Recently, my husband and I took a long-awaited vacation to Disney World. If you’ve never been there, what they say is true—it really is the happiest place on earth.
It’s not just a vacation; it’s a slip-from-reality trip to a magical land of pure joy. Three days without seeing litter, poverty, or having to think about maintenance of any kind. (Well, I did fix my hair and makeup, but other than that, I lived in a fairytale.)
Contrast that with our ten-hour drive home from Florida. Somewhere before Atlanta, we stopped for a break. While starting up the car again, the key in my husband’s fob (the clicker that unlocks the door and the trunk) broke off.
The engine was running, so my husband just shrugged. “Well, looks like we’ll be going to the dealer to get another one this week.”
A few hours later, it was time for another break. “There’s a rest area.” I pointed to the blue sign on the side of the interstate.
My husband pulled in, and stopped in front of the building. But we didn’t turn off the car. “Restrooms closed,” the sign said. So, on to Calhoun, Georgia we went for our next stop.
As I left the gas station, I heard a car ignition cranking without the engine turning over. I looked through our windshield to see my husband’s perplexed countenance. Even with the broken off fob, the key could be inserted and turned, so that couldn’t be the problem, right? Maybe the battery?
While waiting for the tow truck, we asked God to help us. I hoped it were as easy as a simple jumpstart.
Doug went back into the gas station to let the cashier know we’d be blocking the pump for another fifteen minutes or so. He returned with a well-dressed, 70-ish year old man, who wielded a screwdriver.
Mr. Beamer, as it turned out, owned the gas station and just happened to be there, fixing a toaster. (He wasn’t about to pay $400 for a repairman when he could do it himself.)
Not only could he fix a toaster, but apparently Mr. Beamer had built much of the town, including the hotel across the street.
The tow truck driver tried to jumpstart the car, to no avail. “Your battery is good. It sounds like the timing belt.”
It sounded expensive. The auto shops were all closed.
While the tow truck driver loaded our car, Mr. Beamer stood chatting with us. He recommended his friend, Mr. Bailey, for car repairs. “I’m going to be here eating breakfast at my Arby’s around 8:00 in the morning if you need anything.”
Ryan, the tow truck driver, agreed with my assessment of how nice his town was. He’d lived there all but six years, when he’d taken a job in law enforcement 25 miles away. He was happy to move back to his hometown to run a tow-truck company. “The crime rate here is real low compared to the surrounding areas.”
We passed by a long strip of restaurants. “Depending on what you’re thinking about for dinner, your choices might be…interesting.” He mentioned the area restaurants, and the fact that Calhoun was a dry town. “We have a law that requires establishments to sell at least 60% food.”
“That explains the low crime rate,” I said.
After dropping off our car at Mr. Bailey’s shop for the night, Ryan drove us back to the hotel, where we checked in.
The next day, Mr. Bailey, also in his seventies, picked my husband up from the hotel after they’d completed repairs. That’s when we learned about the security system’s built in fail-safe—cars won’t start if the fob doesn’t make contact with the key.
After Mr. Bailey’s crew soldered the fob and key back together, we took our new Frankenkey and headed home. They could have overcharged us, but we only paid a moderate repair cost.
“We couldn’t have broken down in a nicer place,” I said as we pulled away.
We arrived home a day late, but thanking God for the special people we met. The silver lining of our little detour is observing the legacy the elder members of Calhoun passed down. Small kindnesses shown to strangers in distress are rare these days, but towns with such character quality are even rarer.
As my husband left for work yesterday, I said, “I’ll miss you. I wish we were back at Disney World.”
This week, we’re having house renovations to fix the flood damage from earlier this year. Our home has been upended, to put it mildly. Definitely not as fun as Space Mountain!
Isn’t that our tendency, though? To escape the hard work of digging into challenges and healing from our pain, we focus on comfort and pleasantries.
For years, I focused on creating the perfect Christian family. Though far from perfection, I found comfort in striving for it. With each passing year, we became more comfortable. I went from identifying as an outcast divorcee with a raggedy childhood to a leader in our community and church.
It wasn’t until last year that I laid down the façade and began to dig into my past, allowing God to redeem my story. I came out of my little fantasy world kicking and screaming—those memories messed with my stage perfect identity!
But if I’d have stayed there, I would have missed the people who’ve ministered to me this year, and the character building that only happens when you completely depend on Jesus. I wouldn’t have ever thrown off the shame that overshadowed.
The person who allows God to dig away the ugly parts lives freer without all that dead weight. It’s a hard process, but so worth it on the other side. More freedom and joy means being all that much closer to the way God intended us to live.
Join the conversation. Has God brought more joy and peace after a trial? Please share in the conversation.