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Travel Musings 1 – A Cosmic Solid

Scott on August 16, 2007 at 8:44 am

This last week I had the opportunity to travel with my wife and three children to a resort in Mexico. We went with my in-laws and my wife’s two sisters along with their husbands and children. There were 14.25 of us in all quite a group! (The .25 comes from the fact that my wife’s youngest sister and her husband are expecting their first baby in a few months). Let me say right now that I am blessed to have married a woman whose family is giving and loving and fun to be around on vacation. We have taken a few trips together over the years and we always have a good time.

In case you don’t know the vernacular of “doing a solid,” it means to do someone a big favor. This will be important to understand the point of this train of thought. Now, onward and upward

My truck has a short in the dashboard wiring. It has been there for several months and will cost me several hundred dollars to fix. My wife and I being teachers, several hundred dollars doesn’t easily leave our bank account thus I have been putting off the repair. This short in the system kills all of the readouts on my dashboard speedometer, rpm, odometer and gas gauge. I am very careful when I drive my truck, and rarely does it see the freeway, so the state of its dashboard hasn’t been a pressing concern until now.

What does my truck’s electrical shortcomings have to do with our vacation? Well, let’s just say that because we were “driving blind,” we ran out of gas on the way to the airport. I will never hear the end of it from friends and family. My wife hasn’t rubbed it in too badly (yet), but I’m sure it will be kept in the “lock box,” waiting to be pulled out on special occasions! To be fair to myself (and to provide a semi-excuse), I DID put gas in the truck two days before we left and hadn’t driven it much after that. However, in the excitement and rush of getting ready for the trip, I forgot that I loaned out my truck the day before we left. This “minor” forgetfulness on my part set the stage for AND is the linchpin of the unfortunate turn of events that occurred on our way to Los Angeles International Airport.

As I said, we ran out of gas. Halfway to LAX, my truck started to sputter in that oh-so-horrifying way that says, “Dude, you’re screwed!” I was barely able to make it off the freeway into an industrial area. The whole time this was happening I was praying in the most basic, from-the-gut language possible. It sounded something like, “God, HELP! I’m an idiot and I can’t get up!”

As soon as we got to the bottom of the exit ramp it was obvious that there was NO gas ANYWHERE in this area. It was all industrial buildings and empty lots. I jumped out of the truck and began to walk back towards the on ramp/off ramp, still praying my “from the gut” prayer. My wife was on the phone, first to AAA and then to her family at the airport. They all agreed (my wife’s family And the AAA lady) that I was an idiot! I couldn’t believe what I had done. At that point in time, even I couldn’t avoid the conclusion that I had just taken a swim in the shallow end of the smartness pool.

I continued to pray as I walked towards the ramp, but as I did so the main focus of my prayer began to shift. I was still calling out to God and telling Him that I needed help with something that I had really screwed up but added to it was my urgent desire to not mess up this vacation with my family. I opened up to God about how great I wanted the vacation to be and how I didn’t want to disappoint my wife and kids. I wanted them to have a wonderful, memory-building time that would bring us closer as a family. I wanted God’s help with that goal.

And then out of the blue a tow truck came driving down the off ramp. I flagged him down and he agreed to give me a ride to a gas station to get some gas. On the way there Pedro (the driver) and I got into a great conversation about life and doing stupid things like running out of gas. He made me feel slightly better by admitting he had done something similar a few months earlier. Of course, he could have made that up just to make me feel better (which it did).

In the middle of our urgent errand for gas, Pedro told me how lucky it was that he happened to come along when he did. He told me that he never takes the exit where he found me standing. In fact, it is totally out of his regular service area and rarely does he do business there at all. He told me that when he does have to drive into the area where he found me, he usually takes the exits just before or just after the one where he found me. He just happened to take this different freeway exit for a change of route.

I told him that I believed in prayer and that, whether he knew it or not, he was an answer to prayer. Nothing like telling someone that they are an answer to prayer to get their attention! I pointed out that he was “just trying out a different exit” at just the right time when my family and I were in need and when I was asking God for help. He thought about it for a few seconds and then smiled.

After we got the gas and went back to the truck, he stuck around until it was gassed up and ready to go. When he was leaving I wanted to give him something to express my appreciation so I gave him a $20. He didn’t want to take it, saying that he just thought it was cool that he could go home and tell his wife that he had been the answer to someone’s prayer. I told him that he was, indeed, an answer to prayer and also insisted that he take the $20 as well. He did.

I hope his wife enjoyed the story.

We got to the airport without further incident and pulled up in the loading zone just as the rest of our group was at the front of the line to check in the bags. They had been in line for over 30 minutes, and according to them during that time the line had grown exponentially longer. If we had arrived 5-10 minutes later, the rest of our group would have been through the line, through security and headed towards the plane while we would have had a VERY long wait (much longer than 30 minutes) and would have faced the horrible possibility of missing the flight (all because of my stupidity).

That’s where the “cosmic solid” comes in. I don’t intend to trivialize prayer. It is an awe-inspiring privilege to communicate with the all-powerful God of the universe. But it is also a deeply personal interaction with our Father who cares about our joys and sorrows, our successes and our failures. At this single point in time in my life, my Heavenly Father cared about my failure to gas up the truck and helped me out.  He understood my desires to bless my family with a great time.  He turned my stupidity into a success by reaching down and ordering things in such a way that not only did we get to the airport in the nick of time, we were also blessed in such a way that it set the tone for the whole trip. And on top of all that He taught me some lessons in the process.

How awesome is that?!?


Travel Musings 2 – On Tipping and Gratitude

Travel Musings 3 – Flight 218 and the Children of the Corn

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