Do you believe that everything happens for a reason? I do. I believe even unpleasant events can be used to shape us, mold us, grow us. I believe that God is working it all together for my good, even though I don't always understand the method or reason. And in my case, it's usually been big hit-you-over-the-head-with-a-freight elevator type of events that are needed to get my attention. For example, the car I was driving catching on fire.
I graduated from Colorado State in the spring of 1988. By this time, The Swede had gotten another promotion and the rest of my family were living in Virginia. I'd made plans to enjoy some time off, then begin the serious job hunting. Swissie's car needed to get to Virginia, since she had started the school year as a Coloradoan, and ended it as a Virginian, and wasn't allowed to take her beloved Volkswagen Rabbit to St. Paul with her. We cooked up a great solution. I'd drive her car to Minnesota, spend a day there with her, then together we'd drive the rest of the way to Virginia, and I'd stay a few weeks, enjoying the Briarpatch and all it has to offer. I'd then fly home. Sounds like a great plan, right? Yeah, I thought so too.
The first day of driving was uneventful, and besides the boredom of being by myself, all was going just fine thankyouverymuch. After spending the night in a cheap, flea-bag motel at the side of the road, I headed out. I had it all mapped out to arrive in St. Paul by dinner time, and was anxious to see Swissie. Lunch took a bit longer than I had planned because I couldn't put down the book I was reading, but I had plenty of caffeine in my system by the time I got back on the road. Towards mid afternoon, I stopped for my last time. Filled up the tank, checked the oil, took a pit stop myself, and was ready to tackle that last 120 miles.
It wasn't long before I started to have this feeling that I should pull over. But I argued with myself, “Why? You took care of ALL the necessities at your last stop. Keep going!” But the feeling just got stronger, so I pulled of the road at the next available exit. Feeling foolish, standing there beside the car that didn't need anything, I thought, what the heck, I'll check the oil again. Better than standing here doing nothing. I had no more opened the hood then the engine burst into flame!
I freaked out, reaching for the nearest liquid I could find to put out the fire. That turned out to be windshield washing fluid from the outdoor display. (Yes, not a good choice, but I did tell you I was freaking out.) As I'm starting to pour, someone grabs my wrist from behind, gently pushes me away, and douses the fire with a fire extinguisher. That compassionate trucker just says, “There you go, little lady. Fire's out now.” Still not having regained ANY sense, I sit down in the driver's seat to start the engine. “WHAT are you doing?” he asks me. “I'm seeing if it will start.” “Honey, your engine is MELTED. It's not going to start.” Enough sense returns and I realize what a predicament I'm in and immediately start bawling. Mr. Big Rig opens the door and helps me out, and with his arm around my shoulder, leads me into the convenience store of the gas station, and straight to the owner. “This little lady's car just burnt up. She needs your help.”
After waiting patiently for me to calm down, the owner lets me use his phone. Remember, no cell phones yet. I try calling The Swede. He's out of the office, she doesn't know for how long. I call DataBoy, and crying again, I tell my story. “Bummer, dude.” Bummer didn't even begin to describe this disaster. I tell him so. Not so kindly. But he agrees to keep trying to track down my Dad, and I wait. Pretty soon The Swede calls. Fresh tears flow, and the Good Samaritan takes the phone since I'm not making any sense. They converse. You see, this was in the middle of nowhere. This tiny town in Iowa was only two blocks square. No bus service. No rental cars (not that they'd have rented to a 22 year old) no taxi, no transportation out. I was completely stuck.
However, the Good Samaritan turned out to be a saint. He promptly closed the store, put me in his car, and we went to his home to pick up his wife. This kind grandpa and grandma were going to drive me the whole way to “The Cities.” Grandma was thrilled with the adventure, and just dropped whatever she was doing and got in. Can you imagine? He's losing revenue now that his store is closed, and they have volunteered for a 240 mile round trip. Just like that. It's nice to know that compassion is alive and well.
So my adventure ended early. Swissie and I each grabbed a flight the next day, headed in opposite directions. But the day after I got back, I got a call from the principal at a nearby middle school. Would I like to interview for the seventh grade math position? Yes, I sure would. Of all the choices a secondary math teacher has, this had been my first choice. With no voicemail and no answering machine, I wouldn't even have known about it had I been vacationing. And I got the job, teaching there for the next eight years. All made possible because of that fire. Turns out there was a leak in the fuel line, it had pooled on the manifold, and had I been driving, that fire would have spread quickly to the passenger compartment, and engulfing me. It's my firm belief that God turned me around and sent me home to get the job. I just wonder, did it have to be a fire? Surely He could have gotten my attention in a less dramatic way.
For other great posts featuring the letter V, head over to the fab Jenny Matlock and her Alphabe-Thursday meme.