"Hey, Babe ~ the gas light is on," I casually mention from the passenger seat.
"What? OK, well, I think there's an exit coming up," he replies.
He NEVER lets the gas light come on. That's more my style. ;-)
I push the mode button on the digital screen that will give us our DTE ~ Distance-To-Empty.
We are hurrying home from an annual denominational meeting, in order to see our friend and fellow church member, Lynda, who has just tragically lost her son, Josh ~ another friend and sister-church member. She called us the day before to let us know he was gone. It was a bitter shock, but not totally unexpected. It had been hoped against, prayed against, but now was painful reality. The church had already rallied in our absence, but we wanted to be there, needed to lend a hand in the details.
"I think there is an exit just around this bend," Robert spoke confidently.
DTE ~ 6 miles.
We are on the Massachusetts Turnpike, and it is not known for its frequent exits. In fact, you are hard pressed to see anything that resembles civilization on this turnpike, because of the trees and mountains. Twice I've had to drive almost all the way to the New York border, because I missed the Westfield exit and all the warning signs that there would not be another exit for 30 miles. It's not like driving on I-35 in Texas where you can SEE the gas station signs and billboards shooting up from their locations, where you can just glance to the left or the right and easily observe all of your restaurant options and count the number of Starbucks'. No, no visual reassurance that we are anywhere near fuel, just trees with the rusty fall colors that occur right before they are gone for the winter. And no exit around this bend, just a big hill to climb looming in front of us.
DTE ~ 4 miles.
"Lord, please have mercy on us. Don't let us run out of gas on the Masspike," Robert prays as he begins to experience more anxiety, because at this point we can SEE nearly 4 miles straight ahead of us on the highway lined with its hedge and barrier trees. (Not that I'm complaining. I'd rather have fall rusty colored trees and evergreens than billboards any day. Well, except for today.)
DTE ~ 2 miles
Our hearts begin skipping beats, and Robert laments aloud, "Why didn't I sign up for AAA last week when their invitation came in the mail? What do you do when you run out of gas on the turnpike? Is there an emergency number to call or something? We are NOT going to make it."
DTE ~ 0 miles
The approaching green exit sign says that the next exit is 2 miles away. We hold our breath and brace for the sensation of a sputtering engine, as we climb yet another hill. This is looking ominous, but at least 2 miles is a walk-able distance.
DTE ~ 0 miles
The monitor continues to read 0 miles for at least 2 more miles as we approach the exit. We swirl around the exit loop and coast effortlessly into the Shell station and right up to the pump, our bundled nerves beginning to unwind.
"This is just like our life," I breathe out in frustrated relief, and almost in tears now that relief has been provided. "We live like this ALL of the time ~ from one drama or trial or burden to another ~ never having time to refuel ~ fearing that we're 'not going to make it' because we're out of time, money, energy, compassion...."
"I know," he replies, "but this is going to be a wonderful illustration for the Leviticus sermon tomorrow."
And in spite of my not wanting to have stress for the sake of sermons, it was indeed a perfect illustration. The sermon was about having an abundance mentality and not a scarcity mentality. And we're not talking about the "name it-claim it ~ my-God-wants-me-to-drive-a-Lexus" mentality, but rather an outlook that doesn't fear being generous with what you may view as very limited resources. "God doesn't give us a big pile of money, and a big pile of time, and a big pile of energy, and then ask us to go and serve and give generously," Robert explained to the congregation the next day, "He asks us to be generous by trusting in His abundance."
"Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord Your God."
Leviticus 19: 9-10
We were obviously out of gas, but we were still able to drive the amount of miles it took to get to the Shell station and fill up again. It was a picture of His provision for us when, by all appearances, it seemed like we had nothing left.
It is a fact that we have, indeed, been living this way for quite some time now, and we have come, several times, to the point where we did not think we were going to make it ~ emotionally, financially, physically. I have thought often of the words of Paul...
"For even when we came to Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within..."
2 Corinthians 7:5
Oh, it has not been so terrible! There have been SO many joys, but it has also been constant and intense, and we've felt the effects of this rather acutely in the last 3 years ~ no rest for our flesh, conflicts, fears, and afflictions.
So.....we're going take some time for intentional rest and refueling soon. Our church has really come together on our behalf, and is sending us off on a 3 month sabbatical. We are so overwhelmed with gratitude, and SO ready to "unplug" for a time. And it seems to have come at just in time, as the last 2 months have been fraught with griefs and burdens we did not see coming and wondered how we would have the stamina to walk through, especially in our anticipation of rest. I hope I don't sound too whiny when I tell you that we are just plain weary.
We leave in 10 days ~ hurray!
So eager, so grateful for yet another abundant provision by a generous God.