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Sunday, August 01, 2004

Pondering the Lord's Use of Timing: The Key to Many Miracles

I have long been impressed with the Lord's use of timing to bring blessings and miracles into the lives of people. In many cases, it's as if He lets natural events to occur - troubles, trials, sickness, grief, and so forth - but tweaks the timing in many cases to sometimes bless people in the midst of our mortal trials. Answers to prayer, in my experience, seem particularly subject to the miracles of His timing.

My most recent experience with divine timing came yesterday, during my brief visit to Utah. My son and his wife left Wisconsin on Thursday driving our van packed with wedding gifts, personal belongings, and some furniture. I flew out to Utah on Friday to attend a Lindsay family reunion and join my son and his wife to help them get settled in their apartment and ready for school, and to retrieve the van and drive it back. Of course, as nervous parents, we had prayed frequently that they would arrive safely. We had taken it in for service and new tires to make sure it was fit for the long drive with a heavy load. I was grateful when they arrived safely late Friday night. Saturday morning, we then teamed up to drive the van to Provo. As we were nearing the Interstate in Sandy, Utah, the van suddenly died in the middle of a busy road. I couldn't restart it. There was gasoline under the van, and plenty to worry about. The traffic died down quickly, allowing us to push the van back a few feet and then maneuver it into an empty parking lot. It was truly fortunate that I was there, because it took both my son and I to push the heavy vehicle while his wife steered. I used my cell phone to call my father in Salt Lake, who knew a local guy with a reliable towing service and arranged for him to come rapidly. In a short while, the tow truck was there - one of the nice flatbed trucks that turned out to be ideal for towing the loaded van. Amazingly, the tower knew of a service station about two blocks away that was open and would be able to work on our van that day, a Saturday, when it can normally be quite difficult to get automotive work done.

We left the van at the shop, went with my parent to a little family reunion in Eden, Utah (near Ogden Canyon), and when we came back later that afternoon, the van was ready. We were feeling remarkably blessed already at this point.

Now here's a really amazing thing: the people at the shop (Hillside Tire) told us that the mechanical problem behind all this was that the Wisconsin shop that serviced our vehicle had broken the fuel line when they replaced the fuel filter. The fuel line that includes a fuel filter has plastic snaps that lock one end of the fuel line into the receiving line of the engine, and the snaps had been broken when the connection was being plugged in. The line had been pushed firmly into place but was not secure and could have popped back and sprung an engine-stopping leak at any time. The van could have died in the middle of Nebraska, or in the dark on a dangerous downhill stretch through the Rockies, or in hundreds of other places where towing and repair services were not readily available, or where they could have been struck by a fast-moving semi. (Being stranded over a puddle of gasoline poses other risks as well.) Instead, it died in what must have been the most advantageous place of the entire journey: near a safe place to temporarily move the van, with help available to push it, near help that could get the right kind of tow truck to us rapidly, within two blocks of a repair shop that was open, a shop that could work on the van right away, and that was able to get a needed part (new fuel line for a 1999 van) from a local dealer right away. I've had plenty of experiences where parts were not in stock and required a couple days to receive. Not this time.

The van broke down when I was with my son and his wife to help them and comfort them, in a place where it was easy to get the car off the road, at a time when traffic was light. But thirty minutes later, when the tow truck arrived, traffic was amazingly heavy (this 106th South, about 80 yards east of State Street) and it was still heavy at 4 PM that afternoon. Dealing with the situation would have been more difficult and dangerous in heavy traffic.

As we discussed all the things that could have gone wrong and all the things that went right in terms of timing, we are tremendously grateful to the Lord for answering the many prayers that were offered to keep our kids safe. My father jokingly noted that it would have been even more of a blessing if the Lord had kept the Wisconsin shop from damaging our fuel line in the first place. Who knows how many times we have received such blessings in our lives without knowing it? Mercifully, every now and then the Lord does let us know in cases like this. And in my experience, it seems like the Lord often lets events take their course: human mistakes and sins are allowed to occur, including damaging the connection of a fuel line, but then the Lord may, in some cases according to His will, step in and help us deal with those situations by reaching out in mercy and love to tweak the timing of events.

