In these complex times, when life sometimes seems shadowed, I have worked to sustain the light in my soul by remembering the many times the Lord has stepped in to support me in my trials, heartaches and afflictions.
I have been following Elder Neil L. Andersen’s counsel: “When personal difficulties or world conditions beyond our control darken our path, the spiritually defining memories from our book of life are like luminous stones that help brighten the road ahead.”
I have been thankful and frankly awed as I have been remembering the Lord’s many kindnesses to me. Here’s one.
This happened to me at a time of my life when I was a young, single mother, had many small children and a lean pocketbook. No one is much more vulnerable than a single mother, and I certainly was feeling the weight. It was just a time of scantiness, except in responsibility where the demands never seemed to end and came flying at me thick and fast, falling into bed every night exhausted. I felt like I was barely hanging on with white knuckles. Then it got worse.
For years we had driven a white station wagon, the good-old reliable. It was a car that had given me no problems, but then one day with the car full of bouncing children, the car died on Wasatch Boulevard in Salt Lake. I tried to flag someone down on that busy street to no avail, and finally had to resort to leaving my children in a locked car and hike to the nearest gas station to find help.
Our children still remember the trauma because I warned them emphatically to stay in the locked car and open it for no one. I had terrible visions of the danger they were in if they opened the car door. I think I made it rather vivid what would happen if they got out into the traffic on one side with a pond on the other. My son remembers I used the words, “watery grave” for what could happen if they got in the water. Oh, what life was like before cell phones.
I was trembling all the way to the gas station for their safety.
To take the car in to be fixed was beyond expensive on my threadbare budget, but soon I had it back with assurances that all was well. It was well for only a few weeks, and then bringing my children home from the Manti Pageant and driving through Spanish Fork Canyon, the car groaned again to a halt.
This time, as I pulled over to the side of the road, a kindly driver with a truck suggested that he attach my car to his with a chain and drag me behind him on the road out of Spanish Fork canyon. I was grateful, but beyond frightened with my car full of precious cargo to be on the chain in back of that truck in a canyon with its ups and downs and sometimes sharper curves. I thought if I braked too hard, I would jerk the chain and maybe break it. I wondered if I didn’t brake at all if we might run right into our benefactor.
I took the car in the garage to be fixed, hefting another big bill out of my barren pocketbook and was assured all was well.
Not many days later, I was driving and the car again broke down again. This time I had no children in the car, and I was able to limp it along to a parking lot at the base of Big Cottonwood Canyon. I got another ride, left the car behind, and decided I was at the end of the trauma.
Scot and I were about to be married, and we decided that we would buy a new car. With my finances, nothing, nothing else besides the trauma I had been through could have possibly induced me to even think about a new car. We picked it out together and we were ready to begin a new life without my one-time, old reliable friend, the white station wagon.
I called Utah Auto Wrecking, set an appointment for them to take my car away and gave them the address of the parking lot where I had left it. Scot and I drove there an hour before the wrecking truck was to arrive to gather valuables out of the glove box, and he suggested that we try the car one more time.
We tried the engine and it gave what had become to me the same, old strained sound. Just then a man who also happened to be there came over and said, “Are you having car trouble? Do you mind if I try it?”
He told us that he recognized from the sound of the engine what the problem was. The belt was too tight and not adjusted, causing my engine problems. It was a simple fix but my mechanics had missed it. He made a few adjustments and then said, “Try the engine again.”
This time the engine hummed into happy motion. We canceled the auto wrecking appointment and drove the car home, which responded as well as it had before the last weeks of break-downs.
Now we had this new car, and my old car that looked like it was going to be just fine. Wonderful! We had a big family and two cars would help.
Meanwhile, Scot had had his own orchestrated experience. He was painting his house to sell it, when he stopped for a prayer. It was a simple prayer where he asked, “Dear Lord, Cans’t thou bring someone in my path today that I can help? Is there anyone that I can bless today?” This was a prayer with a very quick answer, for within only a few minutes, his doorbell rang.
It was a neighbor, whom I will call Darlene, who just moved in next door so that Scot had not met her yet. She was frantic. She said that she was a single mother of 10 who was also a student at the Salt Lake Community College. Normally, she took the bus to her classes, but today she had missed it and she had an important mid-term. Would he mind giving her a ride?
As Scot drove her to the community college, she poured out her woes, which were indeed great. Her husband had left her and their ten children and while she was away, he had come and cleared out her house, taking most of the furniture. This left her and the ten children without anything and little income. To salt that wound, Darlene’s mother, who had been her primary emotional support and best friend, had died three days later.
This was too much, calamity upon calamity. Her emotions had been scraped raw and her emotional resources drained. She told Scot that she couldn’t pray anymore because God didn’t hear her. Why hadn’t He watched out for her? Where had He been for her when her situation grew so desperate? She had been abandoned, not only by her husband and by her mother’s death, but by God Himself, and she was done, exhausted and spent. She would never pray again. In fact, she had once intended to send her son on a mission in a few months, but now she wouldn’t. She couldn’t.
