April 22, 2010
In the spring of 2001, my first grandson was born. He was two months premature, and spent the first several weeks of his life in hospital. We lived in Keremeos, and every morning I would drive my daughter to the hospital in Penticton so she could be with her little son. Then I would go home to do my work and care for the rest of the family; and in the evening I would return to Penticton to pick up my daughter and bring her home.
Several days a week I would also drive to Ashnola to tutor a home-bound student. Besides all this driving, there were shopping trips, appointments, school league soccer games in various nearby communities, parent-teacher interviews, and all the other “mom’s taxi” excursions common to a parent of five teenagers.
All this coming and going took place in a 9 seater gas-guzzling station wagon of a rather elderly vintage. While the gas mileage for poor battered old Betsy was actually quite reasonable for a vehicle of her size and age, it definitely was not cheap. And we simply did not have any extra cash in our already thinly-stretched budget for these extra twice-daily trips between Keremeos and Penticton. To top it off, Betsy’s gas gauge had given out, so we never knew for sure when the gas was running low, although the odometer plugged along merrily, recording the endless kilometers spinning away under her tires.
Now it happened that this was a period in my life that had brought me to the end of myself. I had been raised to be independent, self-motivated, organized, self-reliant, responsible: “I can do it!” was my self-sufficient rallying cry. But now I had come to a point of such desperation and hopelessness that I actually began to reach out to my Creator, Who had long been holding out His hand to me.
At first this desperate reaching out was reserved for life’s big matters, things like attempted suicides in my family. I still thought I could take care of the no-sweat small stuff. But now even the small stuff was becoming overwhelming. For example: how on earth was I going to be able to drive two round trips to Penticton every day so my daughter could care for her tiny boy?
And so I cried out for help with this gas problem. Yes, I made helpful suggestions: Maybe someone could be sent along to loan us some money? Maybe someone could lend us a car that was more economical on gas? Maybe someone could offer my daughter a place to stay in Penticton? Maybe… maybe… maybe… But my helpful suggestions seemed to be met with utter silence.
Life was busy and chaotic, and the days flew by as I drove my daughter back and forth. Then suddenly one evening I realized, “Oh no! I haven’t put gas in the car in over a week. Surely the gas tank must be empty, running on fumes. The car has never gone anywhere near this far on one tank of gas!”
I jumped into the car and drove the kilometer or so to the gas station, praying frantically all the way that I wouldn’t run out of gas before I got there. Every little bump on the road and every little shudder from poor tired old Betsy assured me that I would never make it.
But amazingly, I found myself rolling into the gas station and pulling up to the pumps. I only had $10, and past experience taught me that a single round trip to Penticton and back would require at least $15 worth of gas. Maybe I could borrow an extra $10 or so from someone tomorrow? Dear God?
I started to pump the gas, watching carefully to be sure to stop when it reached the $10 mark. But suddenly, “Click!” The gas pump stopped. I pressed down on the handle, a few more cents registered on the pump, and then with another “Click!” the pump stopped again. A spurt of gas gushed up from the tank and splashed onto my hands. It did seem that the tank was full. But how? I’d already driven what would normally be at least a couple, or even 3 or 4, tank-fulls. Yet now the tank was apparently full with only $7 worth of gas!
I was literally shaking. What was this? A gas miracle? Do such things exist? More likely, an air-lock in the tank? I went into the gas station and paid the $7, then drove home. The next day I drove my daughter into Penticton again, praying under my breath all the way. One moment I was thanking God for providing a miracle. The next moment I was frantically begging Him to just get us there and back without running out of gas. I coasted down every slope, trying to save gas. But in the end, I did get there and home, and back to Penticton and home again in the evening. And so I continued to do, again and again, for several days.
Finally, my husband’s pay cheque arrived in the mail. Our budget was $20 for 2 weeks worth of gas. I drove down to the gas station, but decided to go to the drug store and bank first. When I came out of the drug store, the car would not start. It was completely out of gas. What to do?
“God, where are You? Why are You letting this happen? Don’t You care?” Tears were starting to trickle down my cheeks when a man drove his truck out of the adjoining lane. He stopped and asked if I was okay. I explained that I was out of gas.
“No problem!” he responded cheerfully, and got out a very small can of gas. He poured most of it into the tank, but the engine would not start. He opened the hood of the can and poured the rest somewhere into the engine – and finally it turned over. This helpful gentleman told me to drive up the hill to the gas station, and he would follow me just in case I ran out of gas again.
Up the hill we went – slowly, very slowly, behind a large truck. Halfway up the hill, it stalled, and we had to stop behind it. We started up again, and then had to stop at the intersection. I was sure we’d never make it. But finally, I was able to cross the highway and pull into the Hilltop Esso station. The engine died again just as I rolled up to the pumps. I put in the $20 worth of gas – and drove for another full week or so.
One of my children earned some money and gave me $10 one day. I decided I would use it for gas on my way home from my tutoring job. I drove back across Red Bridge and swung onto the highway, starting up the final uphill grade before the road slopes back down toward the Fas Gas station at the western end of Keremeos. Just as I neared the top of the slope, the car engine spluttered and died. Praying fervently, I kept my foot off the brake and let the car roll. It came to a full stop on the very top of the slope.
“Oh dear God, help me!” I cried out. And then slowly, very, very slowly, old Betsy started to roll down the hill, gradually gathering a bit of speed. As I came up to the station, I was able to steer off the road, and the car coasted up and stopped, without my braking, right in front of the pumps. I put in the $10 worth of gas. And drove several more days.
And so it went, right until my baby grandson was brought home from the hospital, and the Penticton trips were no longer necessary. And at that point, old Betsy went right back to her usual gas-guzzling ways.
I spoke about this experience to various acquaintances. A few agreed it had to be a miracle. Others, especially those with mechanical knowledge, just shook their heads, looked at me as if I was slightly crazy, and told me that it was impossible, that I must be mistaken about the mileage or the amount of gas or both.
I know I was not mistaken. But they were right about one thing: it was impossible. At least it was impossible for me, or for any human for that matter. But obviously it was not impossible for the Creator Who called the worlds into being. Who cares about His children. And for Whom gas miracles are definitely possible.