When the Wheels Fall Off the Wagon

(May, 1997)

There is a pile of bills...

...on the table by our front door so high the kids could almost toboggan down it.

Unfortunately, Pepe wouldn't even trip over the pile of money we have to actually PAY any of them.

These still continue to be not exactly the best of times for us.

Or maybe they really aren't so bad, and it is just my perception of them that is off. I don't know. There is a fine line between tragedy and comedy I am told. So it is only fitting that a week or so ago I woke up, reached over to put on my glasses - and they weren't there.

The thing is, when you are as nearsighted as I am, you really NEED your glasses to LOOK for your glasses! I felt under the bed, thinking maybe they had fallen there. Nothing.

I felt around on the bookcase, on the dresser, I just couldn't find them anywhere. By now it was past 7:00 and I had to get the kids up for school, so I felt my way down the stairs to get breakfast going - and found the bent up frames and chewed up lenses of my glasses on the library floor. Mystery solved: Blackie the dog, with his teeth, in the library.

And by itself I suppose that wouldn't be so bad - well, if we actually HAD the $200 to buy a new pair it wouldn't be so bad... or if he hadn't also chewed up Manuel's glasses a few weeks before... and two of Dionel's retainers.... and a $20 library book. Or if the van was running.... and we didn't have to replace the kitchen window, or the library carpet (Blackie again)... and if the kids could do their homework just one night without whining and complaining...

I am beginning to think that maybe that's just how life is; one little disaster after another... and one great big one looming out there in the future somewhere; a flood, a fire, cancer, World War III....

That is how I am seeing things lately. Maybe I am just a big whiner (okay, I AM a big whiner....).

But you get to thinking that way when day after day, just when you think nothing else could possibly go wrong - something else does.

I was lying in bed on a Saturday night a week or so ago, that awful feeling churning around in the pit of my stomach that everything is spinning wildly out of control. It wasn't just looming bankruptcy, or the dog systematically chewing up everything we own, or the cars dying, or one kid or the other threatening to run away. It was everything all together. It all seems to be falling apart. Desperately I kept asking, "What are we going to do?"

I wanted to pray.

But an inner voice kept saying, "Oh, give it up. Obviously God isn't there. Look what your belief has got you this far. If this loving God was really there, you wouldn't be in this mess. Wake up, you are all alone here. There is no one out there to help you."

I had to admit, that inner voice seemed right.

But I have believed in God all my life. How could I just let him go?

I couldn't. As much as I wanted to, as much as I wanted to just give it all up, I couldn't do it. No matter how bad the present circumstances might appear, I could no more say there is no God than I could deny the sky is blue or water is wet.

If God isn't there, how else could I explain how we got here? It would be harder to believe that all of this just popped out of nowhere.

And what about Jesus. Could I really say his death and resurrection was just a myth? I would have to deny the testimony of the apostles, of Peter and John, and all the others. These were real people. They walked with Jesus, they ate with him. They witnessed his death on the cross. And then three days later they saw him again. They walked with him, they ate with him again.

Not believe in God anymore?

I couldn't do it.

But then what? So God is there - but where?

I still feel awful. I still am afraid.

I guess the question is, When the wheels come off my wagon, what am I going to hold onto?

Where am I putting my trust? In my own strength and abilities? (that is proving to be a bad bet). Money? (we ain't got any).

Or am I really putting my trust in God? ...Or do I only trust in him when things are going well.

And maybe that is really what this is all about.

If I only put my trust in God when things are going well, then my faith isn't in God at all, it is in the things around me. Well, that isn't faith! My sense of peace and assurance is resting on the things at hand; not on God. My "faith" is in the money in the bank, our good health, the nice paying job, the water heater that churns out hot water every day without a thought, the car that runs without needing a new transmission.

But what happens when those things fall apart?

What happens when things go bad, when everything around me is screaming, "There is no God, you fool!"

Then what am I going to believe?

That is the test, to believe that God is there, that he is good and loving, when everything around me is telling me otherwise.

It isn't easy. But through these present troubles I am beginning to learn to choose to trust in God - and especially to cling to his word - no matter what my circumstances might be saying. Well, the truth of the matter is that sometimes he is all I have left to hold onto! I thought I was trusting in God before, but I really wasn't. By taking away the things I was really trusting in, God is teaching me to trust in him alone. Circumstances are always changing, the things I want to depend on; money, a good job, my own abilities, can be gone in an instant. But God's word never changes.

The promises of God stand forever.

So when the wheels fall off my wagon, what am I going believe? My present cirumstances? Or the eternal promises of God?


Paul Dallgas-Frey

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