Zero Miles to Empty Tank
I hug my husband, say good-bye, and head out in my car toward a friend’s home. Time for tea and conversation. I’m distracted by the activities of the day, but I finally look down at the gauges on the dashboard. The gas tank message reads “zero miles to empty tank.” Panic strikes.
I exit the freeway. An area I don’t know—an industrial district. I drive a few miles, away from the freeway. Not a gas station in sight. The voice of fear, a voice I know well, begins the parade of “what ifs.” What if I run out of gas? What if the car dies right here? What if . . .
Fear creeps in and grips me. Finally, I spot what looks like a gas station and pull in. It’s a commercial station. No gas for the public. Still “zero miles to empty tank.”
I ask a man, who is sitting in the cab of a garbage truck, whether he knows where the closest station is. He “thinks” maybe a mile farther down the road.
Off I go. “God, please let me get there.”
The man in the garbage truck was right. I spot the station ahead on my left. And, I make it there. Safely.
As I wait for the attendant to fill the tank, I tip my head back and close my eyes. I soak in the sunlight and feel the fear slowly drain out of my body. It becomes a puddle on the floor. I am free of it. I thank the Giver for getting me here. I feel thankful for the man in the garbage truck.
I feel foolish.
I wonder, why do I ever fear? This “zero miles to empty tank”-event, even if I had run out of gas would have been inconsequential. I might have missed out on tea with my friend. I might have inconvenienced my husband or needed to call on a stranger for help. Things would have been fine—actually, I might have enjoyed a fun, spontaneous, little adventure. It might not have been my plan, but perhaps I needed a diversion.
You promise to care for me. You care for the sparrows and all of creation. You, the Giver of all.
And yet, I fear. Sometimes, it creeps in, slowly–unnoticed at first and then overwhelming. Other times, fear grips me. It makes it hard to breathe. It paralyzes me. “I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” Job 3:26, NIV
What do I really fear? That day in my car, I feared the unknown—the what ifs. The lack of control. I fear solitude in moments of crisis. Alone with no one to help. I fear asking for help.
But You are there. You comfort me. You provide.
When I face the unknown and fear paralyzes me, I turn to You and fear falls away. But, it creeps back.
I think, I lack faith. Why can’t I stay focused on You? Why do I let fear creep in? Why don’t I trust you enough. Oh ye of little faith.
I think about how I turn to my husband to comfort me. I look to others to help me through. I find comfort from their words and assurance. I find comfort in their walking with me through the valleys of life. I need them.
Why can’t I find that comfort in You?
Then, it strikes me—like an epiphany.
You give me others to walk through the valleys and the mountains. I continue to seek You and, through that, my faith will grow. My maturity in Christ will continue. But, You give me others to join me in this journey. This journey toward You. A journey with valleys and mountains. A journey filled with love, fear, joy, grief, and hope.
When fear paralyzes me, I realize, I have tried to walk through the valleys alone. It is then, when my courage gauge reads “zero miles to empty tank,” that I desperately need You and others that You bring into my life. You fill me up and give me comfort.
It is not that I lack faith so much. Rather, I fail to see all that You provide.
I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
* * *
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
— Job 42:2, 5, NIV
What if my “what if” thoughts turned from fear-based questions to possibility based questions? (More on that tomorrow)