“Let’s go for a bumpy ride!” That is what the boys’ remote control Goofy car used to say before it spurted and sputtered and would start to move in the direction the remote control indicated. I had the opportunity to experience that in real life the other day. I am grateful to say that I wasn’t in the driver’s seat and I didn’t even have a remote control, but I was following Dave down the street. He was driving our old car that had sat for a couple of months without being driven because of a battery problem (or so we thought). He would step on the gas and the car would shimmy, shake, spurt and sputter and then think about moving. It was funny to watch people’s reactions. The police officers that work just down to road from our house, pointed at the car and I thought they were going to pull Dave over, but instead they just laughed at the crazy white man trying to drive the broken down car down the road at 10-20 km/hour. The people on the side of the road would jump when it would backfire then do a double take and laugh at Dave. (But at least the backfire would make the car jump ahead a few more meters!) It was really funny until he stalled in the middle of a crazy intersection that the light has been out for months and people try to make it work going both directions at the same time (think wall to wall rush hour traffic that is trying to intersect and turn). At first I thought that I would try using the car I was driving to push him through to the other side, but Dave just calmly got out of the car and started to push the car through the craziness. Our land lord had been driving by and stopped to make sure everything was alright. We tried to tell him we would trade him the car for six months rent while we were boosting it so that we could try to make it further down the road. He just laughed and said no thanks.
“Bumpy rides” are the norm in Niger. You either have roads that are torn apart with huge potholes (that frequently are filled with garbage—but that is another story) or you have really nice smooth paved roads that have huge speed bumps that arrive on a regular basis or a combination there of. In fact that is the reason we were trying to get the car going in the first place, we had to take the good car in to get the shocks and struts replaced (for a second time since we bought it last spring!).
Sometimes I think that the Christian life is like one big bumpy ride. It is great to watch and cheer when it is someone else going through the pot holes. But when it is you, you aren’t really sure whether to laugh or to cry –or a little bit of both. Early in our time in Niger, someone taught us the best way to negotiate pot holes (especially in rainy season when they are filled with water and who knows what else). They said there are two approaches that you can use. The one is to try to keep your one set of wheels out of the hole for traction and the other is to follow in the tracks of the person who went before you and do it the same way. That is very similar to the Christian life where a big comfort is knowing that you aren’t in it alone. There are others that have faced the same difficulties before you that can help to direct you through them and there is a truth that is firm and solid that will pull you through. But the best part is knowing that no matter how dark the circumstances may seem, it’s just a pot hole in the grand scheme of things. (I have to remind myself of that a lot lately!)