“I heard you had a smashing vacation.” Those were the words the local Methodist minister used to greet me, after our car was totaled on our “vacation.” I’ve been thinking about that “vacation” because we just returned from another Brown Family Vacation. They bear little resemblance to the Chevy Chase variety, but our car had to be towed twice – and we waited along Interstate 70 for four hours for a tow truck the first time. Within the first dozen hours of our “vacation” we had already incurred $800 in expenses we had not planned.
But there was another Brown Family Vacation worse than our last one. Just 30 years before my little family had left town at 2 a.m. June 25, 1984. We had traveled (“travailed” would be appropriate, too, since the trip was made with two children under 4 years of age, both of whom were averse to sitting in infant seats for 600 miles) for 15 hours. We had set up our tent on the hill above the Blue River in Milltown, Ind. (Sure you know where Milltown is — four miles east of Marengo!)
My wife screamed. I could hardly believe it, but our “little red wagon” (a Datsun 210) was rolling toward the river. Thankfully, it stopped before it went into the river. “How did it stop?” you ask. It hit three trees. And if that wasn’t enough, our luggage (which had been in the open carrier on top of the car) was floating down the river. And if that wasn’t enough, between me and my luggage was 12 solid feet of poison ivy. (I hate poison ivy!) and if that wasn’t enough … but that’s enough of that.
And that was the first 15 minutes of our “vacation,” not counting the 12-hour trip, which was no “vacation,” let me tell ‘yuh!
I was struggling. The long story involves my sister driving four hours to help us. It involves charging a one-way plane ticket; getting our second car and beginning a 650 mile trip without sleep; beginning to itch from the poison ivy as soon as I got to my sister’s house. It involves spending all the money we had saved for vacation in the first 24 hours. It involves asking God “Why?” and not having a clue why He would allow that in our lives. (And I have to point out what thoughtful people would feel: compared to the extreme anguish and suffering that is going on in the wider world, my little problems are just that – very small, but we often get bogged down with our own little problems.)
But finally, the moment came when I had to deal with it: I had to confess my anger and disappointment with God. I had to humble my proud heart and call out to Him.
Through an odd series of circumstances He put in front of me this verse: 1 Thessalonians. 5:18 – “In everything give thanks: For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” The Lord wanted me at that moment to give thanks in that situation. Notice carefully – not for that situation but in that situation.
What did I have to be thankful for? (I didn’t tell you that our sleeping bags were in the river, along with our Coleman stove and lantern, which do not float, by the way.) But what did I have to be thankful for? 1. Our children had been in the car just moments before. Neither was in it when it crashed. 2. The car rolled over and crushed Anna’s brand-new-for-the-trip battery-powered toy truck. Anna had just been where the car rolled but wasn’t there when the car crushed her toy. 3. The car hit a big tree and did not go in the water. That saved my briefcase, along with many other things we could not replace. 4. We were in a small town full of helpful folks. 5. We had an insurance man who drove our second car 100 miles to meet my plane in Tulsa.
That only begins to mention the things we found to thank the Lord for, even though we felt heavily the loss of a car, time, and money. God proved to us once again the truth of Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.”
God is good. We had a smashing vacation.