I have always been one of those drivers who won’t stop for gas.
I’m not sure where that trait came from. My mom is certainly a gasser-upper. If the needle goes below a half a tank, she starts looking for someplace to pull in and fuel up. Meanwhile, I’m cruising around town with a little digital gauge blinking in red: 0 MILES TIL EMPTY!, and I think, Aww, I’ve still got a little more time.
I think it’s partly because I’m thrifty. I just hate spending money on something as un-fun as gasoline. It seems so much less interesting than, say, a pair of shoes.
It’s also partly because I hate being cold. So, if there’s a wind blowing, if it’s wintry or even just kind of fall-y or sometimes if it’s one of those summer days where the shade is particularly shady, then I will put off stopping just to avoid the inevitable chill that I’ll have to endure. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to cold. Or cool. Or hot with too much shade.
You’re probably thinking that I drive around with no gasoline because I’ve never run out before. Not so. I remember the first time I was stranded on the side of the road. I was with a group of friends from high school, and the boy who was driving us around in his mother’s minivan failed to get gas before we started for home from a neighboring town. Before we knew it, we were out in the middle of nowhere, stuck in the black of a late Texas night. I don’t even remember how we got his dad there with a can of gasoline. But, I do know that every horror story I’d ever heard about high school kids and broken down cars came back to me while we waited for someone to rescue us. You would think that alone would’ve curbed my urge to coast around on fumes.
But, fast forward 20 years, and there I was in the pick up line at my daughter’s school. The line was long. I sat in my van, inching forward every few minutes while I watched my gas gauge go from 8 MILES TIL EMPTY to 2 MILES TIL EMPTY. Right about the time it hit 0 MILES TO EMPTY, I was still a good 100 yards from the front of the line. I started sweating profusely. I could just picture myself, with my crusty minivan in a sea of shiny SUVs, sitting in the line with my hazards on, holding up the entire school pickup process after my car finally sputtered to a dead stop.
So, I pulled out of the line, parked my van, and called Chad to come and bring me some gas.
It was one of the more humbling moments of my life. If you’ve never had to make an I’ve-done-something-so-stupid-you’re-never-going-to-let-me-live-it-down phone call to your husband, count yourself blessed. It’s rough.
Thankfully, he showed up. He put the gas in my car. And, he only laughed about it for a few weeks. Months. Okay, so he’s still laughing about it. Especially the part where I had to wave to all the teachers, the principal, and lots and lots of parents while Chad poured the fuel into my tank. It’s pretty hard to hide the truth of why you’ve been nonchalantly hanging in the parking lot for so long once the gas can shows up.
The truth is that this talent for denying my empty tank shows up in my Christianity, too. I am so good at faking it like I’ve been putting God’s word into my heart every day. I can convince myself that I have open communication with Him when I haven’t sat down to pray in quite some time. But, eventually, it becomes obvious that I haven’t stopped for fuel. When I find myself saying things that I have to call and apologize for later. When I realize that I’m being motivated by a desire for my own glory and not God’s. When I start feeling superior. When I can’t control my tongue or my thoughts or my attitude.
Before I know it, I’m stranded. And, all of the effort I’m putting into looking the part is just a waste of time and energy.
I can’t live the Christian life without the very words of God in my heart and His praise on my lips. Otherwise it’s all just posturing and posing, like standing next to a race car with the keys in your hand, knowing eventually everyone will realize that the car doesn’t run.
You’re wondering if I’ve been reformed since my school pickup incident. Sadly, no. I still drive the car until it’s about to give up the ghost. I suppose the next time I’m sitting in the middle of a black Texas night on the side of the road, I’ll wonder why I do this. Until then, may the miles be ever in my favor.