Voices: Lesson from a trunk

Photo: Lisa F. Young / Shutterstock.com

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It was a gray Wednesday but was forecast to clear.

I had just walked from the hotel in Houston to my rental car parked in back.

I had calculated the extra time I’d need in Houston traffic to arrive on time for my luncheon meeting. Everything was going just as planned.

I popped the trunk and placed my luggage—including an open bag—inside. Then I pushed the trunk down.

It didn’t shut.

Instead, it popped back up. Surprised by this defiant malfunction, I pressed the lid down again—harder. Up it bounced. Oblivious to any possible onlooker’s amusement and increasingly irritated at this lack of mechanical cooperation, I pushed the trunk lid even harder—several times in rapid succession.

This was a contest of wills. My impatience quickly devolved into frustration, then anger and finally practical concern. I pictured myself driving down I-10 with the trunk cover flopping in the air.

That would make it hard to see out the back window, I reasoned. What would I tell the police officer who stopped me? How would I get to this appointment? More importantly, how would I explain to my boss that a demon-possessed trunk lid ruined this trip—after I spent company money on a hotel room?

Why, I seethed, is this happening to me? Why can’t I have a car that works? What’s the problem here?

What’s wrong? This car is brand new. It’s even made in Japan, for goodness sake!

Realizing that playing Jack in the Box wasn’t working, I looked to see if perhaps something was blocking the trunk’s latch. Peering inside, I saw them.

The car keys.

Somehow, they had fallen out of my hand right into the open bag.

Well, what do you know?

I smiled. I suddenly realized this car was specifically designed to protect idiots like me against our own carelessness and inattention. Had that trunk lid shut, I would have been finished. That was the only set of keys I had.

Instead of being dumb and broken, the car was very smart—and working just fine.

I may have muttered some apology to the vehicle; I can’t remember. I did thank God. And felt a bit chagrined before him. If the inanimate had suddenly become animated, I’m sure the car would have had something to say:

“OK, dummy, do you get it now?”

Forgive us, Lord. We know not for what we ask.

Technology is amazing! What a great idea! And a wonderful safety feature.

But I didn’t know that at first—only after my discovery, did it become clear.

On the way to my appointment, I marveled again and shuddered to think what would have happened to me if I had gotten my way, if I had closed that trunk on those keys.

I didn’t know what I was doing. The car was programmed to prevent me from having my own way—for my own good.

We don’t always know what’s good for us. We ask God for things and we don’t really know what we’re asking for. We say we seek his will, but it’s so often ours we want. Then we become frustrated and discouraged and wonder why God hasn’t answered our repeated prayers.

But maybe he has.

Some of God’s most loving answers are denials of our will and our way.

When we pray, “Thy will be done,” are we truly willing to embrace God’s will—in all its difficult and uncertain implications?

Perhaps he’s doing something that will later, in his appointed time, amaze and thrill us.

Only God knows, and he asks you and me to trust him with the things we don’t understand—and sometimes with the things we think we understand but really don’t.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God assures the people of Israel:

“And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16).

It’s a beautiful verse, filled with promise, provision and protection.

God knows what we don’t & sees what we can’t

It’s a fearful and perhaps frustrating thing to be led in unfamiliar paths. The unknown scares, us but to the God who tenderly leads us, there is no unknown. To God alone is the end known from the beginning.

God knows the keys are in the trunk.

“Ah, now I see.”

Still, being only human, we so often strain against the difficulty. We keep trying to shut the trunk.

C.S. Lewis used the example of a dog being walked by its master and getting its leash wrapped around a street lamp. The more the dog strains, the tighter the leash becomes. Only by letting its master bring the dog in the opposite direction from its intention is the leash unwrapped and the dog set free. Then they can go forward together.

A very wise man gives us good advice:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding” (Proverbs 3: 5).

Here are two successive and mutually exclusive commands. We cannot trust God with all our heart if we continue to depend on our own understanding. It is only when we cease relying on our own judgment that we are able to trust God with all our heart.

We can never do both.

And we’ll then discover the keys in the trunk—and realize our heavenly Father always knew best when we clearly did not.

It was a valuable reminder from the trunk of a car.

Jack Wyman has been involved in politics, pastoral ministry and non-profit organizations. He has served on the local school board, two terms as a state lawmaker, and has been a nominee for the U.S. Senate and a candidate for governor of Maine. He is a former educator, political consultant and author. He has served as the pastor of four churches in Maine, Connecticut and Texas.

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