She stands in the parking lot flashing the universal sign of hopeless surrender—arms crossed, head down, foot tapping. Beside her is what remains of her car, a once useful tool that is now dead on arrival. She’s figured out how to raise the hood and prop it up. Unfortunately, that seems to be the extent of her mechanical know-how.
So I walk over and say, “Afternoon, ma’am.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” she says. Then, as if to clarify, she points to the open maw of her sedan and says, “Stupid car.”
“Someone on the way?” I ask her.
“No. Can’t get hold of anyone.”
I nod. “Mind if I take a look?”
“Be my guest.”
I peek under the hood and check the usual suspects. Battery cables are good. Belts are fine. Plenty of coolant and oil.
“Will it turn over at all?” I ask.
“It acts like it wants to start,” she says, “but then it get stubborn.”
I step around her, climb into the driver’s seat, and turn the ignition. The car sputters and churns, then dies.
“Huh,” I say to no one.
Then, just as I’m about to give up, I check the gauges. Temperature, battery, and oil pressure won’t tell me much if the car isn’t running, but the last gauge will.
“I think I know what’s wrong,” I say.
“What is it?”
“You don’t have any gas.”
There is a pause, then a very quiet, “Oh.”
I climb back out. The two of us stand over the car like it’s a casket at a wake.
“Want me to call the gas station?” I ask her. “Maybe someone can run a can of regular down here. Or I could go get you some.”
She doesn’t answer me, which isn’t so strange. But she raises her face and hands skyward, which really sort of is.
“In the name of Jesus Christ the Risen Savior, I command this car to start!” she screams. Then she looks at me and says, “Try it.”
“Try to start it again.”
The thought occurs to me that I am in the presence of a crazy woman.
“Everything is possible with the Lord,” she says, Lord coming out as Lawd. “I prayed in faith, and if faith can move a mountain, then it can sure get my car started and get me where God needs me to be. So try to start it.”
“Um, ma’am,” I say. “God ain’t gonna put gas in your car. Havin’ faith doesn’t mean you have to lose your head.”
I climb back into the car and turn the ignition. Nothing.
“Maybe you should be the one turnin’ the key,” I say through the windshield. “I reckon I just don’t have enough faith.”
“Fine,” she says. “Step aside.”
I do. She tries. No go.
“Would you like me to go get you some gas, ma’am?”
“No,” she says. “Thank you, but I’ll wait. God will send someone along.”
I let the fact that I just might be that someone slide, told her I was sorry and to have a good day, and left. As I pulled out of the parking lot I looked in the rearview mirror. She was standing in front of the car with her hands to the sky again, no doubt casting out the demons of fuel consumption.
Maybe I’m being too hard on her, I think to myself. But then again, maybe not. Because not only did that lady waste about fifteen minutes of my life, she also set a pretty bad example for Christians.
Yes, God can do anything. And yes, faith can move mountains. Put the two of them together, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if somewhere in the history of humanity, a car managed to get where it needed to go without any gas.
But that’s not the norm.
Sometimes I think we count on a miracle too much. That sometimes we trust and believe that God will provide so we won’t have to do as much as He expects from us.
Because God is more than willing to get us where He needs us to go, and faith will help get us there.
But it’s up to us to make sure the tank’s full.