Choosing gratitude when faced with trials

Originally Appeared in : 9815-7/19/18

“Look, I can pack all my clothes by rolling them up in rubber bands,” Noah exclaimed, with a week’s worth of “faster” shorts (a moniker coined by 4-year-old Noah a dozen years earlier, since he claimed they made him “faster”), T-shirts, socks and drawers rolled up on our kitchen table.


The excitement surrounding summer Vocations Camp had reached a fever pitch at our house, and Noah wasn’t letting anyone forget it, either.


Twenty minutes later, Noah appeared from his room with all of his banded outfits now filling his book bag to the brim, and an ear-to-ear smile filling all the space between his cheeks.


The next day, some last-minute cancellations had left Noah all by his lonesome for the trip down and, rather than have someone else drive him down, Magan thought it would be a great opportunity for Noah and her to have some one-on-one time as he inched closer to adulthood (Please, don’t remind Magan of this, or else she’ll have us headed to Disney World faster than Buzz Lightyear rocketing after Emperor Zurg).


I remained home with the rest of our crowd, most of whom were in the middle of their afternoon nap, when Magan called to announce they had arrived in the metropolis of Collins, Georgia at the Primitive Baptist campground.


“Wonderful,” I said, “tell Noah I love him and to have a good time.”


It was less than a half hour later when my phone began to buzz again. It was Magan.


“Jason, I don’t know what’s going on but I think something is wrong with the van,” she said.


“What’s it doing?” I replied.


“Anytime I get over 60 miles an hour, it starts to shake badly. Noah kept asking if the road was bumpy most of the way down, but I didn’t really notice anything until now.”


“Okay, well it could be a tire out of balance or alignment,” I said. “Just drive slowly, and I’ll take a look at it when you get home.”


We literally tagged out in the driveway as soon as Magan pulled in, and I took the van out on a test drive down our bypass and out to the interstate. Sure enough, anytime I got over 60 mph, it began to shake violently.


“Well, best-case scenario we have a tire out of balance,” I said, using the trip as an excuse to buy tacos for supper, “and worst-case we need two new tires. Either way, I’ll take that over a bad engine or transmission.”


The manager at our tire store said to bring it in first thing Monday and they’d get down to the bottom of the hitch in our giddyup.


Two hours later he called: “Yep, your driver’s side rear tire’s tread is separating.”


“Well, I guess that answers that,” I said. “We’ll take two new tires.”


By lunch, our ride was ready to roll again, and I walked the half mile from my office to the tire store to drive it home.


With Noah slated to return home from Vocations Camp the following day, the timing of the repair couldn’t have been better.


When Magan texted a photo of a tired, sunburnt, and smiling iteration of our oldest just before lunch, I smiled and had a sense of peace and gratitude well over me. All I said was, “Thank you Lord.”


It would have been easy throughout the whole ordeal to have gotten mad, upset or downright angry over having a tire go bad, and having to spend several hundred dollars replacing it, but all I could do is give thanks.


See, God had been more involved than any of us could have ever imagined. Only three weeks earlier, we had taken our car to the same tire place for a rotation and alignment. During their work, the mechanics noticed our spare had been split in two, but they wouldn’t have a replacement in stock for another week.


We had yet to make time to have it installed, so had Magan had a flat she would have had no spare tire. Of course, had the tire completely separated, it could have been so much worse.


The book of James makes it clear that these moments should be approached with joy, and not fear or anger: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).


At the end of the day, not only did we get two new tires and everyone home safely from Vocations Camp (save a bum knee thanks to a collision with the camp's giant "World Ball"), we also got tacos, and you can never complain when tacos are involved.


“Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!” (Psalm 105:1)


Jason Halcombe has five sons and two daughters. He and his wife, Magan, are members of Immaculate Conception Church, Dublin

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