I was a little down in the dumps a few days last week, and the silly thing is it all came about because my car was having some problems. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am frugal. There are very few things I will pay full price for and when big expenses come up, I literally feel pain in my chest at the thought of having to spend money.
My children wear hand-me-down clothes, my husband borrows tools from my dad instead of buying them, and I find things to add to the comfort of our lives through sales and sometimes the occasional garage-sale. When it comes to mechanical problems with cars, plumbing and other necessary items, I cringe at the cost of what it will take to fix such things.
Luckily, I have a mechanic friend of my dad’s who will work on my car for half the price of everyone else. Last week when my van (that is just 4 years old) had a power-steering fluid leak making it impossible for me to turn my wheel, I had no choice but to get it fixed. It took 15 hours to fix and cost me $500 alone in parts which I HAD to purchase from the dealer since NO auto place carried them. Thankfully my mechanic charged me less than $200 in labor. He must have felt sorry for me!
Well, with $700 out the door in a day, my head hung low as I sulked around the house and spoke in a sad tone feeling a little depressed.
When my mechanic was done, he informed me that there was a light that had been on that I needed to get taken care of and he couldn’t fix it. It was the airbag light blinking (the little red light in the picture). He said there was no way of getting around it; I had to take my car in to the dealership.
I knew this couldn’t be good and was hoping for an easy fix. I went there early the next morning and for them just to diagnose the problem would cost $100. After an hour of walking with the children at the out-door mall across the street waiting for our only form of transportation that two car-seats fit in, I finally got the call. There is a faulty wire and it will cost $1600 to fix. The pain in my chest grew at every word this man spoke. I hung up the phone to begin my trek back to see him in person and my head hung a little lower.
I got there and we discussed other options, but none existed for this problem, and my warranty ran out 10,000 miles ago. If I didn’t fix it, an airbag could deploy at any moment or could not deploy in an accident. I spoke with my dad and he made sure they did all they could to reset it, which they did with no luck. The guy tried to get me to trade in my car for another car as the solution, but after the discussion I saw that it would mean higher car payments. At that point I chose to reveal to him all that had happened to me during child-birth to illustrate to him that I must keep my car payment the same as all the rest goes towards medical bills and family expenses. After I told my story, I felt no more pressure to buy another car as he truly understood where I was coming from. He himself had children the same age as mine and one of his wife’s deliveries did not go so well leaving them with major medical bills to pay.
With the car having to be fixed the two days before, and me leaving for a trip to Minnesota a few days later, I felt stressed. Everything about me felt warm. I was sweating and my body felt like it had the weight of 100 extra pounds on it. I tried to hold back, but it didn’t work and I broke down. I wish I had more strength and control over my emotions, but it seems that after waking from death, they have a mind of their own. So, there I was in a car dealership surrounded by strangers, crying—more like sobbing. It was the thing I pictured some college girl doing to try to get them to feel sorry for her. I on the other hand was not doing it to manipulate; it was just a weak, humiliating moment…spurred on by having to spend money and too many things coming at me all at once. I wanted to go curl up in a ball and wallow in self-pity, but my sweet children who were at their brink began to cry and whine from this already long morning. I turned away from the man so he wouldn’t see me cry, but I’m sure he heard it and saw my back shaking from the crying. Truly, I tried to hide it, but there really was nowhere to hide in this place.
I finally pulled myself together and turned back in his direction. He wasn’t there. I looked around for him and then saw him exit a manager’s office. With a note of pity in his voice he said, “We are going to take $300 off since It’s been a rough couple of days for you.” (And I’m betting he meant a rough year).
When we walked back to my car, he asked me, “Did what happen to you make your faith stronger?” Hearing his sincere interest, I turned my focus from my car and the money I would have to spend to fix it to the miracle God blessed me with just a little over a year ago. I said, “Well, yes, but it was already pretty strong. I actually speak to youth about the Lord. That is what I do for a living.” His eyes brightened and he said in a sad tone, “I used to be a youth pastor.” As he said it, I could tell that his sad tone came from a loss of faith as we continued to chat. As I pulled things from my car to transfer them to another vehicle, I had one of my books and showed him. He took it from me and read the back. I saw he was interested, so I gave him the latest edition of Envoy magazine he could keep that detailed the story. When I gave it to him, I said, “You should share the story with your wife, too.”
Then he told me how his wife had cheated on him with someone from their church and they were separated recently. He said he has had a rough time lately. It looked like he was getting very teary-eyed, and I could see into his suffering. I said, “Here I am making such a big deal about my car, feeling so sad and depressed about it, when your heartache is far worse than a few dollars I have to spend.” He looked at me and smiled knowing that I understood he was truly hurting.” Then I said, “This is a hard time for you and it happened at your church. I could see how that would make you lose your faith a bit, but try to separate it from your relationship with God. Don’t let that slip.”
I wanted to sit down with him and talk longer, but at this point both Ella and Brady had been seated in my mom’s car, both crying at the top of their lungs, and there was no time left to talk. I left and hoped he would read about the miracle and find his own bit of hope in his suffering.
When I shut the door, I told my mom what happened and she and I both shook our heads in agreement that God may have needed my car to break to be able to meet this man who is suffering and share with him about the miracle of my survival, the power of prayer, and God’s great mercy.
It was at that moment reality set in for me about my silliness in being depressed about my loss of money. I have my husband, my children, my family and my LIFE and even if we have to walk everywhere or lose a big chunk of money in the course of three days, having them and God is enough for me.
I walked away being grateful for the opportunity to share my heart with this stranger and to have him share his heart with me; something that wouldn’t have happened unless my car broke down. And, God knew—He knew the only way I would take my car to a dealer was if it had to do with a safety issue! God will provide for my financial loss and if He wills it, He will restore it in a heartbeat. If He can wake me from the dead—this is nothing for Him!
As for the man at the car dealership, his suffering is far worse than mine. His sharing helped remind me to not worry about money so much. The truth is if I can’t take it to Heaven with me, then it can’t be my priority!