The following is an excerpt from my book, The Just Friends Syndrome: Memoirs of a shy guy’s search for true love. It is just a couple of examples of the many times God has helped us during our lives. In the book I call my wife Judith “Lisa” since I changed the names of all the other people in the book as well.
Like most guys, when I was faced with a difficult problem, I usually tried to solve it myself. Lisa sometimes took a different approach. One time our old car died in the middle of the road. I tinkered with it but couldn’t get it to go (I guess I should have paid more attention when I helped out my dad work on cars.) When I told Lisa it still wouldn’t start, she said, “We need to pray about it.” With my “I gotta solve this problem” attitude, I hadn’t thought of that. We prayed and it started right up!
Years later, on a trip up to the U.S., we pulled over at a rest stop in Texas. When we got back into the car, it wouldn’t turn over. A guy in a car parked nearby gave us a jump. A trucker was also helping us out. After our car started, he leaned in the window and saw the alternator wasn’t charging. He told me I’d better stop at the next mechanic I could find. We were only a few hours from our destination, so while I thanked him for his help, I just wanted to keep on going. We weren’t but a few miles up the interstate when the car jerked and stalled. As we drifted over to the shoulder, Lisa immediately began praying out loud. After she was done, I realized that these newer fuel-injection, everything-electronic cars need the alternator in order to run. While we were still sitting in the car trying to decide what to do, a big eighteen wheeler pulled off in front of us. I got out of the car wondering what was going on, and then recognized the driver was the trucker who had helped us out at the rest stop. As he neared me, he said, “Didn’t get too far, did ya?”
When he asked me what I planned to do, I said I would probably leave Lisa and the kids to watch the car and walk to the next exit to try and find a mechanic. He didn’t think much of my idea. He said it was too hot to walk all the way there—it was over a hundred degrees—and that it was dangerous to leave my family on the side of the interstate. We should lock up the car and he would give us a ride, and help us find a mechanic. I was a little wary of all of us getting into his truck but, following Lisa’s example and saying a silent prayer, we all piled into the cab and off we went. He offered us snacks and pop and drove us to a hotel at the next exit. He asked the person behind the desk for the name of a good mechanic and we called him. He said he would send a tow truck right out. We profusely thanked the trucker for all his help. He then said, “Let’s go, I’ll take you back to your vehicle.” I felt we had imposed on him too much already, but he insisted, saying it was too hot for me to walk back.
On the way back, he asked what we did for a living. I told him we lived in a little village in Mexico, helping the people make literacy books and translate the Bible into their language. He said that he had gone on a mission trip to Belize once, and had really enjoyed helping the people with a church construction project. As we neared my car, the tow truck was already there. As I shook the trucker’s hand, thanking him, he handed me a hundred dollar bill. Taken aback, I told him I should be the one giving him money, and that I couldn’t take it. He bluntly replied, “It’s God’s money. Now take it!” I again thanked him, and as I got out, reflected on the wonderful way God had answered our prayers. The trucker was such a good Samaritan, though as it turned out, the mechanic wasn’t quite as generous.
With Lisa’s good example, I began to pray more and more about things which I would have previously tried to accomplish in my own strength. A dramatic example of this happened while we were at Lisa’s mom and dad’s home on Ocracoke Island, years after we were married. I had found a sandbar rather far out in the ocean where the water only came up to my knees. Several days later, I went looking for that sand bar again. I swam around for quite a while, but never did find it because of the constant shifting of the sand on the ocean floor. I finally decided to swim back to shore, already a bit tired.
It seemed the more I swam, the farther I got from the beach. Something in my mind sensed I was in danger and I began hyperventilating, though I didn’t feel that much fear. I tried to float on my back for a while so I could rest and slow down my breathing, but the waves kept washing over me and filling my mouth with saltwater. I again tried to swim towards shore, but began to get more desperate as I never got any closer and I was now completely exhausted and gasping for air. I finally waved for the lifeguard, but since I could hardly see him, I couldn’t tell if he saw me. I realized I could no longer tread water, and went under several times.
Forcing myself to stay above water, I began thinking about my family, and how, if I drowned, Lisa would be a widow (Should I hope she never marries again?) and my kids would have no father. I prayed to the Lord, saying, “God, I’m in your hands. If you want to take me, here I am.” Just as I felt I was going down under the water for the last time, the lifeguard arrived and pulled me to safety. He told me I had been caught in a rip current. Getting to shore, I thanked the Lord for saving me, and giving me more time to be with my family and the Mixtecs. I was also thankful that Lisa had insisted that, because of the children, we only swim at a beach with a lifeguard.