During our Christmas vacation, Jean and I packed the suitcases, planned the route, and piled into the minivan. Anticipation filled the air as the kids were strapped into their car seats like astronauts preparing for liftoff. With the house buttoned up, the mail stopped for a week, and a prayer for safety shared, off we went on a thousand mile journey to Jean’s parents’ home in Los Angeles.
Everything was going smoothly for a couple of hours . . . that is, until the first “Are We There Yet?” was uttered. In the old days, parents had to scramble for ways to occupy restless little ones. But in this age of electronics, we didn’t breakout into a panic. Instead, with an eye on a maintaining the peace for another 90 miles, we had two options in our arsenal: a selection of DVDs for the kids to watch on a portable player, and a collection of Adventures in Odyssey episodes on CD that would let Whit, Connie, Eugene and friends captivate the kiddos.
Our plan was to rotate between these two alternatives, while also engaging them in conversation and creative verbal games just to mix things up. Notice the key word: that was our plan.One problem. The power adapter for the DVD player was missing in action. Not good, although not fatal. We stopped and bought a 110v DC/converter thingy to plug into the auxiliary outlet. The kids were happy and we breathed a sigh of relief.
That issue resolved, our second problem surfaced en route. Before leaving, I knew that a heavy snow storm was predicted to hit Utah. Rather than take I-70w through the mountains into the pending storm, I planned to take I-25 south to New Mexico, then take I-40 west through Gallup, cut down through Peyson, Arizona and then to Phoenix and on into California. Key word: planned. With little warning, a freak snow storm heading toward Phoenix closed down the road.
We rolled–slid is more like it–Heber, Arizona. Thankful to have secured the last hotel room in town, with a blanket of snow now a foot deep, we hunkered down for the night. After a fitful night’s sleep, ready to get an early start to make up for lost time, I planned to prepare the minivan. You know, clearing the snow, packing up the gear, and warming up the engine.
Key word: planned.
Are you seeing a pattern here?
My first sign that all was not well occurred when I attempted to “beep” the car locks open. Nothing happened. Placing the key in the lock, I opened the door the old-fashioned way and then slipped behind the wheel. I closed the door, but noticed the overhead light remained lit. When I tried to start the engine, the battery was dead. Not good. Upset about this new disaster, I grumbled my way back to the room where the conversation went something like this:
“Jean, the car won’t start.” I huffed for emphasis.
“Yeah, the battery’s dead.” More huffing and puffing.
“Is that so? How come?”
“Someone left the dome light on all night.” Of course, my intonation implied that someone wasn’t me and wasn’t the kids, which left her. She was guilty as charged in my book. Refusing to be drawn into an argument, Jean said, “Well, I was just down there an hour ago and must have left the light on then. Sorry. But it wasn’t on all night, Jim.”
By the way she spoke my name, I knew she was insinuating I was being unreasonable. Fine. It was her fault and I knew it. Seeing that I wasn’t getting anywhere, needing to solve the mystery, I wandered back to the car. On my way, the thought crossed my mind that to drain the battery, it would take a lot more than a dome light left on for an hour. This time when I tried to crank the engine, I noticed the DVD adaptor was still tapping into the car’s electrical system.
I had found the culprit. I was busted.
I needed to apologize for being so quick to blame her. Returning to the room, embarrassed by the way I had jumped to conclusions, I said, “Hey, Jean, I think there’s another reason the car won’t start . . . I’m sorry.” Without saying a word, the biggest smile eased across her face.
Looking back on that experience, there’s a verse from Proverbs which comes to mind: “We may make our plans, but God has the last word” (16:1). In other words, God is ultimately in control. There are times when He adjusts our plans because He wants to protect us, prune something inside of us, or provide for us. Even though eating crow is never fun, I’m grateful that He patiently uses my circumstances to whittle away the parts of my life that prevent me from being more like Him.