It was mid-November in 2010 when I stood outside on the curb of the dealership where I worked and surveyed the scene before me. Snow had lightly dusted the lot and I brushed it off of the windshields of every car to prepare for the days business. A small breeze blew and I pulled my coat around my face with one hand and brushed with the other. I groaned. I had seen better days.
I had lived in South America and had been involved in ministry years before, and; on days like this, the sweetness of those days…having been used by God to change lives stung my heart a bit as I complained to God about my current state. I complained a lot actually. I felt as though my life really didn’t count for much. After going from job to job, I had lots of regrets and often complained to God that I wasn’t doing anything to change people, nothing to improve the world, nothing but work and go home…day after day.As the thoughts swirled in my head and my hands were approaching frostbite, a car drove onto the otherwise empty lot.
It was a Sunday, which promised to be busy, but so far only me and one other sales person were on staff. Out of the car emerged a woman wearing a heavy coat and a scarf. Her eyes looked red and I guessed she was catching a cold. I approached her and said, “Not a great day to be out is it?” She tried smiling, but kept her head down and mumbled a rather tired, “My daughter needs a car.” I invited her to come in and warm up at my desk.
I poured her a cup of coffee and she gratefully accepted it. Dabbing her eyes again with a worn out tissue, she said, “my husband is coming also…we need to find a car for our daughter.” I smiled and asked a bit about the type and model of car she was looking for. As she began to describe the car, the door opened abruptly and in came walking a tall man without a coat and rubbing his hands together. From the look she gave him I knew it was her husband. He nodded to me and began talking quietly to his wife. I gave them some privacy.
Reappearing with another cup of coffee, I introduced myself to the man and he sat down next to his wife. The showroom was completely empty with the exception of this couple. They sat silently. I thought that maybe this idea to buy a car for the daughter was not a mutual one. The man, for his size, (I guess 6 foot 6 inches tall) looked haggard. He looked into his lap and his wife, continued wiping her eyes.
The atmosphere became thick. I could tell there was a strain between them and I didn’t want to interfere. In an effort to give them time to talk a bit, I offered a private conference room, where we could talk about their daughter’s car before going out on the cold lot to test drive one. They both appeared grateful for the opportunity to get out of the main showroom and get to a more private area. I felt like an intruder, so I said, “why don’t I give you both an opportunity to talk a bit, and I’ll be back shortly?”
The husband spoke up. “No…no need sir, we…a, “he was searching for his words. “My daughter was involved in a car accident that totaled her car.” I asked if she was alright. The mother blushed, and put her face into her hands, and this time I could hear her cry. “Is everything alright with your daughter?” I hesitated to pry, but I had never been in this situation before. I waited at least 30 seconds for him to reply. “Our daughter will be fine” he replied…”She is only 17 and,” he paused, internally asking whether he should take me into his confidence. “We discovered while she was in the emergency room that she is pregnant.”
The mother truly broke down at this point. I grabbed the box of tissues on the table, and was grateful for the opportunity to do something. Handing her the box, she acknowledged thanks and looked at me. “I know this is not what you expected…you want to sell cars, and I’m so sorry to just break down like this.”
Now…at this moment, as I sat back down in my chair, something happened. I can only describe it like, a smell of spring rain and a warm presence came physically into the room. I heard myself say, “This is why I came to work today Mrs. ——.” She was surprised by my answer, as was her husband….AS WAS I! A bold confidence came upon me, or I should say, welled up within me and a true love moved up from my stomach to my throat…it’s the only way I can describe it.
The wife and husband both looked at me. There was no more talk of cars or features like cruise control or paint color. They looked at me expectantly, as if this was what they were waiting to hear. I sat back in my chair and smiled. “You’re thinking her life is over before it begins aren’t you?” I asked. “You’re thinking she lied to you, maybe even disappointed you…” Tears formed on the eyes of the husband and his lip quivered. I continued. “She’s scared, because she loves you so much.” She knows she made a terrible mistake.”
An intense boldness came upon me, as if, I was the counselor they needed to hear from. I also began to weep but without fear. The presence of Jesus was in the room at that very moment.As tears rolled down my cheeks, I explained, “Your daughter is so sorry for being impulsive and not trusting you to tell you…but she was afraid.” The father spoke up, “I know…I’m so hard on her, telling her she has to go to college, that she has to wait until marriage…I have been mad at her, and I’m sure she can feel it.” The mother also spoke up. “Its just that our family…our name in the community…” and then she stopped, feeling embarrassed. I spoke up…”and you know she feels that shame right?”
Again she broke down weeping. I said, “Let me ask you a question, are you gonna love your daughter no matter what?” “Are you gonna love that baby?” Will you be sitting on the front seat of the church in 20 years when your grandchild gets married and rejoice when they have THEIR first baby? The husband smiled, “I sure will!” he exclaimed beaming. “Will you gather around your daughter and hug her and forgive her and then be thrilled as she walks through her pregnancy?” “Will you stand by her side in the delivery room?” Will you let anything hurt her?”
The mother stood up, and I thought, “Oh dear God Doug you big mouth, she is going to slap you…” Nothing will hurt her!” she said it, like an oath. “What about the shame?” I asked…”what will your friends think?” The father joined his wife by standing. “Our loving friends will love our daughter, so will her friends, so will our church….so help me God!”
Energy pulsed through the air. Whereas five minutes ago there was the depths of despair, resolute faith was now present. Discouragement slinked off and under the door. Where there was once only shame, there was now joy. “And she wants to name him William!…it’s a wonderful name William don’t you think?!” Her husband William agreed, and so did I. Now they were shouting in that room. They didn’t care who heard them or what people thought of them…
”She is going to finish school and whatever she wants after that…we are going to help her!” “The couple embraced and wept and laughed and embraced. I felt a bit out of place, but they wouldn’t let me leave the room. At that moment, the husband’s cell phone rings. By the initial few words, I understood it was their daughter calling. The Father, overcome with emotion said, “Sweetie, everything is going to be fine. We love you so much!” the mother was talking into the phone too. “I can’t wait to go shopping for baby clothes honey!” Then, they were silent…and began weeping again…their daughter, overcome with love, was crying on the other end of the phone. “It’s okay honey…we’re all gonna see this through together!” said her mother.
As quickly as it began, it was over. I stood and got hugs, handshakes and pats on the back…and all I had done was offer coffee and safety. As they walked back to their car and departed, I put my coat back on and started to walk out the front door when once again, I heard God speak to me. “I place you where I want…and 20 minutes in an office with Me present will always do more than you standing alone behind a pulpit for 30 minutes.” The day was about over. As I walked to my car I realized Thanksgiving had come early this year on the car lot. He didn’t need a theologian…God wanted an available car salesman. And there in my car, in November, I asked forgiveness for my complaining. All I heard the Lord say was…”that’s remarkable son…truly remarkable.”