We’ve never had nice cars.
I’ve always had Volvos, and I like them. I’d rather have an older, safer Volvo than something new. I was the middle-income kid at a high school that was named snobbiest school in America by Time Magazine my junior year. A handful of my classmates had Vipers. I had Jean Claude, an aging Volvo station wagon I talked to in a French accent.
Jean Claude – he was awesome. I’d show you a picture, but I think I destroyed everything from those horrible brassy hair-dye years.
The Professor is the same way. His first car was an old oil field truck he used for pumping wells in college. It was gone long before I came into the picture, but I hear it was sturdy, but battered, and covered in red dirt and crude oil.
Yes, some Oklahoma stereotypes are very real.
I think the truck racked up 300,000 hard miles before The Professor and his dad limped it to the lot and traded it in for a used SUV after he got his first teaching job.
Last year, right in the midst of our fertility treatments, our old but reliable cars started dying fast. Both of them. Simultaneously. My Volvo sedan was well over 200,000 miles and the Professor’s old Explorer our “reliable car” was suddenly very unreliable.
It was a time of big stress, but even bigger prayers. I prayed so hard, so often that sometimes I felt a little inside out. Like I dwelled in my heart more than my body. Those were days of deep, intimate times with God.
Now I added our car need to my big prayers. God, both our cars are crapping out, and if they die at the same time, we’re screwed.
Can you say screwed to God? And crapping out? I think you can.
As I prayed, I had this vision of me strapping our baby’s car seat into an SUV. I saw this vision over and over as I prayed, so I began to pray specifically for it.
I cast a wide net, looking on Craigslist, online, newspapers. Nothing was in our price range.
Some friends were moving back to the mission field after a year back in the states for her to have a kidney transplant. Maybe we could buy their car?
I learned it was on loan to them from an older couple in our church, people we knew. So I emailed the car’s owners, apologizing for my impertinence, but would they be selling their old SUV? What would be the cost?
It was the quintessential casting a big net moment. Praying hard and following any lead.
Just 30 minutes later, I got a phone call from our friend. It went something like this. “Oh Sarah! What an answer to prayer you are. We were just praying about what to do with that car. We have no place to put it and no use for it. So we’ll just give it to you!”
Really, give it to us?
Had God just answered our prayers in this big, majestic, undeniable way? He had, and it was a lot to take in. I started crying. Not in a socially appropriate, pretty, I’m-so-thankful-for-you sort of way. No, slobbering, snotty, ugly crying on the phone with the classiest, most composed lady I know.
A month later, our friends plus one new kidney went back to Nicaragua where they help rescue children from human trafficking. And we got our new car. It was was 12 years old – way newer than our cars. It was our first car with keyless entry. And it was fancy.
I prayed for that car with yearning, and God gave it to us. Really, I just prayed for a car we could afford, not a free one. But that’s what he provided. It was beyond anything I could have imagined.
The next day I had my second miscarriage.
It was hard and horrible because miscarriages are hard and horrible. But this time, I had a glimmer of hope. Intertwined in my prayer for the car was the vision I had of putting a baby in an SUV. Logical or even theologically correct I still don’t know, but in my mind, God gave us a car to put a baby in, so I knew he’d give us a baby.
He had to.
The next month, we got pregnant again. And miracle of miracles, we stayed pregnant. It all felt so perfect, driving our miracle car with fancy keyless entry to the doctor to check on our miracle baby. We drove it to Texas for baby showers. We transported our loaned bassinet in it, and we thanked God and our friends for such an answer to prayer.
Then one morning when I was 35 weeks pregnant, we woke up early so I could get to the city for a midwife appointment. I walked outside to find that our SUV had been stolen in the night.
Like really, actually stolen. It was the strangest feeling.
How do you process your car getting stolen? Especially when you live in a nice, low-crime town. We live in a cul-du-sac at the end of our well-kept, but not fancy neighborhood. One of our neighbors told me he leaves his keys in his car and has never locked his house. Another neighbor accidentally left her garage door open the night before and nothing was taken. We almost always put it in the garage, but just hadn’t that night.
It was, in every way, an anomaly.
