Larry and Holly Wilson
Early last year, we departed from Indianapolis for a trip to Escanaba, Michigan, to visit Holly’s parents. We drove north on I-65, then headed west on I-80/90. As we approached Chicago, we had some debate about whether to take US 41 or the interstate. Someone in the family thinks that it is a form of recreation to avoid toll roads. The last time we took that same road, however, Someone Else decided that it uses more time and gas to go that way, so that it is wasteful. Someone, however, believes that that assessment is inaccurate. Besides, he thinks the drive on US 41 along Lake Michigan is more interesting.
Someone Else was sure that she had persuaded him to go through the city on bigger roads this time. But no! Someone took the exit for US 41, the scenic route. Someone Else was less than thrilled about that, but what could she do? She wasn’t driving. She resorted to working on a crossword puzzle and ignored both the scenery and Someone’s attempts to discuss it. We did move along at a steady pace, though slower than Someone Else believed the other route would have been. Someone suggested that the interstates are so congested that they are actually no faster, but Someone Else did not find that to be even a wee bit persuasive.
When we stopped at a red light, Someone was uncertain which way to turn. Since no cars were coming, he decided to turn right and find a place to stop and get his bearings. As he moved into the right lane, we heard a loud clunk from the front driver’s side. Something was very wrong, so we sort of limped about two feet to the side of the road. There was no shoulder on that road. So there we sat, unable to move and rather effectively blocking the far right lane of traffic. To quote Bugs Bunny, “What a revoltin’ development!” Someone activated our four-way flashers, and Someone Else called AAA.
AAA promised a tow truck by a quarter ’til. That would be no more than half an hour, so we breathed a huge sigh of relief. But as we watched cars whizzing around a curve and coming up fast behind us, we easily imagined a collision in which they and we would suffer plenty of damage. Such a circumstance does wonders for one’s prayer life. After the half hour came and went, Someone Else called AAA again. As she was talking to the lady, she suddenly realized that while our clocks were set on Eastern Time, we were now in the Central Time Zone. Yikes! The promised time was still an hour away. And the traffic seemed to be picking up.
So there we sat, both unhappy with our situation, praying about it, and refraining from taking it out on each other. We had just read the old book Pollyanna, by Eleanor Porter, so we began to play her “glad game.” It’s basically an application of the verse, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18). The idea of the game is this: whatever happens, think of something in it about which to be glad.
Eventually a Chicago policeman arrived on the scene. He quickly found out our situation and called a city tow truck, saying we needed to be moved as soon as possible to avoid an accident. He told us that if the truck that AAA called arrived first, it could take us away; he just wanted us to be moved away from that dangerous location as soon as possible. Then he sat behind us with his lights flashing—certainly a better warning than our four-way flashers. We worried about having to pay for two tow trucks, but he was right about the urgency, so we kept our mouths shut (except to pray). The waiting game continued.
Finally, almost two hours after we came to our abrupt halt, the city tow truck arrived. He and the policeman agreed on a safer spot to take us. Just then, the AAA tow truck driver called to say he was about fifteen minutes away. We were able to hand the phone to the city worker, and he explained where he would take our car. He moved us to an empty parking lot, and for his efforts—to our surprise—he charged us a whopping nothing! He explained that it was all part of keeping the roads clear and preventing accidents. Meanwhile, the policeman drove us to the spot in his cruiser.
As soon as our car was unhooked, the AAA tow truck arrived and began to hook us up. Seeing that we were safe, the policeman left. We didn’t get his name, but he was very nice and very helpful, as was the tow truck driver. Just then, a brisk wind blew off Lake Michigan, and suddenly it dawned on Larry that he had left his hat and gloves on the back seat of the police cruiser. They had gone with him off to his next adventure. C’est la vie.
The AAA tow truck man looked under our car and diagnosed our trouble as a disconnected ball joint. He told us that if we had been speeding up the highway when this happened, we would have totaled our car and would probably have caused a serious, multicar accident. We became doubly grateful for the safekeeping we had experienced. Someone Else immediately repented of her unhappiness over the scenic route that Someone took.
The tow truck guy then asked where we wanted him to take us. We said that we didn’t have a clue; didn’t AAA tell him a place? Did he have any suggestions? He named the place that AAA had proposed, but said that if we went there, we would probably be stuck in town for a day or two. He suggested another place that could repair our car on the same day. We asked him to take us there, and off we went.
AAA would pay for the first five miles of the tow, and as we pulled into the station, it turned out that we had driven exactly that far. The driver told us that we didn’t owe him anything. He unceremoniously dumped our crippled vehicle into one of their bays while we went to fill out the paperwork. One fellow asked what year our car was, because they had to order parts. We sighed, figuring this would take a while. When another fellow had it all written up, he said, “Come back in an hour.” After waiting two hours for a tow truck, we could hardly believe that, but there was nothing we could do about it anyway.
We took our computers directly across the street to the only available restaurant. This was a local joint that had free WiFi—and advertised fresh pies. We figured we could have pie and coffee while we waited. But we discovered that, on Wednesdays, if you order something off the menu, you can get a free piece of pie with it. Well! A bowl of soup seemed to fit the bill—and it cost the same as a piece of pie. Take it from us, both the soup and the pie were delicious. So we kept busy with our computers and food. We were able to communicate our situation to friends near Milwaukee with whom we were planning to have supper. An hour later, Holly looked out the front door and saw that our car was out of the bay, waiting for us. That was the most amazing repair experience we can remember! They had put two mechanics on it, one on each side of the car, and they put in a new axle and ball joint for what seemed to us like a pittance when they totaled it up.
So we got back on our way, and we were still able to stop to see our friends. Instead of feeding us supper, as originally planned, they gave us warm fellowship and a nice bed for the night.
Thinking back on it, that day could easily have been our last day on earth. Instead, it turned out to be a lesson in our Lord’s watchful care over his redeemed children. He guided and provided and took care of us each step of the way, making sure we came through unscathed.
Furthermore, he provided an illustration of the biblical doctrine of vocation (or calling). Our Lord generally works through means. He distributes interests and abilities to people and thus places them in many different vocations and stations in life. Then he providentially uses them to care for, and provide for, his creatures. How we thank God afresh for the vocations of policeman, tow truck driver, mechanic, farmer (who grows the ingredients for our food), truck driver (and others involved in transporting food), soup maker, pie baker, waitress, etc.—not to mention our friends who opened their home to us. And think of all the people, in many different vocations, who worked together to provide us with a car, gas and oil for the car, cell phones and cell phone service, the cooking implements and soup bowls and pie plates and coffee cups and silverware, and the clothing that we wore (including Larry’s new hat and gloves). Through the service of all these people, the living God himself cared for us. (See Gene Edward Veith, God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life, for a helpful treatment of this subject.)
We only hope that God also provided a hat and gloves for some poor soul as a result of Larry’s absentmindedness. We know for sure, however, that he did provide a fresh line of reasoning. The next time we have that debate, Someone Else is now in a position to tell Someone that the last time we took US 41 through Chicago, it took us almost four extra hours.
Larry Wilson is the pastor of Redeemer OPC in Airdrie, Alberta. Holly is his wife. New Horizons, July-August 2012.