When it’s too good to be true, it’s usually because it is. That was my mindset as I looked at the engine temperature increasing mid-journey. Something was broken. Who knew how long it’d take to start smoking? Who knew how much it would cost to fix?
Just that morning, I was counting the tips I earned that week parking cars and driving shuttles. I rarely walked away with $300 extra. The fortune was so good, it felt like God was involved. He was blessing me for the week.
I started to spend the money in my mind. I could afford a new video game, a nice steak dinner, new clothes, new shoes, added savings, etc. I was excited because I had been living paycheck to paycheck for so long, it actually felt like I was poor. For the first time in a while, I was making room for more.
The deter from poverty was so relieving, I questioned God. “What is about to happen that You are preparing me for?” I had hoped He would respond, “Nothing. I am merely gifting you some breathing room.”
There was no special event or high-dollar client visiting that week. The right people checked into the hotel at the right time. Where I’d normally get $5 tips, I earned $20. Where I’d normally get $5 for escorting guests around town, I received $100. Where I’d make $40 per day, I was making closer to $100. Still, my spirit could not simply receive the gift. It was too good to be true at that time in my life. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was about to happen. That day, driving home, something showed its face.
Radiator problems seemed excessive for the amount of struggles I was already dealing with. I just graduated college without a guaranteed job. I lived in what most considered to be the hood. I lived paycheck to paycheck valeting for a living with a degree. Why complement hardship with hardship? Why push a broke boy further into the red? Was my credit card and tuition debt not enough? Was having less than $400 to my name not enough?
Once I entered my apartment, I called the only people I trusted with cars: my father and my brother. My father suggested I purchase coolant and pour it, with some water, into the radiator to see how long the temperature stays down. That way, I could assess if it was just time to replace my coolant or if there was a leak.
After that conversation, I did as I was told and waited. As I waited, I observed my tips to see if I would continue the streak of added money or return to regular pay. With each parked car, handled luggage, and shuttle drive, I came up with $5. There was not a $20 tip nor a $100 tip. Thus, my paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle resumed.
I prayed to God that the radiator would not have a leak. I was enjoying the added money. I wanted to spend it on what I wanted, not something I needed. I had always paid for what I needed. Surely, He saw my life more valuable than this.
I was disappointed in God. Those extra tips were only a cash advance for the radiator. I knew it. On the bright side, God saw that I was going to need to replace the radiator and had some people show up at the right times to give me added tips. I was grateful. On the down side, the only relief I would receive would be for a new radiator. I would receive no help for publishing, buying a new car, savings, or increased rent and utilities. Nothing. I was grateful, but I was hurt. It was another part of my life that was not going the way I thought it would.
I thought I would have a better job. I thought I would have a wife. I thought I would be able to afford a new car. I thought I would be able to afford publishing. Instead, all I could afford was to fix the one, the singular one, major part that broke in my car. If another part broke, I’d be screwed.
As I escaped into video games, I explored my mixed feelings. When the video games became too much of a distraction, I just sat in my living room. Every missing item I wished I owned stuck out in my mind. The missing curtain rods for the curtains behind the TV. The couch instead of a donated love seat behind my computer chair. The art missing from the blank, white walls. All the things I didn’t have, and the radiator decided to break instead.
I walked back into my bedroom, only a few steps away, and opened the drawer in the nightstand. I counted the money again. I was down to $260 extra dollars. Rent was covered, utilities were covered, and groceries were covered. Even the radiator was covered, should it need fixing. Yet, I was upset.
I knew I wasn’t right for feeling this way. I wouldn’t be able to use the added funds for childish things, but that didn’t give me the right to be upset about it. I had grown too comfortable being blessed by God. I couldn’t even receive a preemptive blessing with the utmost thankfulness.
Again, I chastised myself. What if God hadn’t covered you and you needed $300 you didn’t have? What if your radiator leaked so badly, you couldn’t wait a few more weeks to add a few more dollars to deal with the blow? Why should God continue to look out for you in situations you can’t see? Where is your gratitude, dude!?
