One of my all time favorite Far Side cartoons is the one where there’s a guy pushing a wheelbarrow full of rocks in a hell-fire and brimstone sweatshop. He’s in this whistle while you work mode as devilish figures are standing off to the side talking. The caption read something like: “You know, we’re really not getting through to this guy.”
A recent experience reminded me of that particular imagery. I have a very long driveway in a mountainous area. Parts of it are relatively stable on a bed of stone while a delivery of large rocks is blocking other parts. The construction has been going on for years and I usually enjoy living on the canvas with all its challenges.
This week started out with lots of rain in the forecast and, with a pile of rocks blocking part of the driveway, turning the car around can be a problem. At my place, when you’re not driving on stone, you’re driving on clay that’s really slippery when wet. I arrived home just as the rain was starting and got the car stuck in the mud. I thought to myself: “No problem, I’ll yank it out using the truck.”
The truck is four-wheel drive and, of course, one gets a certain sense of invincibility while driving it. I got partly deflated when I also got the truck stuck. But, as one never willing to admit defeat, I thought: “No problem, I have a winch!” It was one of those cool ones with a wireless remote control and I was dying to try it out. I chocked the wheels so the truck couldn’t roll or slide further down the hill, put it in neutral, and attached the winch cable to the straps I had wrapped around a huge tree.
I stood there with a big smile while using the remote control to pull the truck out of the mud and onto the gravely part of the driveway. My humility lesson came when the winch broke. The truck rolled down the hill, pushing the chocks through the mud as it crashed into the car. I looked to the sky and said: “Glad I could be of some entertainment value.” Actually, that’s not what I said. And I’m not going to share what I did say. I did however look at the sky. It was getting much rainier and the ground was getting slipperier so, knowing I was well past the point of diminishing returns, I decided to take a nap.
As I awoke I was already thinking about next steps, I did a food inventory. I also wondered if I had become a source of amusement for our angels. I thought about Jesus and his admonition to “Be of good cheer.” I’ve always thought he must have a great sense of humor. I also love being around those with a pioneering spirit. One popular statement was meant as an expression of encouragement for those taking on a wide variety of difficult tasks. I am certain Jesus appreciates the can-do attitude that moves those who rise to face any given challenge, and especially the line: “Well, if Jesus tarries and the creek don’t rise . . .” After Hurricane Fred, and the tropical storm that preceded it, any reference to a rising creek is especially resonant here in Western North Carolina.
I have another good friend that helped me free my truck. As for the car, it’s covered with the mud that was thrown on it by the spinning wheels of the truck. I’m content with letting the rain wash off the mud. And now I’m also content with just waiting for the rain to end and for the ground to dry. It is that feeling of contentment that freed me from impatience. Another friend, after reading about my experience with the car and the truck wrote: “There’s a parable in there somewhere.”
Indeed. The experience reminded me of a statement by the Apostle Paul. For he said: “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” And there was more to Paul’s statement for he went on to say: “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Sometimes the secret to facing our challenges is just a prayer or phone call away. Those who live on the canvas, in rugged terrain, help each other out as needed. I could have gotten a ride to the grocery store at any time through the power of friendship. Sometimes our angels stand back, and let those who refuse to act on their light of truth learn lessons the hard way. In my case the comedy show resulted in minor cosmetic damage to material possessions. From a spiritual perspective, I also knew, in advance, that the rain would stop, the ground would dry out, and I would regain traction in the near future.