Here is the sequel to last week’s story, “God in the Dark: Theory,” which took place seven years ago while I was taking SoulStream’s Art of Spiritual Direction course.
After my spiritual direction session in class, I felt light. That picture of Jesus holding me in the darkness changed everything. He was not outside my problems, living in their solutions, but with me in each and every one of my predicaments. What a wonderful thought to consider during my bike ride home from Abbotsford on a warm evening in June.
Five kilometres into my ride I got a flat tire. I groaned, turned Gracie upside down and got out a spare inner tube. But the spare wouldn’t inflate, and the one that was flat wouldn’t hold air long enough for me to find the hole and patch it. I phoned Fred at work. He couldn’t think of anything else to do but said he’d call back after he checked the bus routes. I tried inflating the spare tube again and again, but the flat rubber wouldn’t respond. The stupid tube didn’t seem to care that it was six o’clock, and I was sixty kilometres from home.
I waved at passing cars. The upturned bike and my small stature worked in my favor. The third car stopped. A middle-aged man and his wife were returning home from a wedding. They took me to the bus loop. But when we got there, the bus running west was finished for the day.
The man tapped his finger on the steering wheel while he thought. “If you submerge the tube in water, then you could find the hole.”
It was worth a try. I waved goodbye to the couple and headed to a restroom at the gas station across the street. I stuffed a paper towel into the drain hole of the tiny sink and filled it with water while trying to pump up the inner tube and locate the hiss before the tube deflated. Meanwhile, Fred phoned a couple of times with more sympathy than advice. Each time I stopped to speak to him, the water drained away and so did my patience.
But the morning’s experience was not forgotten. I knew God was with me while I grouched at Fred and got mad at the tube. And I knew God could read my body language which quite clearly said, Make yourself useful, will you?
Over at the gas pump, a man in his thirties returned the nozzle to its holder and put the gas cap on a new silver pickup. I left Gracie propped up against the restroom door and ran over to plead for a lift.
“We can take you as far as Mount Lehman Road, if that helps,” he told me.
“Sure,” I replied even though it was only a few kilometres away.
He put my bike in the truck, and I hopped in next to an empty infant car seat.
“You’ve got a baby,” I said to the woman in the passenger seat in front of me.
“A little girl, three months old, and boys, two and five,” she replied. “This is the first time my husband and I have been out alone since our daughter was born.”
“I’m ruining your date night!”
“Not at all,” they replied.
She thought a cab to Langley would cost twenty bucks. He thought fifty. After he made a few phone calls, we found out he was right.
“That’s way too much money,” she said. “Why don’t we have dinner in Langley?”
“Whatever you say,” he replied.
I offered to pay for their gas, but they wouldn’t take my money. Neither would the driver of the #501 bus to Surrey Central. He must have noticed there was no tire on one wheel when I secured Gracie to the front of his bus. As soon as I got on board, he handed me a transfer and said, “This one’s on me.”
The bus meandered through Langley and finally arrived at Surrey Central Skytrain station forty minutes later.
“I’ve met some kind and generous people today,” I said to the driver before the bus came to a stop, “and you’re one of them. Thanks a lot.”
“My pleasure,” he said.
Half an hour later, I was home.
The next morning, Fred inspected the spare inner tube for less than a minute before he recognized it wasn’t defective. I just hadn’t pushed hard enough on the valve to open it.
What a simple solution! Just like the time I was locked in the curing room when I was a kid, all I had to do was push harder to get out of trouble. Both times God could have told me this but didn’t. Now I knew that it wasn’t because God didn’t want to help me out of my darkness, but because I needed to find God in it.
I have spent most of my life trying to get out of dark places like depression, problems, or a myriad of uncomfortable feelings. I always thought that if I could figure out how to push open the door and get out, happiness would be just outside. As a result, life became “a series of problems to be solved instead of mysteries to be lived.”
I must have heard that pathetically proverbial line a dozen times. But I never understood it until Jesus flicked on the light, and I found God with me in the dark.
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Love Mischief for the World
“God led me to start a community garden at our church and now there are 30 garden plots where neighbours grow vegetables for their families. They also meet each other and build community. So God and I are loving the land and loving people.”–Nancy Bailey, Surrey, B.C.