God provides. I see that now. I have to tell you about two of my cars to give you an example of how.
When I was in college as a single mom, I drove an old Chevy Malibu. Ran great. However, rusty doesn’t begin to describe that old car. In fact, when my son was almost three, after seeing me do it a few days prior, he decided to wash the car without my knowledge. If you have ever been around a three-year-old, you know how fast they can act when out of your sight for a minute.
When he washed the car, the windows were all down. I had to take up all the carpet that was drenched and eventually stunk. We sat on towels for days. I discovered something pretty amazing, as far as my kids were concerned, when I ripped out that carpet. The floorboards were rusted completely through in the back seat. Holes about six inches in diameter were in both sides of the floor.
The kids loved it. They could watch the road fly by on our trips to Grandpa and Grandma’s. They could throw things out the floor as we drove along. I didn’t know that they were doing that right away but they thought it was fun until they got caught. The highlight was the time we went out to leave for school and there was a chipmunk in the car. Yup, climbed in through one of those holes. We had a heck of a time getting it back out. It was sure funny. We called that car our Flintstone car.
But sadly, that old green car met its end in an accident early in my last year of college. No one was hurt but you can imagine; a single mom with no money, no collision insurance because the car was so old it had no value, and hit by a car with an owner who blew through a stop sign, had no insurance and no money. Not a good day!
Enter the worst car buying decision of my life. I took my younger brother with me to help me choose a new used car. I chose a car lot that sold the type of car I could afford, cheap, really cheap.
I had $1,000 to spend from my student loan for that semester. It was my last semester before my student teaching. I would have to drive about 50 miles each way to the school I had been assigned to for student teaching. I needed a dependable car. My kids would be in daycare early and late and I had no family in that town to pick them up if my car broke down.
So, enter the Chevy Citation. It was the right size for me and my three kids. It looked good, no rust. It was the right price. Just $,1000. That salesman seemed to know exactly what I needed. One problem, it was a standard transmission (stick shift) and I didn’t know how to drive one. I knew I was smart enough to figure it out though. My brother could do the test drive.
The car was covered with ice and snow in the lot. Windows were scraped off enough to be legal and we drove away. Not bad. Drives OK. Went back to the dealer and bought the car and my brother drove it away. Then gave me a few driving lessons. And off I went back to my home. I can’t remember if it was a 4 speed or 5 speed but you get the picture.
Well, within a week I knew I had been taken. Here’s what I learned about that car. It had a crack the entire length of the front windshield. Ice had covered it up. It had no parking brakes, pretty important with a standard transmission. It had no catalytic converter, had in fact been bypassed by the prior owner. And two weeks later it had no second gear. The first three things were safety issues and the dealer had to fix them. The transmission though, that was my problem. Now, I don’t know that God chose that exact car with all those problems. I do know He used that car with all its problems to teach me some valuable lessons.
Learning to drive a stick shift is a challenge, learning to drive a stick shift with no second gear, well, I can’t think of any word bigger than challenge but it was bigger for sure.
I learned how to speed shift. I didn’t know I could be so cool! I didn’t know that was cool. I learned that if you took too long to get it into gear at a stop sign, you could get hit by the person behind you who thought you were long gone, twice! I learned it was really hard to speed shift from a dead stop on a hill. I learned you could roll all the way down that hill before you got it in the next gear. I also learned that the driver of the car behind you will be glad to back down the hill as well.
I learned to never drive on busy streets, to go around them instead. I learned to avoid towns with hills. Oh, the adventures of that car.
I had that car towed to the shop more times than I think I have in all the years and cars since. I don’t remember how I paid for it all but somehow I did. Probably more of my student loan went into the car.
I had some laughs with that car and I had frustrations for sure. One memory stands out though. I had to have the car towed to the shop yet again. My kids were in school and I was supposed to be but the car wouldn’t start again. I sat at the mechanic’s while they worked on my car. I watched the receptionist leave the building, walk to her car, get in and drive away. And I cried. As the tears streamed down my face, I remember thinking, “She has no idea how lucky she is to have a car she can just get in and know it will start for her. She just takes it for granted.” At that time, I doubted I would ever be as lucky as she was. I had been months without a dependable car at this point.
I drove that car for about two years. Finished school, moved to where I still live today, started a new job, and as soon as I could replaced it. But in those two years, I had learned to drive that car up steep hills without backing down them and I could drive on busy streets too. I gained confidence in my ability to drive a stick shift. I survived all those times of having to have it towed. My kids and I were never in danger because it wouldn’t start, although I remember standing in the grocery store in below zero temps waiting for the tow truck. I learned I was tougher than I thought and I had a determination that amazes me today.
For my kids and me, those two cars bring back funny memories. Looking back at all the trouble I had with that Citation, all the tears, frustration, embarrassment and anger at the dealer who sold me that piece of junk, and the naïve fool I was to buy it, God still provided. He still made sure I had the transportation I needed to finish my degree, to move and to get a new job. He provided the funds I needed to keep it drivable.
I drove to my student teaching school every day in a crappy little car with no second gear. I drove it 100 miles to a new home. I drove it to and from work. Because that was God’s plan for me at that time. I didn’t see His provision and certainly didn’t rest in it. Looking back, I see how He did take care of us. If only I had seen it then. Instead of crying, maybe I would have just quietly sat at the mechanic’s doing homework, knowing the Lord had me covered. How much peace I could have had! With that peace probably would have come more laughter instead of tears.
Being able to see His provision back then helps me look for and see His provision today. He has a plan for each of us and within our plans, He always provides exactly what we need. We can rest in that. I can laugh knowing my junk car experience is a bump in the road, not the end of the road. Those bumps teach us to depend on God and trust that He cares enough to take care of us. I can look back and chuckle and say I hope to never again own a standard transmission vehicle and I can say it with a twinkle in my eyes and a smile. And I can know that if I ever have to drive one again, I CAN do it. God took a junk car experience and turned it into a learning and leaning opportunity with some humor added in.
So, what’s your junk car experience and how can you see God acting through and in it? Praise the Lord that He does.