By Eugene C. Scott
As of today, my 11 year-old Nissan Pathfinder with only 267,000 miles on it won’t go into reverse. It could be worse. It might have been the other way around and I would have had to drive around backwards all day. Some people say reverse is a totally optional gear. That’s only true if you have someone nice enough and strong enough to push your car backwards.
That’s why I went to pick up my six-foot-something, couple hundred pound, ex-football player, friend and fellow blogger, Michael Gallup, from work at Chick-fil-A . I told him we were going to a hospital in downtown Denver to visit a family in our church who had just experienced the miracle of the birth of their third child. A miracle it was. Not the birth, but that the wife let the husband live after her labor and delivery.
At The Chick, I parked head in–forgetting about my faulty transmission–and went inside. Michael looked professional wearing his name tag and neat blue fil-A shirt and bow-tie as he put his shoulder into the grill of my truck and pushed it out of the parking space as all his customers watched. I learned something just then. Chick-fil-A really is a full service fast food place.
On the way downtown, we lost ourselves in a conversation about systematic theology and the nature of God. Yes, real people do talk about such things, if you consider a pastor and a seminary student real people.
The conversation was so engaging we got a little distracted. I stopped at a light too far out, just a smidgen into the pedestrian cross walk. A woman had to walk around the nose of my car. I shrugged at her trying to say, “Sorry, I would back up but my reverse is broken.” I think she understood. At least she waved. But only with one finger.
After that, we got a little lost too. So I pulled over to check my Google Map–making sure I would not have to back up to pull out. As I was working with my iPhone, a woman parked in front of me–ON A COMPLETELY EMPTY STREET WITH TONS OF OTHER PARKING SPACES–and got out of her car and walked away. I don’t think I hit her bumper pulling out.
Finally we arrived at the hospital. By now I had learned my lesson. We drove around a bit looking for the perfect spot. This was handy because it also allowed us to finish our conversation about systematic theology, the true nature of preaching, and if there is life on other planets (just kidding about that last one).
Just then a space opened where no one could park in front of me. I whipped to the curb not thinking I would still have to back up to get into the spot. Without a word Michael jumped out and shouldered my truck back into the spot.
By then he had taken off his name tag and bow-tie. That was a shame because now all the people watching from the sidewalk didn’t know he was affiliated with Chick-fi-A.
I don’t want to diminish the reality that sometimes life is filled with tragedy. These are tough times-world over. Les Avery, a pastor I worked with years ago, would often say, “Scratch beneath the surface of any life and you will find pain unimaginable.” He was right.
But sometimes life is just funny. Reverse breaks. You discover your fly unzipped. You fart in a somber public place.
C. S. Lewis, of all people, noticed that only humans laughed and made jokes about passing gas. He believed this to be unlikely evidence humans were made in the image of God. (Try that one in your next apologetic debate with an atheist.) Not that God passes gas too. But our ability to laugh at ourselves–and especially in the face of tragedy–shows we are more than mere animals. We have some sense of objectivity–an ability to see ourselves as we really are–and laugh, or cry.
Life is not only tragedy. It is also a comedy. And laughter, fun, a good joke are gifts from God. Sometimes it just depends on your perspective.
By the way, the baby is healthy and beautiful. But its father was sitting a safe distance from its mother.
Eugene C. Scott loves to laugh and has driven around backwards and is co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.