A few years ago my husband, Thad, and I were on our way home from a great weekend at the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. We had driven our 1981, red, C-3, t-top ,“Shark” body Corvette from Berea, Kentucky to the Museum for a weekend of fun and a road rally. It had rained during the road rally and the Corvette windows leaked, adding to the adventure and fun. After all the festivities with other C-3 owners, we started on the 3 hour drive home late on Saturday evening. I kicked off my shoes and settled down in the seat, as Thad drove through the small towns and our talked turned from the excitement of the weekend to planning for the next day’s church service. The darkness of the night, the quiet talk of two people who have been married for a very long time, and the hum of the road made for a calm drive home.
As we drove through an intersection in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky we noticed a very large, white, heap of something in the road. Because of the timing in noticing the heap and on-coming traffic we could not avoid running over whatever it was. By the time we came on this really, big heap of white fluffing stuff we realized it was a dog that had been killed sometime earlier. It was unsettling. Then we commented, boasted almost, about how our infamous low-riding “Shark” had just moved over that heap with no problem whatsoever. At least that’s what we thought.
Shortly after encountering this huge (really big – think Sheep Dog) heap of white fluff, we turned onto the interstate and Thad gunned the engine as we took on the entrance ramp to the highway. Within minutes Thad is screaming, “The car is on fire!”. He’s trying to maneuver across the lanes of traffic back to the right side so he can pull off the road. At the same time, he’s screaming, “The car is on fire! The car is on fire!” Of course, I cannot see what he is seeing and am dependent on him to tell me what’s happening. He is seeing flames in the driver-side, side mirror. I’m looking behind us, but I don’t see anything. So, I am dependent on his description of the problem and direction. Once at a stop on the side of the interstate, semi-trucks whizzing by us at 70 mph, Thad jumped out of the car. Then, and only then, do I see the flames shooting from the rear of the car. As I open my door, I see flames lick out from under the car into the door frame. Having different perspectives, and ideas of the severity of the problem, here is how the conversation went over the next few minutes.
Thad: Get out of the car!
Me: I’m not getting out of the car!
Thad: Get out of the car!
Me: I’m not getting out of the car!
Thad: I said, get out of the car, now!
Me: Okay, I’m out of the car!
Thad: Get in the car!
Me: I’m not getting in the car!
Thad: I said, get in the car now!
Now, just so you don’t think I’m stupid, understand that I had to step over the flames to get out of that car. I had gathered up my shoes and purse and phone and now I’m standing barefoot on the side of the interstate holding what I think is our entire means to safety in my arms. I’m seeing the flames shoot out from under the car and it just looks hopeless. In my head, we’re walking. I’m already thinking about how many miles the trek will be back to civilization. Thad on the other hand sees a solution. He has a plan. In his head, he’s going to get us home safely. And, now he’s asking me to step back over the flames into the car that is sitting on top of flames. I’m not very comfortable with this chaos.
This reminds me of the historical account of Elijah and challenge to the people of Israel, found in I Kings 18. Elijah challenges the people of his culture, asking them, “How long will you sit on the fence?” (I Kings 18:21 MSG). The New American Standard Bible puts it like this, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions?” This is a great question for 21st century Christians. And, a great question for leaders. Very often we find ourselves torn between two opinions. Sometimes we find ourselves faced with a problem and multiple visions on how to resolve the issue. It can be chaotic.
Whether we’re facing a complex business problem, a family issue, a community quandary, or a cultural decision, there is no doubt that conflicting opinions on the solution can be unsettling and feel chaotic. There’s the viewpoint of the individual with a high tolerance for risk. There is the conflict avoider, who just won’t face the problem head on. Don’t forget the person that is totally risk adverse. And then there is the pressure of a society bent on celebrating individualism and multiple paths in spirituality. It can be chaotic.
What did Elijah do? He challenged the people of his culture to return to their heritage and follow God. (I Kings 18:21) In this challenge he compared their inheritance in the God of the universe with that of the man-made gods of the times. He asked them when they were going to get their heads on straight, get it together, and turn back to God. I think this is a great lesson for 21st century Christians leading in their businesses, families, and communities. Christians who want to influence their culture for Christ. I think it’s a good thing to decide to tune out the noise and make a decision. We can apply this to both our testimony as we walk out the gospel of Christ in the Great Commission, and our leadership behaviors in our communities and work. When faced with big decisions we should follow Elijah’s lead and stop hesitating. Make a decision. Be directive. Rely on God. That’s what Elijah did. He had just come out of three years of concentrating on God, in constant conversation with God. When Elijah asked his culture this question and ultimately faced the 450 prophets of Baal (I Kings 18:22-34) he was directive and decisive. And then he prayed.
Is it possible that we think we reach a level of success in our careers that results a false sense of self sufficiency? We get so important that we stop relying on God. We stop praying about things. When was the last time you prayed about that huge business hurdle? That community meeting about the school levy? That election and how to vote? That issue in the news that will change how generations to come view the family? Your teenage daughter’s boyfriend? I believe that we’re never too important to pray about problems or issues, and to ask for wisdom in solutions. Elijah is a great model for us in this regard. While others around him were swirling and yelling, he quietly directed folks and prayed. Then he stepped back and got out of God’s way.
I’ll bet you’re wondering what happened with the dog and the Corvette. Well, I finally stepped over the flames to join Thad back in the car. He gunned it. I mean he peeled out. And, we left the dog that had evidently combusted as it dragged underneath our car, laying in a huge burning heap of stinky fuzz along I-75. At the next exit, we pulled over into a Wal-Mart parking lot to examine the damage to the car. None. Whew. In the end, Thad looked beyond two differing opinions, was directive and decisive. I prayed. Lessons learned.