It was June 6 and the five hundred fifty miles between Tucumcari and home started off with a miracle.
And as is normally God's method, the miracle started off with a crisis: we ran out of gas.
Bonnie, who was driving at the time, was unfamiliar with the way Lu's vehicle warned of low fuel. She noticed the indicator just as the exit for Edgewood, New Mexico came into view, and casually said, "It looks like we should stop for gas." No sooner had she gotten on the exit ramp than she announced, "Oh! It seems we have just run out!"
Immediately my mind started planning contingencies. Would we need to get out and push? Lu and Barb were definitely not strong enough. Maybe Bonnie, Andy, and I. Although I'd have to be careful that Andy didn't overexert.
But God had already handled that contingency. The exit ramp sloped downward. At this intersection, the highway went over and not under. We coasted down to the bottom.
Bonnie braked at the stop sign. I winced inwardly; there was no traffic and perhaps we could have used the momentum to coast over to the gas station (conveniently) located to the right. Oh well, at least it wouldn't be too far to push.
But God had that covered too. Bonnie attempted to restart the engine without success. Then she shifted into neutral, and amazingly, on what seemed to me to be level ground, the vehicle slowly began moving forward. We gradually rolled all the way over to the gas station and up to a pump.
I was amazed, and filled with gratitude to God. I fully grasped what suffering it could have caused the weaker of my traveling companions to have been stranded on a hot day in the barrenness of eastern New Mexico. We could just as easily have run out many miles from a gas station.
One would think that such a miracle would have sustained me with joy at least for the rest of that day. But, a bit like the Israelites in their own desert journey, it was not long before the inward joy was overshadowed by murmuring.
I set my heart on being home in time for my church's Monday night small group. No one was expecting me to be there (they knew I was traveling), but I thought it would be fun to roll in at the end of a long day and regale everyone with all my fresh stories from the trip. To make it, I'd need to be home by 5:30. And we could have made it, but...
My car-mates were unaware of my private 5:30 goal. They were enjoying being able to kick back a bit after five very intense, busy days. So our stops for food, restroom, and gas became leisurely. I was inwardly exasperated with them for "dilly-dallying" as I saw the margin between our arrival time and 5:30 shrink at each stop. And while I didn't tell them of my 5:30 goal (perhaps realizing subconsciously that it was unfair to make all of them hurry simply so I could tell a few stories to my church family), I was angry that they didn't somehow sense my expectation.
Talk about self-centered!
Thankfully although I am not good, God is. He is gracious to self-centered gripes like me who complain when we don't get home by 5:30 and forget His provision of gasoline and a reliable vehicle and wonderful Christian companions and well-maintained highways and a country in which we were free to travel thousands of miles without even a single checkpoint. And even if I had had none of those things (as, indeed, most of the world does not), I still could have been thankful for His greatest provision: the gift of His Son Jesus to die for my sins, so that I can be fully accepted into God's presence forever.
Thank You, God, for giving even to those who forget Your gifts.