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The Man I Am
May 24, 2011
On Wednesday night I headed home from our mid-week service, just like I always do. Around halfway home, while cruising down the highway at, well, highway speeds, I suddenly hit a powerful rain storm—one of those storms that hits like a wall of wind and water. Rain was dishing down and already the roads were beginning to flood a little bit. Passing cars were throwing up great sheets of water in their wake. I immediately flicked on my windshield wipers. They went up and back; up and back. And then they just stopped.
I didn’t panic, but I knew I was in some trouble. With the wipers out of commission, I couldn’t see anything ahead of me but the distant glow of another car’s lights. I turned the wipers off and on but all I saw was a weak little attempt to rise. Then they fell again and that was that. They were dead.
So there I was, traveling at 100 kilometers per hour, in the passing lane of a 6-lane highway, and I couldn’t see a thing. I had my 2 daughters with me, so I told them to pray while I tried to get over to the shoulder (the left shoulder was too narrow to pull over onto). I put on the 4-way flashers and gingerly started moving into the middle lane. One car had to swerve around me, but we made it. Then I eased myself into the slow lane. And from there I was able to get onto the shoulder and stop. To do this I had to drive with my head out the driver’s side window, but that was okay by me. I stopped the car and breathed a sigh of relief. Of course now we were on the shoulder in the lashing rain—not exactly a safe place to be. But we were okay. The wipers were well and truly shot, but I found that by driving slowly I could see enough to inch forward. I got off the highway at the next exit and carefully made my way home by side streets, occasionally stopping to cycle the wipers manually.
I returned home a little bit shaken. Everything had gone as well as could be hoped. But I knew how easily it could have been far, far worse. I was so grateful to God for preserving me, and for allowing me to be the one who went through it rather than Aileen. And then I went to bed.
The next morning I woke up and realized that I now needed to get those wipers fixed. It has been an extraordinarily wet spring around here and I knew we would need the wipers soon. And immediately I began grumbling about how expensive this was going to be. I even opened up Twitter and started typing something about what it was going to cost. But I stopped. Right before I hit that “tweet” button I paused. And I felt ashamed.
The night before I had been filled with gratitude that even while near-completely blind at high speed and in driving rain I had been preserved. I didn’t deserve that. I could as easily have been left in pieces all over the highway. I could have hit the guard rail or run into the car ahead of me. There are all kinds of ways that it could have ended badly. But I got home safely. I got to sleep in my own bed. I woke up healthy. But I woke up grumbling.
By the next morning my safety, and the safety of my daughters, was deemed to be worth less than whatever I imagined the new wiper motors would cost. Was God’s grace suddenly paling in comparison to $200? $300? Was his grace diminished by the cost of the fix?
It was a moment that lasted only a short time. But it was a moment of shame. It was a moment in which I got a little glimpse of the man I am. At least, it gave me a glimpse of the man I am when I do not think and live as a Christian. I am in the midst of an extensive study on the subject of money, and I was saddened to see how tightly I still hold to it, how I still regard it as mine, how I refuse to default to seeing myself as a steward rather than an owner. This teaches me that as I learn what the Bible says about money, about possessions, about stuff, I will first and foremost have to teach myself.
In the end it cost me $198 to have the wiper fixed. Apparently there’s a transmission that coordinates the wipers, and that transmission spontaneously combusted or something. Add the part to the labor and the sales tax, and that’s what it cost. So I paid for the car to get fixed, but I also paid for a lesson in God’s grace despite my lack of gratitude. At $198 the cost is more than fair.