Monday, October 31, 2011

Just because... doesn't mean....

      I've thought about my own life and one memory in particular keeps coming back to me; why, I'm not sure.  All I know is that it can't be denied that as a young adult, I struggled with jealousy, with a feeling that God had denied me something  fundamental - a father's love.  (Later, I realized that this was not God's doing but for a while, I held this against Him.)
    I wasn't even aware of this deep resentment until I  entered my twenties, started working full-time, and also joined a large single-adult class at church.  For the first time, I found myself in the company of a few girls whom I instinctively disliked.  It took me a while to realize that they had all come from stable families within the church, were attractive and confident, and all of them, without exception, had great relationships with their dads.  Ironically, instead of rejoicing with them, I felt envious.
   To make matters worse, I commuted one summer to my graduate classes with a girl who had everything - a loving family, money, beauty (she did modeling on the side), and a sweet personality.  I really liked this girl from our undergraduate days but this particular summer, I was acutely aware (as I had never been in the dorm) of how different our lives were.
   For me, this angst over what I didn't have, seemed to focus on cars, oddly enough. I bought my first car with money I borrowed from my great aunt.  $900.00.  I bought it at a used car lot and I remember to this day reading a sign in the office that said, "A used car warranty is about as good as a dead cockroach."  I didn't know what a used-car warranty was so the sign meant nothing to me at the time - it just caught my attention because of the reference to cockroaches!   I paid cash for the vehicle and before I got the car home, the horn started honking, on it's own volition. Without stopping.
   So I had to drive it right back where they tinkered with it and assured me the problem was fixed.
   It was.
   But others weren't.
   During my days of commuting to graduate school, I had 5 (yes, five!) flat tires, an engine to "throw a rod" whatever that means - all I know is I cried for days and put the tab on two of my mom's credit cards which I eventually paid off - and the door handle also fell off. On the driver's side.  While I was at UCA.  So I had to go to a gas station and get them to somehow tie my door shut so I could make it back to Little Rock. Oh, and I almost forgot the fact that the heater went out in the middle of winter (sleeping bags work pretty good!) and reverse also eventually went out.  Maybe the reverse thing was on my second used car.. I forget. All I know is that someone commented on the fact that I always parked as if I were going to rob a place, instead of parking normally.  That's what driving without reverse does for you - it teaches you to park across parking spaces, always making sure there is room to drive forward!
  Going back to the summer when I commuted with my friend, M., to summer school, we rode in her car for obvious reasons!!!  She had a sports car - a convertible -  and when she drove with the top down,  heads turned.  With her blonde hair piled high on her head, dark shades on her classically beautiful face and wearing  strapless sundresses (which were all the rage back then), men noticed not just the MGB Roadster but also the driver, something that did not happen when I drove my pale blue Volkswagen Bug down the highways of life:)
    By the time M. and I started commuting, I was totally fed up with all the times my car had stranded me along the highway and landed me with big repair bills.  Then one day, her car began to choke and sputter.  She managed to pull the roadster off the freeway and onto the parking lot of a truck stop.  The event is etched in my mind still.  She parked the car, cool as a cucumber, and walked into this male domain, head held high, confident, looking like a million dollars while I trailed in her wake, nervous as all get-out, wondering what on earth we would do.  My only consolation was that if any of the rough men around us tried to attack anyone, it wouldn't be me:)
   We went straight to a pay phone, M. still looking like a movie star on a set  just taking a work break as she dialed someone. Then to my total surprise, her confident expression completely crumbled and in a little-girl voice that I had never heard her use before, she wailed, "Daddy!  My car just broke down and I don't know what to do!"
   This was followed by head-nodding and several "Yes, DAddy..."s. Then "Thanks, Daddy!" and a click of the receiver, followed by a resumption of the confident woman-about-town demeanor that allowed us to thread our way safely back to her car outside.
   Within minutes a tow truck pulled up and hitched up her vehicle. Then we were told that even though it was against the rules, her dad had arranged for us to ride in the cab of the tow truck, something that clearly made the driver very happy...
   He took us straight to a car dealership where a manager promptly handed my friend the keys to a top-of-the-line rental car.  Bottom line: we made it back to Little Rock in plenty of time for her to get ready for her date.
   I, who was dateless at the time and fatherless and cramming hard for my upcoming Master's exam, hit a low point.
   Where was my dad to call when my car broke down?
   Who had ever called in a tow truck for me or arranged a rental for me in just the snap of a finger?
    I didn't like the answers to those questions so I tabled them for a while.
   Summer morphed into Fall and I entered my second full year of Bible Study Fellowship.  My new leader was about my age, beautiful, married, expecting her first child and.... she wore a heart necklace that her father had given her on Valentine's Day.   As soon as my brain ascertained all these facts, I felt a wall going up in my heart; I knew I was putting up barriers between myself and her. And that she was not at fault.
   Still, there it was.
   So when I went home that night and had my prayer time, I told God that He would either have to get me a new leader or change my heart because as it was, I could not learn under this young woman's leadership; it just wasn't possible.  As you can see, I was really ignorant back then. Now, I would just say, "Okay, God.   Go ahead and change my heart...Just get it over with...." because I've learned that  He's really more into heart attitude than what I like or don't like...
   At any rate,  I started on my lesson and as I was looking up a cross-reference, I came across this verse:
    "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,"
    The phrase, "rooted and grounded in love"  stood out like a neon sign.
    I just kept staring at it; thinking about it. Finally got on my knees to pray about it.
    And that's when God flashed this message across my small little mind:
    "Do you think that just because you can't call me up on the telephone when your car breaks down, that I am any less of a Father to you than M.'s father is to her? Or than your group leader's father is to her?"
    This was followed by a question.  "Will you allow me to make you rooted and grounded in my love?"
    Those questions, and the assurance of His love that they gave,  stayed with me for years.
    How well I've allowed His love to seep into my heart, I don't know.
    But I do know two things happened not too long after that momentous heart-to-heart with my Abba.
    Without realizing it, I came to love my Bible study leader.  So much so that when she had to drop out of leadership because of all the demands of new motherhood, I had trouble accepting her absence and never quit wishing she would come back, even if only for the last week.  Clearly, God had done a work in my heart. She had a loving dad. I did too....:)
   The other event:  my car (what else?) broke down!
   I took it to this shop where the mechanics were skilled  but very worldly.  And as I was driving up to the shop, prepared to wait for who-knew-how-long for them to fix it so that I could get another whopping bill, who should I see leaving but another leader from BSF?   This Godly lady rolled down her window and shouted a greeting to me, asking me what I was doing there.  I told her that my car had broken down again and I had just spent $200.00 on it a month earlier and now I was probably looking at another big repair bill.
   This lady was bubbly and happy and faith-filled and to my surprise, she just leaned out of her car window and cheerily announced, "Well, we'll just pray and ask God to let this be a small, inexpensive repair job!!"  Behind her, I could see this jaded mechanic staring at us and as she talked, I could see the sardonic look on his face.  I thought, "Great!  Now that guy will probably add another hundred to my bill just to show that prayer doesn't work!!"
    I had to leave the car overnight so I called a friend to come and get me.
    The next day I went back to pick it up.  Total charge: $5.75.
     I thought I hadn't heard them right.
     But I had.  Out of all the previous car repair bills I had ever had, none had been cheaper than a hundred dollars.
    Just because I didn't have a dad that I could call up on a pay phone when my car broke down... didn't mean that I didn't have a dad....
    Psalm 68:5  "A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation.  God makes a home for the lonely..."

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