Friday, March 19, 2010

Car Failures and Responding to Difficulties

Earlier this week, my car suddenly decided to die just after I crossed an intersection on my way to enjoy my lunch hour. Thankfully, I was on a portion of road that had room to pull off to the side, so I did so and immediately called AAA. They towed the car to the mechanic I've used for many years now (Hrant, who I recommend to anyone in the Pasadena area), and my wife got me back to work (after grabbing a quick hamburger.  I was supposed to be eating, after all!).  By the time my work day was over, the car was repaired and ready to be picked up.

Although I really didn't need the extra expense right now (seriously, it's a bad time for this!), I found myself reflecting on how "well" things worked out.  I was able to get out of the way of any traffic that might have been blocked by my stalled vehicle.  I had my cell phone with me, and have long ago learned the value of keeping a current AAA account for such emergencies.  I was within easy towing distance of the mechanic I would have used anyway.  My wife was nearby, and so was able to get to me at about the same time as the tow truck, as well as to get me back to pick up the car when it was ready later that same day.  There's never a good time for this kind of thing to go wrong, but it could easily have been worse.

At the same time, I find myself annoyed at "it could have been worse" attitudes right now.  There's a sense in which I feel like it diminishes the real problems that people have.  If a person loses a loved one to death, for example, the last thing they want to hear is "well, at least you have (insert other person's name here)."  LOTS of people say this kind of thing, and it's just really, really, hurtful to the person who's grieving.  Of course, a fixable car malfunction is nothing on par with the death of a human being, and I don't mean to suggest that it is.  But where does one draw the line?  At some point, keeping a positive attitude and "looking at the bright side" is a very healthy thing to do, and we can all use that reminder from time to time.  But pain, suffering, and stress are very real, and we do ourselves no favors by ignoring them.  In this current example of impromptu car repair, I now don't have a sizeable chunk of change that I expected to have, and which I will need to have to pay other expenses I already know are coming down the pike.  I'll have to figure out some other way of dealing with that when those expenses come up, and I'm really not sure how that's going to happen right now.

The other thing I fully expect to hear in a time like this is "trust God."  Again, this is good advice, but I'm also reminded of many dear Christian friends who, I feel, have been burned by "trusting" God in less-than-helpful ways.  Many of you will probably know the story of a person who is threatened by a flood.  Managing to reach a semblance of "higher ground," he turns down several chances at survival by "human" means (a rowboat, a speedboat, and a helicopter, in at least one version) out of his conviction that God would save him.  When the ground eventually proves insufficient, the man drowns, and upon seeing God in heaven, he asks why God failed to rescue him.  God's obvious reply: "I sent a rowboat, a speedboat, and a helicopter.  What were you waiting for?"

My point in retelling that story is by no means to suggest that trusting God is a bad thing.  Indeed, it's perhaps the most important thing we can do in all of our life situations.  But we still need to have open eyes and minds to seeing the ways in which God will come to our aid.  We also need to actually ask for help.  Both via prayer (which, itself, is an act of trust) and by asking the people in our lives for the help we need.

I confess to often being a bit embarrassed when it comes to asking for help, but am grateful for the assistance I have gotten in the past when I have done so (in particular, my parents helped me out of a pretty serious situation a year ago, which they will remember if/when they read this).  If I know you personally, and you are in a position to help, I hope that I will overcome my embarrassment and ask for such help as I may need in the future.  In the meantime, I will ask that, if you enjoy this blog, you might consider one of the revenue streams I have in place here.  Perhaps you can use ad space, available in the banner at the top or one of the three "square" ads on the right-hand side bar.  Perhaps you might be interested in the modern English "Women's Speaking Justified" book I completed last year.  Both paperback and e-book versions are available.  Maybe signing up for a Big Crumbs account (where you get a portion of your purchase back from online purchases and support this site at the same time) is more viable for you.  There's no obligation, of course, but anything is appreciated.


  1. Well-written, and thoughtful as ever, big brother.

    I also have difficulty knowing how to respond appropriately to the "it could have been worse," or "at least you have..." comments... I find myself wanting to respond, "well, OBVIOUSLY it could have been worse, and I'm thankful it's not, but that doesn't change the fact that I'm hurting now!" - which only makes the other person hurt and angry, too, and is therefore less than constructive...

  2. I don't think there IS a good response to such responses. It's a no-win situation.

  3. I think you're right. I am not proud that I *have* responded with such comments (as I posted above) on ... several occasions... and all it does is serve to make people cringe and back away (and then murmur to passersby... "watch out... she's in a mood...")



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