At our small group summer Bible study, we begin with dinner. Well, of course we do. We’re Southern women and several of us are Baptist, so really we have no choice in the matter!
Anyway, the conversation over dinner the other night got around to our first cars. Most of us had similar stories. Anyone who knows me well has probably heard about my first two cars. The first one was a Volkswagon Dasher, school-bus yellow, with an enormous steering wheel because it had no power steering. I think I only had it for about a year before it made the trip to the junkyard.
My second car was a 1978 Honda. I don’t even know if it had a model name; it was about the size of a Smart Car. It had a manual transmission (with a choke, no less) and had after-market radio and air-conditioning. Sometimes the engine stopped while I was driving and I had to pop the clutch to get it started again. At one point, I had to carry gallons of water with me because the radiator leaked and it wasn’t worth repairing. I drove it for a few years before it too made its way to the junkyard.
My friend's dad was a mechanic. He wouldn’t let her ride with me in one of them (I think it was the Dasher) because he didn’t think it was safe. When I reported this to my dad in the hopes that I could guilt him into getting me a better car, he just shrugged and smiled. I even accused him of not caring about my safety: again, the shrug and the smile. So frustrating!
Now, I’ve known my entire adult life that I had those cars because that’s what my parents could afford for me to have. I probably really even knew it then. I’ve enjoyed sharing stories with friends, each trying to one-up the other with “my car was so bad….” stories. I’ve felt sorry for those whose parents gave them new cars because they had no stories to tell; they had no cars with “character” in their pasts.
Only this week as I reflected on that dinner conversation, did I get a new revelation.
It started with me remembering how one lady said she didn’t have a car at all. Another had to share a car with her siblings. My sister and I each had our own cars so obviously we were better off than lots of people even If I didn’t appreciate it then.
Then I remembered how most of my life I’ve heard that we tend to relate to God according to our relationship with our earthly fathers. If you had a loving, caring father, it's easier for you to see God as a loving, caring God.
Somehow (can you say, Holy Spirit?) I put the thoughts about my first cars together with the truths about earthly fathers and God. For the first time, I realized that maybe the reason that I have been able to trust God even when bad things happen, is that I trusted that my dad loved me and wanted the best for me. Even when I didn’t understand it.
I accused my dad of not caring for my safety by giving me bad cars to drive. I didn’t really believe that and he knew it. But he never felt the need to defend his decisions. He never said that’s all we could afford and I should be grateful to have a car at all. He never took away the keys and said, “you can drive this car or have none at all.” He just shrugged and smiled, and deep down I knew, because of a million other things, that he did love me and care for my safety. I just didn’t understand it all then.
I really think that because he didn’t think I always deserved an explanation for his decisions and plans, I can now accept most things without losing trust in God. I may not understand things, or like them, or think they were the best option (after all, I usually have a plan and surely mine is the best!), but deep down, I know God loves me and wants what’s best for me. Even when I don’t understand it.
I didn’t understand when my dad was diagnosed with leukemia at 56 and died at 58. Why him and not some nasty person who would never follow God? Why don’t my niece and nephew get to know him? My dad was faithful and good and steady. I have a vivid memory of walking with him through the hospital during one of his lengthy stays. He was bald due to chemo, wearing a hospital gown, and wheeling an IV pole. He stopped to talk to a woman who was crying outside one of the rooms, asked her if he could help, and prayed with her. How could God take this man and not someone else?
I didn’t understand why it had to happen, but I never really lost trust in God. I knew deep down that His ways are higher, that He loved me and wanted what’s best for me.
It's pretty cool that I can still learn from him, even though he's been gone for over ten years. Thank you, Dad.