The Unfixable Radiator: Where is God in all this?

Lessons from the sermon this Sunday: God is not the originator of misfortune, but He sometimes allows bad things to happen for the purpose of creating something better, to advance His plan for our lives. Know that in times of trouble God does not abandon, but promises to be right there with us in the trenches. Genesis 50:20.

What happened was

Two weeks ago my car radiator developed a leak. Actually I think it had been there months ago but the issue wasn’t big enough to trouble me then that I didn’t feel that it needed much of my attention. So long as I could drive it to the city and back and still have enough water in it to allow me to park smoothly in the garage, I could live with it — until two weeks ago, that is. It must have been holding on to dear life for so long that it finally gave in to the metaphorical slip down the mountain and couldn’t hang on any longer. And if you’re a girl living alone and don’t know squat about cars, it can be very difficult to find someone to do all the tinkering for you and expect a fair rate. I guess it would be safe to say that I was fresh meat for anyone who wanted to take advantage of my circumstance.

Gladly enough, I had a friend who was more than happy to help. He said he knew a good mechanic and sent him over to the house to check on the radiator. Within fifteen minutes the guy had taken it out, asked for a rather generous down payment so he could get it fixed, and went on his way. He returned two days later with what he claimed to be a fixed version of it and said that he had replaced the top because the material had grown brittle and wouldn’t do me any good. He installed it in less than ten minutes, turned on the engine and was instantly off. It didn’t take long for the engine to heat up again, and now the innocuous dripping had turned into a miniature waterfall. It was during that brief moment of silence, looking at the steaming hood of my car, that I realized I had been cheated.  I was later informed that I should ready about P14,000 to fix the underlying trouble with my engine. I told my friend not to send the mechanic back.

Turning to old friends

Left with no better option, I decided to contact another friend who had helped me with the car months before. I would have called him before anyone else, only that he never let me pay him and I wasn’t really fine with that. Everyone needs to put food on the table after all, and I didn’t want to burden him more by devouring what wasn’t even there. And also, I knew he was very busy with other things at the moment.

He was rather enthusiastic about helping me at first, until I told him that I had had someone else try to fix it and that the careless move had pushed me down a much deeper well than I had been when the problem first started. What came next was an avalanche of excuses that was obviously drawn to disguise what I sensed was disappointment, maybe a bit of jealousy, or some other emotion resembling it. If I hadn’t called someone else, he said, I would have only had to deal with a very small issue. It was that last remark that put an end to it. I couldn’t be bothered to say another word to him.

Bouncing back

Up until that moment I hadn’t felt so alone and betrayed and utterly helpless. I gave my trust to the first guy, had the truest of intentions for the second, but now found myself having to scour the earth for somebody else to help me. So I decided the next day to get up and do exactly that.

The kindness of strangers

He had a shop right in the middle of the city. He was regularly servicing large companies and malls and was cleaning a radiator unit when a helpful bystander whom I had approached came up to him and introduced us. He dropped everything and went with me to the house, unbolted my radiator and asked for nothing more than what I was able to give him as a down payment. He disassembled the unit revealing what the previous guy had done, which was absolutely nothing — no cleaning, no washing, no overhaul, no nothing — only a pathetic gob of sealant round the top, which was soft as clay and came off by hand.

I got a phone call three days later. The job was done and it was time to reinstall the unit. What had taken the previous guy only ten minutes to do took us three hours. And that was because he did every bit of the process with great care, down to the last detail. He anticipated problems and took every measure prevent them. He taught me how to keep the car in top shape, what to do, what to avoid, what to look out for. I hired him to fix the radiator but he ended up servicing the rest of the car as well. When we were finished he had developed a cold — it had rained and his back had gotten wet all over.

The price tag

Instead of the P800 we had previously agreed on, I paid him P1,000 for everything. To be honest I would have gladly given him more than that. I’ve been running the car two days and not a single problem has surfaced, and he has called every day to check if everything was going as it should.

A promise kept to the end

Today my boss sent my weekly pay. He knew I was having some car trouble but wasn’t completely aware of how things had developed since I finally got it fixed. But he sent me the usual rate, and added — to help with the radiator — P1,000.

I don’t believe in coincidence, and this one certainly isn’t. I do know that my boss is an exceptionally generous man, but I don’t think it was any particular mathematical equation that led him to find the value of x.

It became gradually clear that the escalation of the events that happened in the past two weeks —  the betrayal, the fair-weather friendship, the abandonment, the disappointment, and the easing of a burden through the work of honest acquaintances, knowing that God’s hands were working in every single detail of it all —  climaxed in the closing of this story, where the popular phrase “God will provide” took concrete shape in the form of human instruments, and caused me to sit still, surrender to gratitude, and tend to the leak which had inevitably formed in my eyes.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

Leave a Reply