One can dismiss all this as nonsense, and it will seem so to those who have not experience the reality of God. This kind of little event is not a proof that God exists or that prayers are answered - it is not meant as a proof of any kind. But I offer it as my thankful expression to a loving Heavenly Father who mercifully heard our prayers and intervened to protect two loved ones of mine by graciously adjusting the timing of an event that was had to happen. During a total of roughly 50 hours of driving from the time the van left Wisconsin to when it will get back, the failure of the fuel line occurred literally within a few seconds of the most ideal and convenient time, and within a few yards of the most convenient place. It turned out to be a great day, a productive and tiring and joyous day. Some other day, the Lord may choose to let me or my loved ones perish in adverse circumstances, according to His will, but on this day, I rejoice that His will allowed us to be the recipients of such kindness, and that He could answer our prayers so mercifully with this "small" miracle.

9 comments:

dp said...

Nice post. I can think of at least three specific instances from the last decade or so when we've had car problems, and they have happened in incredibly convenient places. Each time I have recognised the blessings of the Lord in my life.

cayblood said...

Thanks so much for sharing these modern miracle experiences. You articulate them well, and they help me to remember God's goodness in my own life.

Kim Siever said...

Last May, we had the block heater pop out on our car and all of the coolant leaked on to the road. Luckily, we were idling outside of the house of some of our friends. They had a motor vehicle association membership that allowed us to tow it home without any cost to us. They also drove the four of us home in their huge van.

I empathise with you, Jeff.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure glad he was giving you guys a hand, at the same time He was helping an elderly sister in my ward find her lost hamster. Problem is, He was so busy He let 465 people in Paraguay burn up in a shopping center when it caught fire and the owner locked the doors to prevent looting.
It's called luck guys. Sometimes we have it, sometimes we don't. But to pretend that somehow God was looking out for you while letting nearly 500 people get roasted like so many marshmellows isn't very faith promoting for me.
Our God is a merciful God!

Anonymous said...

Ever heard of the squeaky wheel getting the grease? Perhaps since you prayed so frequently, God came to your rescue to get you off his back. What you relate is in reality something that happens to almost everyone somewhere every day (and you don't have to be Mormon either) There is nothing amazing or wonderful about anything other than your vivid imagination working overtime. Be assured that God has waaaay more important things to worry about with the goings on in this world but if you and all the others who have this mindset and wish to give credit to the lord, so be it. Really, guys, think about it.

T said...

Some people just have no faith at all. Sigh... so sad.

Mormanity said...

Please don't try to take this one experience as proof of God's existence. It wasn't meant a proof, as I explained. Each year, millions die, millions suffer, and I will have my turn. Mortality is a challenging place with many questions, and disaster is something we have to deal with. But we need to be careful about our assumptions.

The Lord warned against hasty assumptions regarding disaster in Luke 13:4 when he spoke of 18 people who died when a tower collapsed in Siloam. It was an awful tragedy - much smaller than many modern ones, of course - but horrible for the families involved. He warns us not to think that they were not righteous. By implication, I believe he also warns us to not think that God did not love them or care for them. Junk happens. Good people die in horrible ways. Yet in the ministry of Christ, in the midst of all the horror and sorrow of this mortal world, we see Christ reaching out to heal a blind man, to cure a sick woman, to raise a child who appeared to be dead. There is power in these moments. The path of faith calls for us to recognize the hand of God in our lives, to be grateful for answers to prayer, and yet to accept His will when things don't go our way.

The same love that allowed my family to be blessed in a minor but important experience for us is available to all in far richer measure than merely allowing a broken fuel line to fail in a convenient place. He allows all of our failures to occur in the most convenient place of all for us, and the most inconvenient for Him. I refer to the neighborhood of Calvary and Gethsemene, where all our failures come together and can be washed away in His blood. What greater miracle is there than this, the miracle of the Atonement that brings us safely back - not to Wisconsin, as beautiful as it is - but to the presence of the Father.

Anonymous said...

I ran out of gas in the middle of a very busy intersection in Las Vegas during the July 4th weekend there. My little boy told me to fill up sooner and I brushed his warnings off. He had just had 26 stitches put into his knee and couldn't walk. It was a very stressful and dangerous situation. That was until...two very cleancut looking young men appeared out of nowhere and offered to push our car. They were like heavenly messengers to us. We were pushed to a nearby gas station and these two young men disappeared just as quickly as they appeared. I had only barely enough time to wave at them and yell a thank you as they were far away by the time I could get out of the car. It really felt like divine intervention.
Tom Sanford AZ

Anonymous said...

I like Tom's example. Two people helping a person in need. They may just as easily have been dreadlocked Rastas as being clean cut white guys. This is the way, I think, that God works--through ordinary human beings who want to help fellow humans. Things like keys being found, etc. are just luck of the draw.