Some weeks you'll just utter a prayer,
"Help me stay sane, Lord. Help me look
to you for my security and well being.
For only in You is my strength revived. Only in You is my peace restored. Only in You, dear God, can I find my rest. Only in You."
Jerry Sittser, A Grace Revealed
It was a very busy day and I had written a list so long it
looked like a battle plan. After all, it is finals week at the college where I teach so things are a bit hectic. Okay, really hectic.
Everything needed to go like clockwork. The ultimate goal was for me to get my youngest adult daughter to the hospital since she was having neck surgery.
We couldn't be late.
So hustling and bustling I left the building I teach in and headed to my car in the faculty parking lot. Since I get to the college by about 5:30 am each day, and the parking lot is virtually empty save a few cars for maintenance and custodial folks, I can park anywhere I like. My car was easy to see and access as I almost ran out the door. I threw my rolling cart carrying scads of papers to grade in the back seat, quickly turned on the engine, and put on my seat belt. Just the usual routine.
I was not prepared for what happened next.
I shifted the car into reverse and pressed the gas pedal.
Nothing happened. The car did not go in reverse. I tried drive and the car didn't move, not even a little. I put the car back into park
and it made a horrible grinding sound of protest.
I was stunned and in disbelief. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened on my way to school. I hadn't heard an unusual sound or felt an unusual motion.
I instinctively knew, from my not so vast knowledge of car maintenance, that the transmission must have blown up. It was gone. The car was totally useless. It was going no where. And this happened today of all days.
Poof...in a moment plans changed. What was I to do now?
Now... when there wasn't a moment to spare. I dashed back up to my classroom where my daughter,who also teaches at our college, was standing. I had just left there moments ago with promises to meet her at the hospital.
"I have some news," I said. She looked at me in wonderment.
She knew the tight time frame we were on. What was I up to?
"It's my car," I said slowly, trying to stay calm
and keep the hysteria out of my voice. "It blew up," I uttered, as calmly as possible given the magnitude of what this meant.
"Blew up? Your car isn't working?"
And so began a car race reminiscent of the old Gene Hackman movie The French Connection. We had to dash north to her home to get another car. I would drive that car and follow her, we'd drop off a car at at the high school where her daughter is a junior (since she needed to pick up the younger children after school), drive back to the college to meet her next class, and then off to the hospital.
And what a miracle, we pulled that all off with only moments to spare. We made it just in the nick of time to Sacred Heart and she checked in for her surgery, filling out the paperwork as she went down the hall.
As I sat in the waiting room I was still in a state of shock. And then in small increments it hit me. After all, it was only a few short weeks ago that my computer blew up. Expensive, yes, but I could afford to replace it. Replacing a vehicle is another matter all together.
And another scenario set it. I was supposed to go to the Nutcracker Ballet with my oldest daughter and her daughter that very night.
How in the world was I going to pull that off?
I did what I always do when it feels like the bottom has just fallen through. Pray first and then call Bert.
I knew he was at work, but would probably come home for lunch and get my message. I wanted to keep the fear and trembling out of my voice when I heard his voice message on our answering machine. I told him my car had blown up, wasn't moving forward or backward, and that I was headed to Sacred Heart. News bulletin I was now using Amy's car. I tried to be light hearted, even a tad jovial. After all when the computer blew up, Bert offered to get me a new one for Christmas. I was quite sure however that a new vehicle wasn't in his budget either.
And then it came to me. A quote. One of my favorites from a new book I'm reading by Jerry Sittser, A Grace Revealed. His prayer about "Only in you is my faith restored. Only in you."
Jerry also wrote another book called A Grace Disguised, a powerful story of human tragedy so confounding that it shakes you to the core. Computers blowing up? Cars blowing up? How about having your whole life blow up? Right there. In front of you. Jerry was in a car coming back from an event with his mom, wife and four children. He was hit head on by a drunk driver and all of his entire family lay shattered by the side of the road. Jerry was doing life-saving measures on his mom, wife, Linda, and daughter Jane all at one time. The three other children were hurt, but not critically.
He lost all three of his dearly beloveds right in front of his eyes. Poof, they were gone. They were dead.
Jerry Sittser was my Sunday school teacher at the time and his wife Linda sang in our choir. The magnitude of this loss hit all of us so hard that we were rendered almost useless and speechless and faithless...for months and months.
And in this new book, Jerry looks back on how God was there all along. And when hard things happen, unexpected things, expensive things, unthinkable things... He will be beside me as well.
In one horrible moment, Jerry became a single parent to three small children. In one horrible moment his life changed. And he uttered this prayer many times. Minute-by-minute, day-by-day, week-by-week...
"Help me stay sane, Lord. Help me to look to you for my security."
And as Jerry's prayer came back to me in the waiting room at Sacred Heart, I started to cry. I may have lost my car. It may have blown up and need to be replaced. It may be inconvenient or expensive. But I would get through this. It was just a car.
It didn't blow up on the road where I could have been badly hurt.
None of my precious grandchildren were in the car.
Jerry's loss put my loss into perspective in a heartbeat.
His prayer brought peace to my mind and heart. "Only in you, dear God, can I find my rest. Only in you."
And I am so grateful to once again know that profound truth in my deepest heart-of-hearts!
Saturday, December 06, 2014
"If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old." ...