Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Provision, Protection, and the Harbinger

We survived camp.

Just barely.

Let me explain.

I have a twenty year old Jeep Cherokee Sport named The Harbinger who has the proud title of "first car". Ever since I started driving her, people have criticized my jeep for being beat up, dirty, run down, trashy, broken, and worthy of being driven off a cliff and collected as insurance money.

I suppose in a lot of ways, all of that is correct.

But part of me feels emotionally attached to the jeep.
Not just because she's my first car, but because we have so much in common.

Broken.
Dirty.
Run-down.
Unworthy.

but at the same time

Sturdy.
Experienced.
Repaired.
Reliable.
Comfortable.
Loved.

So in a lot of ways, I'm a lot like my rugged old girl.

Anyways! Every time I make the executive decision to take my jeep somewhere further than Walmart, the comments, jokes, and doubts of her integrity begin crawling out of the woodwork. I'm not arguing the validity of these concerns and doubts, but I would argue that all of these presented concerns are due to a lacking of faith her twenty year record of reliability and the fact that the other vehicles driving to camp are exponentially younger and cleaner

and you guys are mean poopy heads.

I am fully aware that the driver side door does not open, thank you. Yes, I do know that the trunk door must be propped open with a broom handle. The fact that the headlights point to one side is something I am aware of. She doesn't leak oil: she marks her territory. I do recognize the fact that the foam in my seats has begun to disintegrate: it makes them softer. The tint is peeling off? I do drive it everyday: I noticed, thanks. I lived in Phoenix while her air conditioning was broken. You don't have to bring that up. I know the speedometer only goes to 85 mph. You shouldn't be going faster then 75 mph!

They always have to point out every problem and flaw that she has.

Why don't they ever say stuff like "Whoa! Your jeep has the straight six! That's the best engine Chrysler ever made! It was based off of the engine that they put in the F4U Corsair fighter plane!" or "It's cool to see a car as old as yours driving around such an uppity side of town." or even "Dude, sweet car."

But I'm just being sensitive and emotional.

I picked up a cold at camp, and I just took some NyQuil, so I'm feeling a little loopy.

The day before our four hour drive to camp, I was underneath the hood, elbow deep in mechanical history and transmission fluid, tightening nuts and checking fluids. I checked the lines and levels of everything that could be filled and tightened everything that could be loosened. It was a good six hours of working on the old girl and cleaning her up to impress.

After six hours, she stood in all her scratched and dented magnificence, glistening in the sun light, ready to conquer the trek to the happiest place on Earth: camp.

The next day, at ten o clock in the morning beside a Dodge Charger and Ford Focus, the Harbinger was packed and ready to roll.

She performed beautifully, carrying three youth and eighty pounds of luggage from Las Vegas to Prescott. Once we got to the dirt road, I felt her old soul jump for joy in exultation at returning to where she belonged.
Dusty back roads and nature are the soul of any true jeep.

She had proven herself once again.

The Harbinger is a tangible representation of faith and providence.

After a successful and encouraging weekend, we began our trip home.

But something was wrong.

Usually stepping on the accelerator was a smooth crescendo of liger-esque purring, but this was more like the grinding and moaning of a five year old Macbook. I looked down at her dash board, and the oil pressure needle was slowly rising without stop until it ran in to the screw that held the gauge in place.

My phone rings.

"Hello?"
"Hey Nate. I'm right behind you, and I want you to know that there is white smoke coming out from under your car."

Uh oh.

Twenty eight miles east of Kingman, our miniature convoy of camp kids is stopped on the side of I-40, gazing in mortified wonder at the billowing bleeding beast that is the Harbinger.

Smoke pours out from underneath as her vital essence spills upon the cracked asphalt, filling the gaps with oil.

And for a moment, I prepared my heart to say goodbye.

I pop the hood and look inside. all of her oil had been pouring out from underneath for the last twenty five miles leaving her dry and unlubricated. The white smoke was the burning oil. Under the hood, I found her mortal wound. a small piece that was pouring out oil like it was designed to.

We began juggling ideas.

Call a tow truck? -- $300 and two hours: Nope

Roadside assistance? -- Call a tow truck: Nope.

Call the parents and ask them to come get their kids from the side of the road? -- Nope.

It quickly became clear that our best option was to throw a quart of oil in and limp her to Kingman as fast as possible. From there we can either rent a car or get her fixed.

The longer we wait, the more oil we were losing.

Let's ride...

It was the slowest and the fastest twenty eight miles I had ever driven. Google maps was taking me straight to an AutoZone that was right off of the interstate in Kingman.

When we "arrived out our destination", there was no AutoZone. It had shut down and moved years back, and Google maps was not informed. A dead end. and the Harbinger wasn't going to make it back to Las Vegas without a fix.

"What about over there?" Michael suggested. I looked across the street and saw a run-down, dusty little gas station that was slowly being choked to death by the Circle K across the street. Part of the gas station was an even more run down looking mechanic shop that was run out of the gas station. What other option did we have?

I limped the Harbinger to the front of the mechanic shop and called out for the mechanic.

No reply. The office was empty. The lights were off. I decided to go inside the tiny gas station and see if I could get some help. The lady inside matched the gas station perfectly; old, dusty, small, quiet. She tells me that the mechanic is out front filling a propane tank.

I never did catch his name.

He pops the hood and looks around.

"Ahjes ah seez wuss rung. Wheary simple."

Simple? I think I heard simple in there!

"Ehs jurr awl zendoong yoont."

Ah... I see. Sooooooo you can fix it?

"Jess, jess, bah erh ned uh noo  awl zendoong yoont."

A what?

"Awl zendoong yoont."

Oil sending unit?

"Jess"

I turn to talk to Michael for a moment, and when I turn around, my old oil sending unit is off and being wiped off and put to the side. Michael takes his Focus to the nearest AutoZone to buy a new oil sending unit.

I turn and look at my kids who are praying for the Harbinger and the mechanic. Faith in action. I am so proud of them.

Michael comes back after ten minutes and the mechanic installs the new unit in less than a minute. He looks around and grabs four quarts of oil and starts pouring them in the engine.

"Jurr wone ned n awl chunj 'ntym soon."

I laugh when he laughs and nod. We walk inside the gas station and he starts punching numbers in a calculator.

"Lussee eer. Hmmmm mgay mgay yerp *unintelligible garble* n wit da fur karts uh awl, forty dollars."

Forty dollars? Did he just say forty dollars?

"Yerp. Forty Dollars."

I hand the man forty dollars and start up the jeep. Flawless. She's healed.

We make it home before the end of the super bowl and we all lived happily ever after.

I don't have a deep theological observation to draw out of this anecdote.

God provides, protects, and intercedes everyday. God is not a distant on-looker: He is active and working all around us all the time.

In this whole adventure, I never once doubted that God would deliver and get the students home safely. I guess some of my own lessons stuck with me. I remember looking over my shoulder at Elijah and saying "God is sovereign. This is all part of His plan."

It's encouraging and comforting knowing that in all the universe in its infinite beauty and magnificence, the creator of time and matter loves me and cares about me. He kept us safe on the road, he brought us to the right mechanic, and worked in the mechanic's heart to help out a pathetic youth director. God is good, and I am loved. No matter how dirty, how broken, how worn out, how dysfunctional, how damaged I might be, I am loved.



Nate T B