driver’s attention. And he heard me, despite the whiz of traffic and the nearby construction. He pulled over and loaded my car as I loaded my belongings into the well-worn (half the seat was missing) cab of truck. And then the rain started… Except it wasn’t raining on the road to the left or the median to the right. This dark cloud only soaked his truck.
“I have to call my boss. My hydraulics are leaking!” he announced as he jumped in. “I have to unhook your car. You need to get out of the truck.” He gestured wildly not waiting or wanting my response. Someone, he said, would come get me in about ten minutes.
An hour later, I listened and I licked tears from my lips as Roadside “Assistance” said they would do everything in their power to get a tow truck to me. They, however, were encountering problems. The tow drivers, the woman said, didn’t seem interested in helping out.
Let me mention here, there was no war in Detroit, no zombie apocalypse, no truck driver strike or mass towing of illegally parked vehicles; and the tow truck industry, to my knowledge, had not collapsed.
But neither was I incapacitated. I’m a Word-taught Christian, meaning I know what the Bible says about the power of prayer, loving your neighbor, and God’s infinite mercy. Throughout the ordeal, my editor texted she was praying for me, my brother told me to trust God.
Another thirty minutes passed before I thought to ask God for help.
Shortly afterward, I watched through my rear-view mirror as a tow driver changed the tire of a car about a quarter mile behind me. I waved and honked furiously as he drove past. The truck stopped. The driver asked what I needed. I told him, trying to hide the quiver from my voice.
“I can’t help you,” he said. “We go by our phones, what the boss sends us is where we go. If I stop, I’ll get in trouble.”
I didn’t want to get him in trouble and told him so.
He pulled off.
And then he pulled over. He backed up the 100 yards or so to my vehicle and got out.
“Get in my truck,” he said said. “I can’t leave you here. That’s wrong.”
Sitting in the cab of his truck, I asked God what to do. He told me not in an audible, earth-shaking way but in that quiet voice a friend uses when whispering a secret. I felt his warmth speaking to my heart.
“And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21
Surreptitiously, I took some money from my wallet and slid it in my pocket as the young man drove. He told me about moving from Philadelphia to Detroit for a woman, about racism in Philly, about how Detroit isn’t as bad as the rest of the country thinks it is, and about how he wasn’t going to come back for me. I thanked him again. He shook his head.
“I came back for you, but I usually don’t. I usually keep going,” he said. He looked at me and shook his head again. “Today, I don’t know, I had to come back. I couldn’t leave you there.”
Then we heard a loud pop.
He pulled over to check my car. All was stable and we were back on the highway. Still, something seemed amiss. The overhead light flickered. After a beat, I realized a door was open. I checked mine. I glanced at his. It was open, I told him. He laughed and closed it. It popped open again. He laughed again.
“You have to laugh,” he said. “If you can’t laugh, you have nothing.”
Silently, I praised God.
Four hours after leaving home that morning, I arrived at the dealership leaving my driver with gift that did not match his kindness. Nothing could.
After some time at the dealership, the service rep said, “There was a hole in the tire and in the wheel and neither could be repaired. The flap that covers the gas tank was somehow ripped off, too. You were lucky the car didn’t flip over or worse.”
I knew it wasn’t luck, so I praised God.
I’m still praising God, for He is good and His mercy endures forever.
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