I sometimes grow very pessimistic. I don’t see evidence that God is at work in this life—either in the great scheme of things or the tiny details of my life. I think, “God is a fairy. Sitting up there on a cloud, eating chicken wings and ignoring the needs of a dying and struggling world, and of its people.” Then a difficult time arrives, and I don’t have room for these thoughts. I consume myself with praying.
I drove to Northern California recently. I drive an old car, and the drive there is rough in spots, particularly through the Grapevine, with narrow, mountainous roads and high winds. I saw several cars stranded on the side of the highway and grew nervous. I began to pray. In fact, I prayed the entire time, not just for me but for the drivers whose cars had stalled. For their protection and assistance. During that drive, I reflected on some of the road trips I had taken over the years—specifically, two instances in which I clearly saw God protecting me.
When I lived in Seattle, I performed in a musical on the Eastside of the city—the suburb of Kirkland. Each day, I drove an hour and a half to rehearsal, through the teeth of rush hour traffic, over Lake Washington and the 520 bridge. That environment (surrounded by the crew and other cast members) was the darkest environment I had ever been a part of. I’d never seen so much fighting and backstabbing, or diva like behavior. One cast member became obsessed with another and began stalking him. The man being stalked had to file a restraining order and change his phone number.
I got into the habit of listening to books on CD during the drive—specifically, Phillip Yancey books. A friend said, “You are storing up spiritual nourishment that you’ll need later on.” I wasn’t sure about that; the way I saw it, if I was going to fill my evenings with such darkness, I needed to fill the days with hopeful thoughts. I spent the hours on the road praying and listening to “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”
The opening weekend of the show, I loaded my bag of costumes and makeup and drove to the theatre. When I reached the 520 bridge, my car started making funny noises. It had never done that before; it had always been a very reliable car. The interior display lights flickered on and off. By the time I reached the 405 freeway, the car was bucking and the display lights continued dancing. What if my car broke down on the freeway? Not to mention the show. Would I miss it? I prayed constantly.
I reached the exit that I took for the theatre, but I knew my car wasn’t going to make it. Thankfully, there was a Honda dealership a block away. I was able to coast into the lot and leave the car there until the next day, when the dealership opened and a mechanic could repair the problem. What happened? A raccoon had crawled into the engine area, and one of the belts shredded it. Unfortunately, the belt had been shredded, also.
Several months ago, I drove to San Diego for the weekend. Everything was fine on the way. I stopped halfway there to fill up on gas and use the restroom. I went inside the station; when I returned to my car, I noticed my passenger side tire was almost flat. The tire still had enough air that I was able to drive to a nearby mechanic, who patched the hole (I had run over a nail), and get back on the road quickly.
I suppose it could have been blind luck that I noticed the tire before it went completely flat, and that I pulled over in a town large enough to have a mechanic’s shop nearby. But I choose to believe it was something greater than luck. Just like my recent trip to San Francisco. When I returned home, I thanked God for every mile my car had given me during those four days—all 844.3 of them.
A friend of mine recently lost his job. He worked on a TV show that was cancelled after ten seasons. Also, his wife learned that she may be losing job at the end of June. They are looking at some stressful times in the near future, financially speaking. I went over to his place last week and we talked about it.
“I don’t have any doubt we will be okay,” he said. “I think God is allowing this to snap me out of my comfort zone. I’ve been comfortable there for ten years. I think this is God’s way of saying, ‘I don’t want you coasting anymore.’”
“We tend to pray a lot harder when we are worried,” he added.
I agreed with him. When life is uncertain—when our jobs disappear and cars break down—that’s when we draw nearest to God. We coast when we are comfortable. Oddly, our primary goal seems to be just that: building lives that are free of uncertainty.
Not sure that’s the way it’s supposed to be.