Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
April 25, 2010
The night my father sent his son to rescue me
Nearly 40 years have passed but I remember that night in July as though it was yesterday. It was the night our car broke down on the highway near Greenville, Alabama.
I was 40 years old at the time, the father of five sons but still young enough to call my own father to bail me out of a problem. Though my father never graduated from high school he was one of the smartest men I have ever known. I grew up knowing that I could count on him in a crisis. He was strong and steady.
Daddy was a “Jack of all trades.” He had worked as a plumber’s assistant and along the way picked up basic skills in carpentry. He became a decent mechanic by maintaining his own farming equipment. He used what he had and found ingenious ways to fix things that were broken.
Dean and I married when we were 20. I was wet behind the ears with little experience in dealing with the unexpected. When there was a problem I was not ashamed to call Daddy for advice. He would know what to do when no one else did.
Calling on Daddy for advice gradually began to bother me. I thought it made me seem inadequate in my wife’s eyes. I wanted her to think that I could handle anything. Her father died when she was very young. She had not grown up depending on her dad as I had mine. I sensed that she wanted me to “grow up,” be a man, take charge, and stop calling my dad about every crisis.
I wanted that identity for myself too. I wanted my sons to think of me as I thought of my dad – a strong man who could fix anything. Gradually I began breaking the habit of calling Daddy for counsel. I felt like a real man at last.
So on that July night when our car broke down I was determined to fix the problem myself. We were returning to Mobile from a family vacation in Minnesota. With the help of a kind man who stopped to help us we pushed the car into a gas station just off the interstate.
I soon discovered that since it was Saturday no car repair center was open. No one knew of a mechanic who would be available until Monday. But I was desperate. I had to preach the next morning in my church. My family was dog tired.
I kept trying to locate a mechanic but searched in vain. And I did not have a clue what to do. I was exhausted. My wife was frustrated. Our sons were simply being little boys – and driving us crazy. My whole family was beginning to doubt my manhood. I could hear their silent demand: “You are the daddy. You are in charge. Why don’t you figure out what to do?”
Finally I thought about my favorite solution --call my daddy. But I was too proud to do that. After all, what could he do that I could not do? And I could hear my wife saying with a smirk, “So you called your Daddy did you? That is all you know how to do – call your Daddy!” I did not want to hear that so in desperation I went back to the drawing board. Still no answer came to mind.
Finally I caved in and called Daddy. Why not? He always knew what to do. By then I had learned that my car needed a new starter. Resourceful as ever, Daddy called a friend who ran an auto parts store. Though his store had been closed since noon, he agreed to meet Daddy at the store and sell him the starter. My brother Seth would be driving down to bring me the starter.
It was ten o’clock and help was on the way. My brother, sixty miles away, would arrive shortly after eleven o’clock. In the meantime fortune had smiled on me again; a local mechanic, home from an afternoon of fishing, had agreed to come to the service station and install the starter.
Once Seth arrived, the grumbling mechanic quickly replaced the starter. It was after midnight but we were on the road again. Yet before I had driven five miles suddenly I had to pull off the highway and stop the car. I was blinded by the tears that filled my eyes.
What triggered my crying was the sudden realization that this little Saturday night crisis was the gospel – fleshed out in this strange breakdown of our car. It was simple yet profound – I had called my father and he had sent his son to rescue us.
That is the essence of salvation – when our problems overwhelm us, we can call our heavenly Father and he will send His Son to save us. I could not imagine a more beautiful illustration of the gospel message. It is the message around which my whole life has been focused.
I sat on the side of the road for awhile regaining my composure. The boys were asleep, completely unaware of the exhilaration within my heart. My wife, half asleep, said, “What is wrong; why did you stop?” I told her I would explain later and urged her to go back to sleep. When my tears subsided I drove home, my weariness replaced by a joyous sense of the presence of God.
The next morning I told this story to my congregation and God blessed the telling of it. I reckon you can understand why I will never forget the night my father send his son to rescue me, and why I keep telling this story to anyone who will listen. + + +