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One of the nice things about having visitors here is that it gives me an excuse to show them the city of Paris. Otherwise I have to work.
Just before Christmas I took two Brazilian pastors into the center of Paris to look around. One of the men pastors a church in northern France while the other came from Brazil to visit him. The visitor remarked, “When I talked to my wife on the phone, and she heard that I was visiting Paris, she said, ‘Paris is romantic!’”
I took the Toyota that day. I had been hearing a funny sound in the motor and I had thought to myself, “I wonder if that alternator belt is loose—or if the alternator is going out.” But the sound wasn’t too bad and it didn’t seem to be getting worse, and I’d heard it a long time, so I didn’t worry about it. It would probably get better, huh?
That day Paris Christmas decorations were dampened by a cold rain but for those seeing it for the first time it’s still impressive—a cappuccino next to Notre Dame cathedral beats Starbucks any day.
Darkness falls early in December and I wanted to show them the Avenue des Champs-Élysées then go home. We wandered around looking for the right direction (I’m good at wandering). We got snatched into a traffic jam which moved forward with glacier-like quickness.
The funny noise in the motor of the car started to get funnier—or scarier according to your perspective. “Hmmm, maybe we better head towards home,” I announced to my friends. Finally as we crawled onto the Place de la Concord, which is situated at the bottom end of the Champs-Elysées the belt for the alternator/power steering/water pump, and various and sundry other important functions, gave way.
“Uh, oh!” I looked frantically around in the slow-moving, honking mass for a parking place. Finally just to my left I saw a bus parking area and pulled into it. I figured a friendly policeman would see me, and when he came to scold me I’d get him to call for a wrecker. Two hours later there was still no policeman. Why aren’t they so invisible when I go 15 kilometers per hour over the speed limit?
We called a brother in the church to come help and waited … and waited, because he was caught in a traffic jam too. Here we were—Place de la Concorde—people come from all over the world to look up the Champs Elysée from this Place at the gaudy Christmas lights, illuminating one of the most famous avenues in the world, and ending in the awe-inspiring Arc de Triomphe.
I wasn’t too inspired. We were a long way from Paraloma, Arkansas (where I grew up). My feet were damp, it was dark and raining, I didn’t know how we were getting the car home, and I was afraid it was going to cost a fortune to tow it. So much impressive beauty and such a lost feeling.
“Paris is really romantic,” I grinned to my Brazilian friend.
Well, to shorten a long story, we made it home. The car windows were all fogged up from the rain so after about two hours we decided to have a prayer meeting on the Place de la Concorde. Those Brazilian guys can really pray. After a short time, our prayer meeting was interrupted by the brother from the church who finally broke through the traffic jam.
And then suddenly a wrecker just showed up out of nowhere. He had been going to get a cup of coffee and saw this forlorn Toyota with its mouth (hood) open, so he stopped to help.
At the end, though, I still wasn’t super happy. I had just experienced a lot of adventure and I wondered if the Lord wasn’t trying to teach me something. It seems to me that some comic-strip super hero used to opine at times like this, “There’s a lesson in here somewhere.”
And I tried to see if the Lord was speaking to me in this trying circumstance. I could see the value of prayer from what happened; maybe that was it.
But I woke up in the middle of the night and I understood immediately what the message was: if your car is making a funny noise, get it fixed dummy! Sometimes, if something is wrong, human bodies get better all by themselves, but cars? Never. Cars don’t have white corpuscles or healing capacities. Get it fixed now and it will be cheaper in the long run.
Couldn’t help applying that to my life and to our lives. Is your life making a funny noise somewhere? Is there something wrong that you know you need to repair but you keep putting it off and hoping everything will be all right—your prayer life, your relationship with your wife or husband or kids? Your church attendance? That thing that God told you to do and you’ve been putting it off?
Are there funny noises coming from your work because you’re spending too much time surfing the Internet? Or maybe the Dallas Cowboys are more exciting to you than your wife? Your hearing a grinding noise (that’s your wife gritting her teeth).
“A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.” (Proverbs 29:1, NIV)
The noise isn’t going to get better. Fix it! Now! Otherwise you will find yourself broken down somewhere.