Here are the ingredients for my most recent recipe for disaster:
- One rocky road in a remote area of the Ouachita National Forest
- One flat tire on a Kia Sportage whose owner (me) was treating it like a jeep
- One overenthusiastic hiker (also me) with no cell signal and no experience changing tires
Do you see the problem? I tried not to panic as I knelt in mud and rocks and attempted to jack up the car. I was miles from civilization with no hope that anyone would come across me. I had stared pointlessly at my phone, willing it to get just one teeny, tiny bar of service so I could call for help. I had calculated that it would take hours to hike back to a paved road. So I finally resigned myself to attempt to do something I’d never done before.
My car was on a slope (I was partway up one of the tallest points in the Ouachitas, on my way to a very remote access point to the Ouachita trail), and I learned one important lesson very quickly: always put on the parking brake when attempting to change a tire. The first time I tried jacking up the car, it fell off the jack and rolled slightly. The car was fine; my heart, not so much. With trembling hands, I jacked the car up again, but this time I didn’t go quite as high.
Next I had to get the lug nuts off. I don’t know what superhuman force tightened those things (was it my husband, and how had he hidden his unnatural forearm powers from me for 17 years? Was it some beast of a machine at the dealership designed to make drivers cry?) Whatever the case, as hard as I pushed, not a single lug nut would budge. After wearing myself out and cursing my non-supernatural arms, I finally tried a different method. I attached the tool (I don’t even know what it’s called) to a lug nut so that the handle was parallel to the ground. Then I grabbed onto the rear-view mirror with one hand and the top of the hood with the other hand and jumped up and down until the lug nut slowly loosened. I had to do that with all five lug nuts. Success!
But my victory was short lived. The car was too low to the ground, and I couldn’t pull the tire off. I found a pair of my son’s dirty socks in the back of the car and used them like mittens to protect my hands while I tugged at the hub cap. I even grabbed the little backpacking trowel I keep in my hiking pack and tried to dig out from under the tire a little to give more room. Little by little, I wiggled the tire off.
But the struggle wasn’t over. The car was still too low, and I couldn’t get the donut lined up. No amount of wiggling the tire was going to get it low enough. I had to return to the jack, which I was kind of scared of ever since the car fell off of it the first time. I jacked it a little at a time, checking every few seconds to see if the car was high enough to get the tire on. Finally, I managed to get it on. I breathed a sigh of relief. (And then promptly knocked the car off the jack AGAIN when I was putting the blown-out tire in the back.)
Getting off the mountain wasn’t easy, but I took it slow and steady, and the donut held up even on the rough roads. I drove into the nearest town and found a tire shop, so all’s well that ends well. But that’s really not the whole story. The most amazing part of this story is what happened a few weeks prior to this trip.
One night not long before this trip, I told Trey I wanted him to show me how to change a tire. For some reason, I felt a burning urgency to learn how to change a tire. I hadn’t even planned this hiking trip yet, so it wasn’t in preparation for being in the woods. It was just a nagging thought that I couldn’t get out of my mind. So Trey took me out to the garage, showed me where the tools were kept and which ones I would need, and talked me through the whole process. I came back in the house feeling a sense of relief and peace.
Around that same time, we realized that each of our tires had a special anti-theft lug nut on it that required a different tool. The problem was, we had lost that tool. Trey promised me he would take the car to the dealership and get those lug nuts swapped out for the standard ones, and he did.
Then a couple weeks later, I found myself with a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. If either of those events hadn’t happened – if Trey hadn’t shown me how to change a flat, or if we hadn’t gotten those lug nuts switched out – it would have been an absolute disaster. I’m not even sure what I would have done. Thankfully, I believe God was watching out for me and gave me what I needed just in time.
As I was thanking God for his provision and care in that situation, it made me think about what I can learn about the character of God in a situation like this. Jesus promised, “In this world you will have trouble.” It’s simply part of living in a broken, fallen world, and to expect otherwise is to set ourselves up for anger, frustration, and disappointment. On the other hand, God promises to never leave me nor forsake me. He promises that he will provide for my needs. In this situation, he prompted me to be ready because he knew what was coming.
I think that’s true for other difficulties as well. I’ve been guilty of looking at the terrible situations other people are in and thinking, “I could never go through that.” Maybe in a sense that’s true – maybe right now at this moment in my life, I don’t have what I would need to go through that thing, whatever it is. But my scary situation reminded me that God is faithful to walk with me through difficulties, and he can be trusted to provide what I need to get through whatever comes my way, at the exact moment when I need it.
The whole experience was a whirlwind of emotions. Panic, initially. Fear and adrenaline. Deep gratitude because I could see evidence of God’s hand on this situation in the weeks leading up to it. And if I’m being honest, a bit of pride because I DID manage to change the dang tire. I’m currently accepting compliments and pats on the back.
Surprisingly, I think it also drew me closer to God and built my faith. Life is hard, but he is good and trustworthy.
And hey, now I’m even better prepared for my next outdoor adventure!