From sunup to snoring, I have two speeds: wide-open or off. Go here. Go there. Don’t waste any steps. Mark things off the list. My Saturday’s to-do list might be work to you, but I look forward to getting things done.
On weekends, I’m usually hooking up a trailer and hauling something somewhere. And that’s what I was doing when the alarm sounded and an amber dash symbol flashed, as I rumbled across the Broad River Bridge.
The rear passenger-side tire had only 19 pounds of pressure. Highway 172 is up, down and twisting in Madison County. The shoulders of the road drop into deep ditches. My mind raced. Where could I pull over?
“Hold on, tire,” I muttered, “Oak Grove Baptist Church can’t be much more than a mile away.” Sure enough, I managed to limp into the blacktop parking lot and pull into the shade of some big oaks. Relieved to be off the road, I let the windows down to enjoy the cool breeze and think.
Despite the frustration, I was grateful for an oasis. Then, I began to wonder where in the Bible I had read: “God moves in mysterious ways.” I thought: “He certainly moved ‘mysteriously’ in providing this shady spot.” On my smartphone, I did some research. “God moves in mysterious ways” isn’t in the scriptures, in those exact words. The phrase comes from a 19th-century hymn written by William Cowper.
How about that?
Now, what about that flat tire?
Back in the early 1960s, I earned my diploma from the Earl Thornton Tire-Changing School at Pope’s Texaco on U.S. 301 North. I’m not bashful about skinning my knuckles, but one feature of AAA membership is they’ll send someone to change a flat. In the past, the service truck has appeared promptly.
On that Saturday, I sat, and I sat. Just sitting isn’t my norm, so I disconnected the trailer and started looking around the church yard. That’s when I walked back to my truck to get a tape measure. I was curious just how long the granite dinner-on-the-grounds tables were. Not counting the two side 6-foot tables, the tape stretched to 55.2 feet.
As we know—in the South—the gospel is better digested over a plate of fried chicken, potato salad, green-bean casserole, deviled eggs, stewed squash, fried okra, sliced tomatoes, homemade pickles and a cathead biscuit. Oh, heavens, let’s not forget the sweet tea, lemonade, banana pudding, sweet potato pie and Alda Holland’s 10-layer chocolate cake.
Inspecting Oak Grove’s barbecue pit and shelter, I smiled. I wasn’t thinking about the Michelin sagging on the hot asphalt. I was imagining the fellowship—past and future—the rural church has enjoyed and will enjoy, walking up and down the sides of that long, long stretch of rock tables. Worship is the main meal in houses of the Lord, but dinner-on-the-grounds is most definitely the dessert.
When my stomach rumbled, I glanced at my watch and made another call to AAA. A voice from out West advised help was not coming any time soon. I considered my choices: change the tire or pull out paper and a pen. I had been wondering when I’d find time to write. I decided to save my knuckles and let AAA earn my dues.
Perched on one of Oak Grove’s granite tables, I scratched out this column, using time that I didn’t know that I had. Just as I put the pen in my pocket, Patrick from Tim’s Tire and Towing pulled into the parking lot.
Indeed, “God moves in mysterious ways.”