Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Desert Perspective

I was headed for a writers’ conference in northern Philadelphia last August, when I realized I had better start thinking about stopping for gas. I have a strange gas gauge in my car. It stays on full for a long time, then starts a rapidly accelerating descent on its way to empty. By the time it hits ¼ tank, I have very little gas left; I think I probably get twenty miles from ¼ tank to empty. On this trip I had been very preoccupied with all of my conference preparations and hadn’t given much thought to the car. Now I was driving on the Maryland eastern shore, No Man’s Land, with the gas light lit up. Not a good situation.

Normally when I get gas, I am fussy about where I stop. My gas stations of choice are well-lit, clean, possess a dependable brand name, and let me pay by card at the pump. A nice place to buy a Diet Coke doesn’t hurt, either. But as I drove the lonely stretch of road, I began to feel desperate. Mile after mile passed without a sign of human life. I was in trouble. It was a wickedly hot day, the hottest it had been all year. I turned off the air conditioning to conserve fuel. Now I was sweating. And more nervous by the minute. Lord, please, a gas station, I prayed. Any gas station.

Soon the gas gauge was resting solidly on empty. Any minute now, and I would feel the motor down-shift and my car coast slowly to a halt. I would be stranded on a deserted road in the hot afternoon sun, which was baking the air to one hundred plus degrees. I didn’t even have a water bottle.

Suddenly a small sign appeared on the horizon. As I drew closer, I saw to my extreme relief that it sported a gas station icon. I took the exit. There was a sign to point me in the right direction, or at least what I hoped was the right direction. I drove several long miles of a deserted back road (by now in sheer terror) until I came to a tiny crossroads. Four houses, and . . . a gas station! Was it open? It was! I almost wept with relief. It looked like Joe’s Gas Station and Storm Door Company, but I didn’t care. I was so happy to see that pump.

I probably would have turned my nose up at that station if my options were open. But clearly at that moment this little station was the best thing I had seen in a long time. Funny how our circumstances can totally dictate how we feel about things!

David, in fear for his life, spent years hiding in the desert from his enemies. At some point he penned Psalm 63: “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” You have to wonder if David would have been able to seek God with such intensity if he had been resting on pillows in the cool palace, surrounded by servants, food, and drink. The sparseness of his supplies, the fear of being killed, and the discomfort of forever sleeping on the ground in the elements wore on him. He was in need, so he sought the Lord.

Isn’t that true for us, too? How quickly we forget to seek God when things are going well. How easy it is to rely on our own strength! Yet God desires an intimate relationship with us! So He brings things into our lives that remind us we need Him. And we are drawn to the Throne of Grace, forced to acknowledge we only thought we were self-sufficient. And as we once again hand over the reins, we are right where we should be once more.

1 comment:

Dudley's resident human said...

You have a great way of finding everyday illustrations that illuminate the biblical texts!