When she said, “The Lord doesn’t hear my prayers anymore,” Scot answered, “I know He hears you. Let’s pray right now.”
“No, I can’t”, she answered, “because I know He doesn’t hear me.”
Scot said, “I’m happy to pray right now for you.”
Scot told me, “I just started praying while I was driving. I prayed that the Lord would bless her and bless her family. I prayed that she would find transportation and that she would have the needs of her family met. I prayed that she would do well on her test that day.”
Scot dropped her off at school and that might have been the end, yet Scot and I were talking about her later, and it was just so clear. We had a car. She needed a car. It seemed so obvious, so meant to be. We would give her our car. Yet the Spirit intervened and said something more.
This is what we heard, “Your stewardship with this car has come to an end. This car is meant for her. It belongs to her. It no longer belongs to you.” It was a profound moment for me in learning about God’s gifts and the idea that we really don’t possess anything. It is all His gift for our use. That car had been reassigned.
We called Darlene’s bishop and told him we had a car for her, and he also continued the orchestration. He told us that in their welfare meeting that Sunday, they had prayed together that they could find a car for Darlene. This call from Scot was an answer to their prayers.
Scot drove the car and left it in front of his house, which was next door to hers. The next day as Darlene was on her way to the bus stop to school, she passed the car and the Spirit said to her, “That car is yours, if you can just be patient.”
It was a complete surprise to her to hear the voice of the Spirit so clearly since she felt divided and distant from God. But there it was—a voice she had heard so many times in the past. “That car is yours, if you can just be patient.”
A sense of relief rushed over her. Not only would she have a car, but she had clearly heard the voice of the Spirit again. She was so happy to tell her children, “That car is ours, if we can just be patient.” They cheered.
A few days later, the car disappeared and Darlene had to hold on to what she had heard from the Spirit. What she didn’t know is that the car was gone because a mechanic in the ward was carefully checking the car to make sure it was in good shape. It was.
Not long after, Darlene was home one night when the bishop rang her doorbell with a set of car keys in his hand. It was, of course, the very car she had seen parked in front of Scot’s house. “This is for you,” the bishop said. With love.
That Darlene had heard the Spirit tell her so clearly that this car was hers long before the bishop arrived with keys that night ignited her sleeping testimony. She could see again that the Lord was aware of her afflictions and had been there all along supporting her. She changed her mind about keeping her son from a mission and he left a few months later. Her sense of being cared and watched over from a Divine Source was reaffirmed, and with it her sense of hope.
Not very often do you get to see all the pieces of a miracle that the Lord has orchestrated to prepare a blessing for someone, but in this instance, we did. My car issues and the three breakdowns in awkward places made me ready to give up a car that I would have never abandoned otherwise. My heart had been prepared to give it up. How odd it was that I would have taken it two times to the mechanic and have something so easily missed.
Who is the man that watched us cleaning out our glove box in this random parking lot as we were waiting for the wrecking truck? Why did he happen to come over and ask us to start our car? Why did he want to help with something like this car that clearly looked like just a lost cause and we had clearly given up on? It has occurred to me many times how completely bold it was for him to come and help.
How was it that we happened to end up at that parking lot at the same time with a man who could so easily fix the problem?
How was it that Darlene had just so happened to show up at Scot’s door that day, needing a ride and that she had talked so freely and vulnerably to him? How did we manage to call the bishop just exactly when the entire welfare committee of the ward had been praying for a car for her.
How was it that Darlene heard the voice of the Spirit, telling her the car was hers, and isn’t it remarkable that she recognized that voice so freely, and it changed her heavy heart.
I know the Lord orchestrated every detail not just for her to receive that car when she needed it, but, much more importantly, for her to renew her trust in God which she needed much more.
Not very often do you get to see so many pieces of a blessing. Most of these things are invisible to us, and we suppose that our good fortune is just a coincidence or a result of our being such worthy people. Yet all the time, God is in His heaven, carefully blessing us so that every part of our lives works together. To have seen that in this case has always stayed with me, when I cannot find God readily in my life or think He hasn’t heard my prayers. Then I remember the car.
I remember that God blessed every person in this story with just what they needed when they needed it.
Like so many good stories, this one has an epilogue. Two or three years later, Scot and I were filling up our tank at a gas station, when Darlene just happened to pull in to fill her gas tank too. We hadn’t seen her for a very long time, and, so, of course, we had no idea what had happened to her since we first met and the Lord had given her our car.
Yet, things had changed radically in her life. Now she was driving a luxury car and she had married one of the top executives in a large financial institution. How comforting it could have been for her in her misery all those years ago if she had had 20/20 vision to peer into the future and be assured that she could trust the Lord.
Now, our story might not end up with such dramatic good fortune as hers, but I do know that one day, when the present challenges, whatever they may be, are behind us, whether in this life or the next, we will come to know that when we knelt at the very limit of endurance, God was always there.