I'm Not Good At Stopping
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-- for he grants sleep to those he loves. Psalm 127:2
It’s been a minute since I’ve sat down to write, and truth be known, I need to be doing a lot of other things right now. But I also need a minute to clear my head of some thoughts I haven’t been able to shake. I don’t really even have a topic in mind, except I want to share a story I was reminded of last Sunday.
As part of our pastor’s sermon, he talked about the time he ran his car into the ditch. I immediately thought of my first wreck at sixteen years old on Middle Butler Road in my little hometown of Collinwood, Tennessee.
My Dad was an auto body repairman. He was a master dent removing, sanding, Bondo spreading, paint spraying machine. His work was always his very best. He was a perfectionist always wanting things to be just so. I watched him work on the same spot for a week at a time trying to make sure the body of the car was as smooth as possible.
In the hot summer month of August in 1996, I turned sweet 16. My Daddy surprised me with a car in which I didn’t appreciate as I should have. Sure, I was happy to just have wheels, but, at the time, I didn’t find it as cool as some of my friends’ rides. It was not exactly what I wanted since it was seven years old. It was also a four cylinder. I had begged for a V6. He laughed and said, “No, you aren’t ready for that.”
I wanted a Camaro. It was my “dream car.”
Anyway, he had found the old girl someplace with a wrecked front end. He spent a lot of time visiting junk yards. She only had 60,000 miles on her—something I now appreciate—and the interior looked pristine. My Daddy saw the potential, bought me the car, fixed the front end and gave it a fresh new coat of maroon paint before presenting it to me.
A 1989 Pontiac Sunbird. The headlights flipped up with the press of a button which was cool at first, but some of the time after my first accident—which you’ll read about later-- the feature didn’t work when I turned my lights off. I drove around town cock-eyed—one headlight up, one down.
My Daddy worked two jobs my whole life—three if you count the nights he spent playing music with his band. He had a job at Murray Ohio in Lawrenceburg, TN, he worked for himself and for Wilbank’s Body Shop from the time I was born until the time he had his accident taking away his ability to walk. How he had time to work on this car, I still don’t know.
But my Momma and Daddy gave me what they could, and it truly was good enough for a newly driving sixteen year old. It didn’t take me too long to figure it out.
The fact of the matter is most of us as teens don’t have the full capability of appreciating the sacrifices our parents make for us until we become a parent or parent figure ourselves.
I drove my car around a couple of months before I had my first accident. There were three of us in the car. I had driven one of my friend’s to her house. I don’t even remember why. On our way back, one friend sat in the passenger seat, and one on the console of my car. Do you remember when people sat on the console? How dangerous! How dumb. But we did it. The one perched upon the console was controlling my CD player which was plugged in via my cigarette lighter. I was so cool. We were probably singing, “So, tell me what you want, what you really really want..I wanna, I wanna…..” The Spice Girls were the thing.
We were laughing, singing, and playing the music entirely too loud, I’m sure. Windows were down, hair blowing in the wind on a country back road. Even though my car was a four cylinder, I usually drove a little too fast. Sorry, Mom. I’m sure if you’re reading this, you already knew. ha
Suddenly, a stop sign popped up out of nowhere. I slammed on my brakes sliding in gravel until my car crossed a lane of traffic—thankfully, no one was coming—and came to rest in a ditch and on top of someone’s barbed wire fence.
I was completely stuck. No getting myself out. Oh my gosh how I wished I could just get in the car and drive out of the ditch with no one being the wiser. But nope. I wasn’t going anywhere without some assistance. This happened before cell phones, so we walked to a nearby house. A familiar face came to the door and walked to my car with us. I had to call my Dad using his landline. I remember feeling so sick having to make the call.
Most of the details are a blur except I remember when my Dad arrived, I said, “My brakes went out.” My Dad shot back, “Your brakes don’t just go out and then come back on.”
Gulp. He’s smarter than me. I remember in the moment knowing trying to lie to my Dad wouldn’t work. And I didn’t want to lie to him, but I didn’t want to disappoint him. I could tell he was terribly disappointed. For me, the look on his face was the worst punishment.
He was simultaneously aggravated and grateful. I knew he was thankful no one was hurt, but my car was damaged. Broken headlight. Missing hubcap. Busted front end. All those hours he didn’t have to spend fixing up a car I half appreciated. Ugh. The disappointment.
He hauled my car and all my shame home with him. He ended up repairing my car so it was driveable again, although I had to live with the busted bumper. I didn’t blame him.
I never wrecked her again. She had mechanical problems, and he taught me how to fix them. I remember stopping on the side of the highway, popping the hood, and tightening the distributor cap. Dad taught me to always keep the oil changed. And I did. He taught me to keep my car clean, and I did. I did everything he asked of me.
When I started college at the University of North Alabama in 1998, I also got a job at Wal-Mart. I was driving back and forth almost every day from Collinwood to Florence. My Sunbird began to have more and more issues. Since I was making my own money and paying my own car insurance, it was time for a different car.
My Dad had watched me as a full-time student working twenty-five to thirty hours a week. He watched me keep the oil changed in my car. He watched me keep my car clean. He watched me learn what to do when something went wrong with my car.
We drove to Nelda Stephenson Chevrolet and he signed a note with me to get a 1997 Camaro with five star wheels. My car had WHEELS, y’all, not just hubcaps. I was so excited.
I still have dreams about this car. Dreams she is still stowed away in a garage for me. ha I made every payment on her myself. And the payments were ridiculous. My Momma & Daddy tried to talk me out of it, but I wouldn’t listen. After about a year, I ended up totalling my “dream car.”
And would you believe it involved another STOP sign? A tree had grown out over it at a two way stop. I was supposed to stop, but I didn’t see the sign.
An oncoming car slammed into the side of my car and totaled it. I walked away a little shaken, but completely unharmed.
I really didn’t think there was a lesson in this story telling session, but God spoke to me as I typed it out and said, “You’ve never been good at stopping. If you would have paid attention and stopped, neither wreck would have happened.”
Whoa! Profound, Lord.
It’s so true. Can’t a lot of us be bad at rest? Bad at slowing down and allowing ourselves a breath, guilt free, before we slide off into a ditch or get blind sighted by life?
It doesn’t mean we quit doing what we are supposed to do. But it means we make time for ourselves, time to rest. Time to embrace our human need for respite. We’re not machines with distributor caps just needing tightening so we can keep going. We are spiritual beings with the physical need to slow down so we can be the best versions of us.
It’s the whole purpose behind the Sabbath Day, yet we find a way to mess it up even when we know what’s right.
Hm. I guess I see why the Lord laid this story on my heart this week. I’ve been burned out and stressed out with work. And not just work—but parenting a middle schooler on top of that—well, you all who have gone before me know what that picture looks like. I could have never imagined the task at hand. It’s one of those things one must experience first hand to understand. Another blog for another day. ha
My car wrecks are such tangible reminders of the importance of paying attention to the spiritual, mental, physical and emotional wreck that’s coming if we don’t take time to STOP.
I hope anyone reading this who is feeling overwhelmed, overworked, tired, run down, and defeated makes time for guilt free rest this weekend. Unclench your jaws. Relax your shoulders. Stop making a fist. Let go of the tension. Do something you enjoy. Love on your family. And rest. Seriously. Everyone wins.