I needed a break. That’s the cleanest way to put it.
I had this old manual Jeep once upon a time, and I drove it each day to work. Conveniently, my workplace was less than a mile from a gas station. Due to this proximity, I never took the need to fill-up on gas seriously. I took the “E” as a mere suggestion rather than a demand. And in so doing, I’d run out of fuel about once a month. When this would happen, my Jeep would pitter-patter, then shake, rattle, and die. I’d then coast, void of power steering (these arms were power enough, baby!), on down the hill and toward the oasis of fuel—once there, drink deeply, a needy glutton departing full, good for another few weeks.
And this is often the course of things in my life. I’ll hear the DING of my fuel gauge, a warning that I am perilously close to break down, and I’ll shrug and go on, doing worse and worse for those I should be serving. I’m not proud of this habit, but I do it. You probably do too.
A week or so ago, I recognized the pitter-patter, then shake and rattle of my soul. I voiced this to a friend, “I’m getting close to that point, I think,” I recall telling her. “I need some quiet.” I was crying out for an oasis, but I was driving hard away from it, deeper into the desert, from one thing to the next, tired, thirsty, drying up.
Toward the end of the week, I took off on a trip. It was one I had to take. One that would use my weekend not for refueling or quietude, but for serving: someone I cared about was in need and I was determined to drive 8 or so hours to be there in that moment.
And DING, a check engine light came on—my Jeep was overheating. Like really overheating. I pulled over and waited, it cooled, and I took off again. And again, it overheated. I pulled over and waited, it cooled, and I took off again. And again, it overheated. I pulled over and waited . . . you get the drift. I was determined to help. I was prideful in my abilities—IT HAD TO BE ME! my heart lied to my head or vice versa. It took me about 4 and a half hours to reach both St. Louis and a conclusion: I was not going to make it to Lexington, Kentucky. It was still five hours away on a normal day: on this day, it may have well been China—I wasn’t going to make it.
Saddened, I clunked toward home, overheating, pulling over, waiting it out, and starting back up time and time again. It was another four hours of tedium, of quiet, of sunset. It was desolate truck stops, and the whir of passing interstate traffic. It was sitting with a book. It was staring at an engine I couldn’t understand, willing it to work, and swearing when it didn’t. It was me, vanished from the world, forgotten and alone, and it was the very thing I had been needing.
My wife had plans to visit her family since I was supposed to be out of town, so as I returned to town defeated, she left it, both of us agreeing it was best for her to keep that commitment. Again, I found myself alone. I had no car. My means of transportation was a borrowed bike. And I rode around in the rain. I went to the grocery store and bought “rations” for my mate-less, car-less weekend. I watched some movies. I read. I prayed.
I filled up.
It took a blown-up radiator—essentially a fire—for me to seek the water my life needed, the waters of stillness, of quiet, of calm. To my knowledge, radiators 1) exists in cars and 2) function to regulate the temperature . . . essentially keeping them cool. Could be a stretch to say, “to refresh the engine” but I’m going to go with it. In that way, my personal radiator wasn’t working either. Another definition could be, “keeps everything from blowing up,” and, yep, this was true of my person as well as my car. God allowed one radiator to break to allow for another to activate.
I need to be smarter about reading the gauges of self, and taking action apt to their readings. I know that for sure. And this: God is good enough to give me exactly what I need, even when I am too foolish to take it for myself. He’ll sizzle radiators and stall plans, but He will quiet the world and speak. He’ll put us on bicycles to slow us down and bring the rain to wash us new.
He is good, and I am better for it; I am full.