“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17, TNIV).
“Go until you get a no.”
I could hear the words resonating in my head as I stood in my kitchen trying to make a crucial decision. Do I take my 7-year-old daughter’s school I.D. badge to her or do I go and pick up my friend so we can make our 9:45 a.m. flight to Orlando, Fla.? It was 7:30 a.m., and I was on schedule up to this point. Let me backtrack and tell you how I got to this point and to this crucial decision.
During the week, the normal routine at my house is to get up around 6 o’clock, get my two school-aged daughters out of bed, dressed, fed and out the door by 7. After I drop them off at their school, I usually get back to my house around 7:30. Today was no different, except that right at the moment that my daughters were to jump out of the car, my oldest daughter informed me that she did not have her I.D. badge. She told me of this while crying—actually, she was having a meltdown. I calmed her down; she got out of the car and walked in the door of the school.
On my way home, I made the decision to ask my wife take the I.D. badge later in the morning. However, when I got home, my wife was still in bed—it was her day off. When I woke her to say goodbye (remember I’m flying out at 9:45) I told her about the I.D. badge. My wife casually mentioned that she hoped my daughter would not be penalized by her teacher for not having her badge. I said goodbye to my wife and went into the kitchen.
At that moment, many thoughts were swirling in my head. First, I needed to be at my friends’ house at 8:00 to take him with me to the airport. Second, we have to make this 9:45 flight. Third, my daughter was one day shy of having a perfect “behavior report” at school, and I knew she was really excited about getting her reward. Her reward was getting to rent and watch the Cinderella 3 movie. Thus, I did not want her to be penalized for something that I should have remembered. Fourth, it was Friday, and that is my wife’s day off to recoup and relax—I didn’t want anything to interrupt that. For most people (including myself up to this point), this whole scenario would be trivial at best. But is it? Is it really trivial?
Just so you understand how I am wired and why this was so important to me, know this: I strongly believe that our decisions affect everyone around us regardless of whether we are aware of it or not. Some of these decisions impact the world, and some of these just impact “our” world—our friends and family.
For a moment in my kitchen, I was paralyzed with indecision. In that moment, I realized my indecision resulted from the fact that I knew that I could take the I.D. badge to the school and still make it in time to pick up my friend and head to the airport. Oddly enough, my paralysis of indecision resulted from something that I knew was possible, not something that was impossible.
I immediately jumped my car, headed for the school. When I arrived, I ran into the office and gave the I.D. badge to the administrative assistant. She said she would take the badge to my daughter for me. Having taken care of that, I ran back to my car, put the key in the ignition and found that my car was dead. I checked to make sure it was in park. I checked if my lights were on. I checked if ANYTHING was on. Nothing. I popped the hood and realized either my battery was dead or my alternator was shot.
At this point, with the hood up on my car, I laid hands on my car’s engine and began to pray. Guess what? Nothing happened. I tried again—something in my head reminded of “perseverance”—nothing happened. At this point I started to unravel a bit. I ran inside the school and asked the first man I saw if he could help me jumpstart my car. Fortunately, I had jumper cables, and I had already hooked them up. All I need was a battery juice donor!
The man looked at me and said, “Well, all I’ve got is a Mini Cooper. Hopefully that’ll work.”
After a few moments of trying to fix the battery cable connections, we finally jump started my car, and I was on my way to the airport. I called my friend and asked him if he could drive separately to meet me at the airport.
As I drove to the airport, I noticed a small company’s billboard that read, “Success is dependent on effort.”
I was feeling confirmed …sort of.
When I arrived at my destination, I called my wife and told her all about what happened. She was very thankful that I let her sleep and took care of delivering the I.D. badge to our daughter. We laughed about the situation and then got off the phone.
As soon as I hung up, I realized something. As a man, and as an introverted creative-type of person, I am not very prone to asking for help. Maybe it’s because I’m big on personal responsibility and, on top of that, I’m a bit O.C.D. With that combination, I really do NOT like bothering people with my problems. It’s like a nightmare for me.
In this moment of reflection, I realized that God knew that when my car broke down my immediate response would be to pray. For me, praying is comfortable. However, what is uncomfortable for me is asking someone for help. It’s tough to be dependent on another person, isn’t it?
Not only is it out of my comfort zone to act on impulse and risk not being on time for something (being punctual is a major thing for me). It’s also out of my comfort zone to bother someone with my problem by asking for help. It’s shameful for me. It hurts my pride and ego.
This impulsive decision to “save the day” for my family was on the level of superhero status in my mind, and yet no one else viewed it this way. For those around me, it was a mundane occurrence, for me it was a tiny miracle. Believe it or not, I felt “called” to take that I.D. badge to my daughter and still make it to my flight on time. It had significance to me, and at first it freaked me out when something went wrong. My initial thought when my car wouldn’t start was, “God, I thought you were in this?”
It wasn’t until I arrived at the Orlando airport that I realized God had been in this crazy morning the entire time. I had written down the words from the billboard and remembered Dallas Willard writing something similar when he said, “grace is not opposed to effort.”
It’s not healthy to think that God’s intent for your life—or your “calling”—will not come without some type of change, discomfort or stretching for you. God’s intent for your life will not have the strength or the capacity for change in the world around us until it changes you first. That’s what I learned by deciding to take my daughter her I.D. badge on an ordinary Friday morning. The ordinary can be extraordinary if we are paying attention.