FENTON, MI – Dad said that if I could get it running he would let me drive it around the back roads in the oilfields where I couldn’t do any real damage. It was an old clunker of a truck that had seen much better days but to a boy of 14 it was as beautiful as a new sports car. Apparently it had been in the employ of our state government at one time because what paint was still remaining on its metal skin could be definitely identified as “highway department yellow”. The rest of the color was bondo pink, mixed with a beautiful brown rust.
The bumpers were missing, as was the right rear fender. The odometer had turned over so many times that it had vertigo. The wooden bed was absent several slats, which made it very difficult to deliver a complete load of gravel, dirt or for that matter anything smaller than a basketball. Then again, my desire for this marvel of machinery was not for the purpose of hauling stuff, but for hauling me. I wanted to drive (learn to drive) in the worst way and this was my chance.
I worked for days just trying to clean out all of the debris that had accumulated in the cab. I was forced to evict several rat families and all of their household possessions. They seemed to highly prize the stuffing material that was used in the seats of that old metal behemoth, and had rearranged most of it to suit their lifestyles. The interior of the cab needed special attention. The bench seat was in such bad shape that it had to be replaced with a turquoise beauty that came from a Nash Rambler. The seat was never bolted down but that just added to the excitement of driving this rolling rattle trap, especially when we came to a sudden stop.
It had a straight six engine under the hood that was supported by the finest six-volt electrical system known to man at the time of its creation. I scavenged spark plug wires and battery cables from other junk cars that were stored behind our service station and borrowed the necessary tools from good old Dad. After removing at least 300 lbs of multilayered grease and dirt from under the hood it actually began to look like it had the slightest vestiges of life remaining.
When I finally cranked the old girl, and she sputtered to life it was like giving birth. My new baby was alive and kicking. It consumed almost as much oil as it did gasoline, but my dad owned a service station so the financial drain on me was not too bad and Dad never complained. It did create a small atmospheric disturbance when running because of the unquantified amounts of smoke it produced. My neighbors said that thanks to me there was not a mosquito within five miles of our neighborhood.
The only mechanical problem that was of any real annoyance to me was that the shifting linkage on the transmission. It was a column shift and the linkage to the transmission was as loose as the morals of a New Orleans hooker and periodically if one did not allow the rpm’s of the engine and transmission to come to a mutual revolutionary agreement, then it would lock up between first and second gear. The only way to resolve the problem was to turn off the ignition, let it come to a complete stop, get out of the truck, crawl under it, and coax the linkage to release its grip. And of course, during the whole procedure I would get covered with grease and dirt.
When you are first learning to drive and the sheer thrill of just having a means of transportation is of foremost importance then this is a mere necessity that comes with the privilege of being cool. But as the new and the excitement wears off, so does one’s patience. This was especially disconcerting and annoying when there happened to be a female peer in the vehicle or driving by and within eyesight. It was not cool!
I didn’t learn until years later that the problem with my linkage was caused by the loss of a few spacing parts called grommets. They were just small plastic or brass washers that kept the opposing gears at bay and allowed the proper gears to engage. Linkage is important, especially when it comes to the transmissions of 40 model trucks with a bazillion miles on them, but linkage is also important in the life of a Believer. Linkage to the Father. Linkage to family. Linkage to friends. Linkage to the church. Linkage to life as a whole.
I have found that most of the time when we get locked up in moving from one point to another in a relationship with our Father, family, friends or any other situation, the culprit can usually be identified as something as small and seemingly unimportant as a grommet. A harsh word. An unconfessed sin. A promise broken. A call not returned. You get the picture. Things can be running along smoothly then all of the sudden you are going nowhere fast. Not only is it not cool, but it's embarrassing and can be downright debilitating.
Like my old truck, you may not have what you consider the best-life-around but nonetheless this is who you are. It is your only means of transport while on this terrestrial ball. Don’t let some little thing keep you from enjoying the ride of your life. Replace the grommets of relationships that have gone bad, and get back on the road. Don’t put up with having to stop and coax those gears back into agreement every time you shift. Take the time to fix the problem. You will go a lot farther, faster and you will enjoy the ride. Besides, all that grease and dirt doesn’t do much for your appearance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.