Being the middle of summer, we figured a few bored kids found some trouble, and the car would show up in a day or two in an empty parking lot or underpass. But it didn’t. Also, our insurance guy had advised us against full-coverage insurance because of the payout versus premium. So, no insurance coverage. And I was 35 weeks pregnant! 35!
I cried out to God with honesty and confusion. What are you doing, God? We’re about to have a baby! The Bible is full of honest prayers, so I think God was fine with those. I really do.
But here’s what he’s not okay with. He’s not okay with us forgetting who he is.
I prayed so big, so boldly before, but I didn’t this time. I didn’t because God already gave us a miracle car. Who was he to provide us with a second miracle car? Add a miracle baby on top of that. We had reached our supernatural provision quota. We were on our own with this one.
I couldn’t ask for more, I decided. And so I didn’t.
My initial Psalms-like “where are you, God” prayers quickly turned to bitter, accusatory rebukes.
This was the car God provided for us, for our baby. In just a few weeks, we were going to drive it to the hospital and a few days later actually buckle a baby into a car seat.
Now what? Now what, God? You let this happen, now fix it.
This went on for a few weeks. A few very unproductive weeks. Shock.
One Saturday three weeks later, I was driving home from the grocery store praying my usual, “What were you thinking, God?” I can tell you what intersection I was at when I heard a voice deep in my heart, deep in my ears.
And when you hear God tell you to stop, you stop – your angry prayers that is, not your car in the middle of traffic. There have only been a few moments in my life where the Lord’s voice has been so…so present, so undeniable. It was a stern rebuke, but it was gentle and loving, too.
“Pray that I would work this out in a way that would give me the most glory.”
To my shame, in three weeks, it never even crossed my mind to pray that prayer. Even knowing our car being stolen was a complete, total anomaly, I never thought about God’s glory. Instead, I had assumed I was marooned, forgotten.
When I forgot who God is – that he doesn’t abandon, he doesn’t forget – I began to focus on my inconvenience, my suffering, my beautiful ideal vision shattered.
So I prayed, God work this out in a way that would bring glory to you. Let this be a story about you, not a story about a car. The more I prayed it, the more I believed it.
Later that day, we got a phone call from some family members. I won’t mention who they are because that would embarrass them, but they are awesome parents, foster parents and intentional in their community.
They needed a different car and couldn’t get a fair trade-in value for their older-model Volvo SUV. They were so annoyed that they decided they’d rather give it away to someone than essentially give it away to a car dealership. Did we want it?
The story unfolded. Two weeks prior, they realized they weren’t going to get a fair trade-in value. She started dreaming of driving halfway across the country to give us their car, but that’s ludicrous, right? So she kept it in her heart. Then, on that Saturday, her husband brought it up to her. He had been praying about it, too.
We could only afford to pay them what the dealership offered, but they refused and God worked in some cool ways to get a few repairs it needed done at a lower cost. Our family came together and paid for some of the repairs. The Professor’s dad flew out to help them drive the car to Oklahoma. They arrived the day Dubs made his eventful entrance into the world.
It’s equal parts amazing and humbling. No, it’s more humbling to be loved in such a real, sacrificial way.
God is not a genie in a bottle. He wasn’t waiting for me to say the magic words so my wish would be granted. But he was, I think, holding out his grand solution until my heart changed, until I remembered who he is.
It’s hard to ask for a second miracle.
It’s hard on our egos and it really seems just too much. God already brought miracle provision. He can’t possibly do it again. He forgave that massive screw up. No more grace for me. I already prayed for and had a healthy child. Can I pray for another miracle? Like, am I even allowed to?
Over the coming weeks after Dub’s birth when my postpartum anxiety/OCD became very bad, that car became more than a car. It was a standing stone (errr…a rolling stone) of God’s faithfulness, and a reminder that I could come to him moment by moment.
That vision I had of buckling Dubs into his carseat in an SUV came true. Like the rest of this story, it was completely different than I had imagined. Our first trip by ourselves was three weeks after he was born and we went to my first counseling appointment to begin tackling my postpartum anxiety.
I’m by no means wise or anything like that. But after this experience, this is what I know: When we believe God is who he says he is, we can pray for a second miracle. Or a seventh or hundredth.
Because who God is, is enough.