It was an old work truck. It was a beautiful, yet rusty, Carolina blue. My dad bought it many years earlier for his home construction business. It was your basic, stripped-down, go from point A to point B kind of transportation. None of that fancy, smancy stuff like AC or radio or power steering or air bag (It had a metal dashboard too!) or even outside mirrors. It did not even have automatic transmission. It was a stick shift. “3 on the tree” was the technical jargon.
I had turned 16 and was excited about driving. I had a car with an automatic transmission, but if I was going to work for my father in his business, I needed to learn to drive that pick up with the manual transmission. Early that summer when I got out of school, he gave me the chance to drive it. After minimal instructions, I sat in the driver’s seat and pushed in the clutch. That pedal felt like it was spring loaded. I cranked it up, pulled the stick down in first and eased off the clutch just like I had seen others do it. It lurched, then sputtered, then cut off. Sigh. “You have to give it more gas and feel the truck pull forward,” my father said.
So I pushed in the clutch, cranked the truck and eased off the clutch. It began to pull forward, I gave it too much gas, the engine revved, so I backed off. It lurched, it sputtered, then cut off. Repeat – several times. Then finally I got it going. Victory at last! We moved forward. The other two gears were comparatively easy.
And then came the turn onto a side street when that old blue ford sputtered to a stop. I didn’t give it enough gas. Sigh. Here we go again. But this time, several men were working on the road. I remember thinking, “Oh dang! This won’t be good.” I now had more than my father watching. I had an audience. Sure enough. It wasn’t good. I don’t know how many times that truck died on me in front of those men, but it had to have been more than a hundred. At least it felt that way. It probably took me 30 minutes to get that truck rolling again. I was embarrassed and frustrated.
Eventually I got it moving and pulled away. What a relief that was. Today, 36 years later, what I remember the most is that my dad did not rescue me. The easiest thing for him to have done would have been to swap seats with me and drive the truck away, but he didn’t. He sat with me in my failures while others watched. He stayed right there and encouraged me until I succeeded and drove the truck away. He knew that I needed to learn how to drive that truck.
It reminds me of my heavenly Father. How many times has He watched me fail? And yet He has never walked away or given my task to someone else. He has refused to let me quit. He has stayed right there with me until I succeeded because he knew that I needed the struggle. The struggle was what made me stronger.