Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

You’ve heard the old joke about "I had a bath last March." Well, today I actually took my first bath since July 2004.

The last one had been 10,000 miles away, so far away in fact that as I sank deeper into this lovely familiar boiling kettle of heat, my last bathtub was actually getting ever so slightly closer.

I found myself musing. They say the water swirls clockwise down the bathplug in New Zealand, and indeed this can be true. However it's not true of the overflow. I'm not kidding. In New Zealand, when bathwater reaches the overflow, it stops. It won’t even go in. They don’t have overflows.

It's as though whoever wrote the software for New Zealand, forgot to include the bit of programming for overflows, and as a result the subroutine controlling the water just doesn't know what to do with it. This paragraph is all getting a bit Matrix. I'll stop.

I don't recall now, but I probably lay there swirling around some stuff of my own - what I was doing in New Zealand, where my life was going, my feelings, oh yes, and my having reversed Jack's truck straight into the side of someone's parked 4x4 yesterday.

Jack had been furious. His wife had been absolutely aghast. Unfortunately, the lady who actually owned the big black 4x4 hadn't taken it nearly so well.

Sitting alone in the passenger seat of Jack's MPV afterwards, of course I'd prayed. I didn't want to lose points off my licence. I didn't want to lose the money. I didn't want to get shouted at again, I mean who does? But I gave the whole thing to God, and told Him that if He wanted me to face up to those things, to build me in His own way, he'd better just bring it on. I’d do it.

I glanced out of the right window at the 4x4. I couldn't hear anything, but Jack was standing beside it talking to his wife, who was gaping at the (miniscule, I swear) scratch marks with both her open palms completely covering her temples. I wish I'd photographed her. That one image would have saved me typing the whole of the last entry.

I asked myself a thoroughly self-righteous question: had it been my fault?

Well let's see - I had been in the driver's seat, but the other vehicle had blatantly been parked in a parking bay. Nonetheless, I still rated my chances of being found innocent quite highly, at least by myself.

The thing I couldn't reconcile, was that for something to go wrong, I believed that there had to be a sin somewhere. Otherwise it could happen in Heaven. So where had the sin that caused this been?

I'd found the truck's gearstick to be awkward right from the word go, and had had a few earlier problems with thinking that it was in a particular gear, when it hadn't been. I knew I had physically pulled the stick back out of reverse, centred it, and then thrust it firmly forward into what I had honestly believed to be 2nd. This was a mistake, not a sin.

All right, what would Jesus have done differently? Would He have known that the truck was actually in reverse? If so, how? Saying that He would have known because He was God undermines His example to us of how to live.

He saw in the distance a fig-tree covered with leaves, so he went to see if he could find any figs on it. But when he came to it, he found only leaves, because it was not the right time for figs. Jesus said to the fig-tree, "No one shall ever eat figs from you again!" And his disciples heard him.
- Mark 11:13-14 (Good News)

So, what, I'm supposed to curse the truck?

This is getting me off the point - I'm not concerned with the effect, but the cause. Where was the sin here? Jack had shouted at me. But I had been the one actually driving. The gearstick, I reckoned, had been designed badly. Or maybe it was old. Or maybe that’s a normal type of gearstick for a truck. But I had been the one actually driving.

Waiiitaminute. I’m on a NZ Learners Licence. As Jack was in the vehicle, he was my supervisor. Could it be that he was unwittingly legally responsible?

Well, it doesn’t really matter who was legally responsible. Only who was morally responsible, and that had to be me.

Although I still couldn't figure out how, it was my fault. Whatever had actually caused the misunderstanding within me of how the different bits of machinery in the car had been aligned was irrelevant. I was the one who'd changed the gears inaccurately, and depressed the accelerator. Even though I had done it in innocence.

As we had driven in silence off-site for lunch, I voiced an earlier concern that I’d had about the mailboxes I’d driven past. A couple of enquiries had confirmed my suspicions.

"You told me," I contended "that I would only be driving on private property. If that is a public road, then my NZ Learners Licence won’t allow me to do this. I’m afraid this just isn’t going to fly."

It was the employment equivalent of a Get Out Of Jail Free card. Jack agreed, and together we had found a scapegoat. He didn’t need to 'sack' me, and I didn’t need to leave. We both had no choice in the outcome.

Of course, as I type this now, I can see how that quite unequivocally makes it my fault.

Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.

- 1 Corinthians 10:13 (Good News)

My mistake - my sin - was in consciously deciding to drive the last stretch of what appeared to be a public road without L plates. I should have stopped and told Jack that, legally, he had to do that bit, no matter how much he'd shouted at me. But I had thought that I would do better by getting away with it and keeping him calmer. If I had asked myself what God's moral will was, and followed it, that would have been my way out.

Jack said that I could stay at his house until I found somewhere else, but I told him I’d leave on Sunday whatever happened.

That evening he, his wife and I all helped their daughter to deliver the local newspaper. It was good to do something together, however brief and trivial.

Now it was the following day, and I had their whole house to myself and Princess Leia. Getting out of the bath I remembered why I shouldn’t run them so hot – they can make me dizzy.

I had about 24 hours to find somewhere else to live. Sure - I had a plan, but right now I wasn't the slightest bit worried about whether it would work.

I was far more interested in whatever God's plan was. And to follow that, all I really had to do was follow His moral will.

(tomorrow's post here)


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