Have you ever slept in a parking lot? My wife and I, our two kids and our half-poodle, half-schnauzer, half-stupid dog recently had the opportunity to sleep in The Home Depot parking lot about an hour from our home.
It all began beautifully. Some friends loaned us their RV for a camping trip in the mountains just a few hours from our home. We packed and organized and loaded up on Saturday evening with plans to leave after church on Sunday. The kids were ecstatic to take a trip in this house on wheels. We were all ready to have an adventure.
The adventure began almost immediately as I pulled the 26-foot-long motor home onto the freeway and I realized this was nothing like driving a Prius. Soon after adjusting to our wide berth, we hit Memorial Day Weekend big city traffic. As we wound our way through the freeways of Los Angeles, traffic would lighten and we could reach speeds of up to 45mph. It was then that I noticed the gale force winds threatening to topple the giant beast of an RV. It was an epic struggle of Todd versus wind and traffic. After an indeterminable amount of time (also known as an eternity) I exited, pulled into a shopping center, parked, walked to the back and laid down on the couch proclaiming in my best two-year-old voice, “I’m done!”
After a short rest and with a couple of cheeseburgers, sea-salt fries and a Frosty in my stomach we were back on the road. This time, my wife was driving. She made it to the next exit where she quickly left the freeway unable to manage her rising blood pressure and profuse sweating. I found myself back at the wheel, nursing the beast up the hills and through traffic listening to the rhythmic thump-thump of the lane markers on both sides as we pinballed back and forth inside our lane.
Each minute took longer than the last minute to pass. Time became relative and then I noticed it didn’t just seem as if everything was slowing down, we actually were slowing down. I pressed the gas harder only to get a refusal from the engine. Something was wrong. Again, we exited the freeway. I used all my mechanical knowledge (checking the oil and gauges), called upon the power of Google and determined something was wrong but nothing that would cause us to explode. All clear and we were back on the road.
As we careened down the on-ramp we maxed out at about 35mph and upon entering the freeway immediately slowed to 15mph. Then the engine died. Suddenly I’m the guy we all hate blocking a lane on an already congested road. There, on the side of the freeway our family quickly gathered and prayed for safety and a functioning RV.
The next few hours would find us slowly nursing the beast off the freeway and through the narrow streets of Glendale in search of engine parts or a mechanic. Hopes of a Wal-Mart and prayers for no one-way streets filled our thoughts, along with other words I won’t share. What we found was The Home Depot and twenty or more mechanics closed for the holiday weekend.
What happened next is truly the incredible part. We had fun! We ordered pizza (you should have seen the delivery guys face once he found us), we played cards, we laughed, we went roller-skating, and we laughed. We had our own little vacation just past the floor models of build-your-own sheds and outdoor plants.
Sleep soon found us and other than the occasional car, train, leaf-blower (to clean the parking lot) or snoring child we made it through the night without incident. The morning was marked by cold cereal and more phone calls and my own anxiety about getting “the show on the road.” After several more closed mechanics we reached an auto parts store, which couldn’t get the parts for two days. I wanted to throw myself on the floor and just get it all out “tantrum” style. Then we found Byron.
Byron’s Auto wasn’t open, but we were able to reach Byron (father of eight children and four dogs including two pit-bulls) who agreed to take a look at our problem. He quickly dismissed our diagnosis and told us the catalytic converter was melted and with a quick patch we’d be on the road in a couple hours. He then took the time to drive our family to his favorite local bakery.
After our fill of second breakfast we wandered the area playing with iPads at Best Buy, exploring a food market from India and making our way back to the shop past Chevy Chase Park (yes, I see the irony). We didn’t find what I expected. I expected the RV to be gone, all our stuff to be stolen and the shop to be closed leaving us stranded…or maybe a bill for a thousand dollars. Instead the RV sat there somewhat smug, running perfectly, and we were back on the road for $180.
Driving home from our adventure (at 70mph with no wind I might add) my wife and I were laughing tired laughs about our complete disaster of a vacation. Only, that’s not how the kids remember it…and…it’s really not how we remember it either. The vacation was what we made it. The vacation was what we allowed God to do with it in our lives. The vacation was God providing a place for us to grow. To grow our faith. To grow our family. To grow our trust in His Kingdom where there won’t be any RV’s.
I’m learning what it means to let God work all things together for good in the end. At the heart of it all, I want to see the situations of life with the faith of a child. More often than not I act like a child when things don’t go my way. I’m learning to leave my childish ways for a childlike faith. It makes all the difference in the world.
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Mark 10:15 ESV