After you read the title for this entry, you probably have the sneaking suspicion that I am crazy. I will make no effort here to dispute that suspicion. After all, who enjoys flat tires? They are the bane of the traveller’s existence, inconveniencing the otherwise smooth transit by automobile from one point to another. Yet, I do love flat tires.
I need to explain: I do not enjoy changing tires. It is, rather, the things that have happened in my life as a direct or indirect result of flat tires that I love. Here are some brief examples:
1. It was May of 1995, and I was enrout from Juazeiro do Norte, Brazil, to the city of Fortaleza–about an eight hour trip. I was travelling as part of a convoy which included three cars. Between the three cars that day we had six flat tires! The eight hours stretched into twelve. The last flat tire we had was just outside the city. The ladies and children went on to our destination, while some of the men went to find a rubber shop. That left myself, Mark Willson, and his son Jonathan, to stay by the disabled vehicle. We began to discuss how great our God is, and what a privilege it is to be in His service.
Before long, we were singing the old chorus “Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever any tie, save the one that binds me to thy love. Oh Jesus my Lord, I dedicate my life, Lord to thee.” A flat tire had turned into a full fleged praise service. I would not trade that experience for all the radials in the world!
2. Fast forward to June of 2003. My wife Itacyara, my son Mike, and myself were traveling from Florida to have a summer full of meetings in New York. We pulled in to Lexington, VA to spend the night, and upon exiting the vehicle I noticed that (you guessed it) the tire was flat. Grumbling about the inconvenience, I put on the spare and then we continued to our hotel room. The next day found us seeing some sights in Lexington (Virginia Military Institute, The Military History museum, etc) and waiting for the tire shop to install the new tire.
As I was paying for the tire, I noticed that my wife was talking to a man behind me–the typical kind of man you would expect to find hanging around a tire shop in old Virginia. Then, to my utter surprise, I found that they were talking in Portuguese! Remember that Lexington, VA is the home of Stonewall Jackson, and there is virtually no sign of a latin, much less Brazilian, community there. Yet here was my wife speaking to this gentleman in perfect Portuguese. Upon further investigation we found that he was the son of a former missionary to Brazil, and was currently teaching Latin American History at a local university. Those things don’t just happen! As we continued on our way, we wondered at God’s sovereignty of organizing that meeting (which otherwise would never have taken place) by giving us a flat tire.
3. Which brings us to yesterday. The tires on the right side of my vehicle have been soft for awhile. I have been meaning to get them checked, but have not gotten around to it. I have been letting them go. The consequences of this procrastination were felt yesterday as I backed out of my folk’s driveway. The familiar “thump thump” let me know that, once again, I was to experience the joys of a flat tire. After changing the tire (and cleaning the grease off my hands and arms) I ruefully reflected that this might not have happened had not I cared for my tires properly. It was then that God gently pointed to several areas of my life and relationship with Him that were being ignored. With my car, I was so intent on getting from point “a” to point “b” that I ignored the proper maintainence. In my Christian walk, I have been so intent on getting to Brazil (where I know God wants us) that some important maintainence steps (prayer, sleep, time with family) have been falling by the wayside. Frankly, I am glad God was willing to sacrifice one of my radials for the benefit of my spiritual growth.
The other day I received an update from a missionary friend of mine who is also on deputation. He is almost ready to go to the field, and in his letter he was recounting God’s blessings to him and his family during the course of the past few months. He mentioned that not once did they have a flat tire. I rejoice with him at God’s provision in his life, and yet I wouldn’t trade places with him. If I did, I would be missing out on some of the greatest blessings of God in my life! I love flat tires!