I turned the key in my 1995 Ford Ranger pick-up truck, expecting it to start just like it had thousands of times before in our 14 years together as a couple. Funny how your expectations as a couple can change so fast.
Sunday had already been a long “sabbath,” arriving at church before 7 a.m. for worship team rehearsal, playing electric bass at two services, teaching Sunday School to fifteen wild sixth graders, rounding up my own gaggle of children, and trying to be “nice” to my church buddies. My supposed “rest from work” day was about to get longer.
The Ranger was one of those blessings the Lord gives when you don’t deserve it. My mother-in-law bought the truck to transport treasures from garage sales. Like many dreams, that one didn’t turn out quite as expected. So she loaned it to her then-unemployed son-in-law, who also didn’t turn out quite as expected. Around my office, we’ll tell you there is “nothing so permanent as a temporary solution,” and so the Ranger fulfilled this truth as the temporary loan took up permanent residence in my driveway.
Ranger is a five-speed stick-shift. I swore I would never drive a standard transmission, which, of course, explains why all of my vehicles since 1987 have had standard transmissions. You see, I like being able to talk on my cell phone, eat a Big Mac, and fiddle with the radio while steering—a habit my wife frowns upon, but then she drives an automatic.
Ranger’s odometer quit about three years ago, so who knows how many miles it has. On hot days, the A/C blows from the defroster vents rather than cool the driver. The headliner looks about as leprous as one of those people Jesus healed. The “your door is open” chime won’t quit after you close the door. The stick shift knob pops off into your hand if you aren’t careful (figures). The spare tire will launch off the truck if you hit a big bump a little too fast. Thankfully, Lowe’s Hardware now sells 24-inch cable ties so it is safe again to drive behind me.
Like an idiot, I kept turning the key, thinking the Ranger would wake up. It didn’t. Being Mr. Responsible, I carry a portable, self-jumping battery in the Ranger. Ranger jump-started and ran for 60 seconds, then quit. It wouldn’t jump-start again.
Finally, I accepted that Ranger wasn’t going to move on its own, so it was time to call a tow truck. Except, Mr. Responsible had canceled his AAA-Texas membership, thinking he would cut his annual automobile expenses. Mr. Responsible now wondered what he was thinking as he pondered Sunday up-charges for tow trucks.
My beautiful wife, Belinda, pointed out the children were starving and were about to get as grumpy as me. I stewed and fumed as Belinda drove her automatic transmission Suburban to Braum’s.
“Say, Honey, doesn’t our auto insurance include a towing service?” inquired my wife, proving she is as wise as she is beautiful. My spirit lightened as I phoned the auto insurance call center. “Why yes, Mr. Harrell, you do have towing service on your Suburban,” the insurance lady responded cheerily. “Are you calling about the Suburban today?”
There are moments in every dad’s life in which he has the opportunity to stare down temptation and respond to adversity with integrity and honesty as would please the Lord. I really, really, really, didn’t want this to be one of those moments. “Ummm, no ma’am. It’s the Ford Ranger. Ummm, why do you ask?” I inquired with hesitance. Insurance lady replied, “I’m so sorry, Mr. Harrell. You’ve only paid for towing service on the Suburban. You can add towing service to the Ranger, but you can’t use it for 24 hours. I’m sorry, but that’s our rule.”
I wouldn’t think you could be sad at Braum’s, the Joyous Land of Beef and Ice Cream. But a darkness came over me that I hadn’t felt since Tom Landry was fired.
The prior week had started rough with disappointing financial news from my company. Our lawn mower engine had just burned up, generating a repair estimate approaching the cost of a new lawn mower. I was sweating the re-appraisal of our house in anticipation of a cost-cutting refinance deal. Now, in addition to the expense of repairing whatever mysterious disease Ranger had acquired, I was spending another $80 to get “Tow Jam Wreckers” to rescue my foolishness.
Ranger was towed to the repair shop, and once we finally got home, I devoted Sunday afternoon to battling an unbalanced budget with a fervor I wish the U.S. government would mimic. Yet it seemed the Lord and my bank account weren’t communicating. I was trying and failing to cut costs to face the challenge of rising kid expenses with a falling income. I was angry, out of control, and demonstrating a lousy, ungodly attitude to my wife and children.
I am glad to say the Holy Spirit is powerful. In His power He broke through my darkness and prodded me right at my sons’ bedtime. A few times a week, my sons and I have our time with the Lord together. After we read some Scriptures, we’ll take five minutes to be quiet and listen to what the Lord has for us. I hadn’t been listening all day, so this was going to be interesting.
When thirteen-year-old Story’s turn to share came, he said, “Dad, the Lord reminded me of Psalm 46:10, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’” Story confidently continued, “Dad, I don’t think you should stress out about the truck. He is in control.” He then prayed for the Lord to fix my truck, cheaply.
I cry a lot as a father . . . many reasons for that, but mostly because the Lord made me that way. And I cried as I rejoiced in the peaceful spiritual maturity of my son. I was out of control, and my teenage son had the wisdom and courage to direct me gently back to the Lord.
And I needed direction, as I had cut my moorings and faithlessly set off in crazy circles. “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one,” reads II Thessalonians 3:3. II Timothy 2:13 continues with, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful—for He cannot deny Himself.”
The Lord is faithful and good and sovereign, even when I don’t see it. Even when my truck throws a tantrum. Especially when I throw a tantrum. It is during hard times that I should demonstrate faith in the Lord’s faithfulness to my children. As the Apostle Paul continues his wisdom with II Timothy 4:5, “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
Monday morning, the repair shop called at 8:05 a.m. They had already fixed the Ranger. Twenty dollars to replace a battery cable. Twenty dollars. I lost my head over twenty dollars.
The Lord faithfully took care of my sin. And, thanks to Story’s prayers, He faithfully took care of my Ranger.
If you have a moment, please send an email to ImperfectFather@Gmail.com. I’d love to read stories of how the Lord has rescued you.