I returned to my living room and sat on my couch. I prayed. I humbled myself and apologized. I understood that just because I didn’t know what the blessing was actually for didn’t give me the right to be upset about it. We, as humans, tend to think we decide what a blessing is for. I was finding out we actually do not always get to say what the blessing is for.
God saw my radiator was about to break, and made sure I was tipped enough to pay for the new parts. Having that happen is a miracle in itself, but having the Holy Spirit reveal this to me was another blessing I didn’t know I needed. I took all those blessings and desired more, like a child. Instead of being upset about not having some new video game, I needed to be grateful for not having crippling transportation issues. Thus, I tried my best to say a prayer of thanksgiving and continue.
Two weeks later, the engine’s temperature rose again. Also, I began to see a puddle of liquid beneath the engine whenever the car sat still for too long. It was the same color as the new coolant I had put into the radiator. I called my brother and set up the appointment.
Two weeks further, with no added funds, I took the remaining $270 and purchased a new radiator. Then, I brought the car to my brother. Without charging me for labor like a regular mechanic, my older brother popped the hood on the side of the street and started taking apart my engine in ways I couldn’t even begin to understand. He didn’t ask to me help. He didn’t tell me to do it myself. He just worked, and I helped him where he allowed.
I tried to follow each step, in case he forgot something, but he maneuvered around the bolts, screws, and pipes like the professional he was. Part of me wished I could be as resourceful as he. He was a husband, a father, and a handyman. He was positioned in ways I prayed for, but never experienced. The only experience in these things I did have was because of him, my father, and my uncle. Without my nieces and the odd jobs my father and uncle provided, I’d be even less- dare I say- manly. Still, watching him, I felt like a child. Here was my dad, fixing my car because I’m so helpless.
An hour later, my broken radiator was out. The entire compartment looked gutted and like junkyard material. Seeing it brought up feelings of poverty, which I didn’t like to feel. I didn’t even know how to get out of poverty. My plan for my life was spiraling out of my control, and every chance to recover even a little bit was taken from me either by my car, my bills, or a lack of tips. My brother saw my countenance had fallen. He asked what was wrong and I explained.
In his typical, laidback response, he said, “Aw, that ain’t nothin’. You don’t have a wife and kids to worry about. You’ll bounce back. Besides, at least you have me to help, and you had the money you needed. You could’ve been without. It’s like you said. God saw what was coming, and He covered you. That in itself is a blessing. So I wouldn’t sweat this too much. This ain’t nothin’. Just be glad it wasn’t your engine.”
Parents and spouses tended to be dismissive of my single struggles, but I couldn’t dismiss their attempts to encourage me. At least I didn’t have too much on my plate, even though I wanted the plates they had. In my mind, I wasn’t suited for the single life. Life, however, didn’t seem to care what I was suited for. God was shifting me in ways I could not grasp.
Another hour later, my new radiator was installed. With our oily hands, we shook hands and marveled at the car operating as intended. The temperature was just beneath the middle line, and it stayed there for thirty minutes.
With a smirk, this slender brother of mine said, “See, like I said, this ain’t nothin’.”
I was glad, but I had no more spending money. The added funds were specifically for this moment. It was amazing knowing that God was watching over me in times ahead of me. In that moment, I really understood that He goes before me. God is in my future. It was a revelation I didn’t expect to experience at this point of my life, but God foresaw the radiator breaking, and gave me a cash advance. With none of the participants, including myself, aware of what was happening, God saved me.
Watching my car’s performance on the way home inspired a praise from my soul. My Heavenly Father made sure I had enough. A broken part could’ve sent me into a vortex of anxiety and depression. Instead, I was allowed to be at peace. The most I lost was nothing. There was no video game, clothing, steak dinner, artwork, curtains, couch, or added savings that could steal my joy. Nothing compared to the knowledge of Who I was dealing with.
God is truly a God who walks before you, beside you, and behind you. He sees farther than you can see and He shifts atmosphere better than any politician, celebrity, or musician. His hand is subtle but His results are firm. He makes a way when you didn’t even know a way was necessary. Because of this, I now walk in the confidence of a child of God. When I enter I room, I know, God entered this room before me. Whatever may come, He will see me through.