Running on Empty!
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
Over Labor Day weekend my family had a chance to get together with some of our friends for a family camping trip. There are five couples with 12 children ranging from 3–10 years of age, so this trip is always exciting. We headed up to beautiful Mammoth, CA, for a little time of rest and relaxation.
This year, unlike previous camping trips, we knew it was going to be cold; 70’s during the day, dropping down into the 30’s at night. It wouldn’t have been too bad except we were tent camping. Never the less, we packed up our zero-degree sleeping bags and camping equipment and set off for an adventure.
The first night came. Becca and I covered the kids up in their sleeping bags, warm clothes, and multiple layers of blankets, before heading back out to the campfire. As the night grew longer it also grew colder, and when it was time to go to bed it was around 40 degrees. Becca and I climbed into bed with our layers of clothes on, ready for the night…the night that would never end.
If you have never been cold, I mean really cold, it is not fun. As the kids were fast asleep, Becca and I struggled to stay warm. As the night went on, the colder we got and the smaller our air mattress became. By about 2:00 am, we were sleeping on the ground, with towels, hoodies and anything else we could find, trying to cover us to keep warm.
After the first night we headed to a local thrift store to pick up extra blankets, boots, gloves and anything else we no longer have since moving to Arizona. Despite our best efforts and extra layers, night two was no better - another sleepless night just trying to keep warm.
The third night was the worst as far as temperature goes. It dropped down into the 20’s and when I woke up at 6:00 to do some fishing, it was only 29 degrees outside. I spent the morning fishing with my friends and at around 8:30 we headed back to camp. As we headed back to camp, it had warmed to a whopping 34 degrees. It wasn’t much of a surprise to find that when we returned to camp, our wives had already started to pack up …a day early. The cold sleepless nights had become unbearable and the thought of one more night was almost torture.
Our plan was to head back to our friends’ house to have a BBQ with everyone in a much warmer climate, spend the night and head home in the morning. About an hour into the 5-hour trip to our friends’ house, we hit traffic, lots of traffic. This “5-hour” trip slowly became what promised to be an 8-hour trip, putting us in at 9:00 pm, not 6:00. There would be no time for a BBQ, no time for hanging out, and just enough time to go to bed and get up to head home in the morning. Now with 3 hours left to drive to our friends’ house or 6 hours to get home, we decided to change our course and head back to Arizona.
Despite our adventure thus far, once we got out of the Southern California traffic, the trip home was going smooth. We were coming back on Interstate 40, making really good time as we approached Needles. With the gas light on, I was prepared to stop at one of the nine exits in Needles. At the first exit, the gas station was far off the road and I thought to myself, there will be a closer one. We came to the second exit and I thought the same thing - surely there will be a gas station right off the exit and I can get gas really quick and get back on the road. However, before I knew it, we were past Needles and I hadn’t gotten any gas. Panic came over me as I didn’t know if we could make it to the next station. Just then I saw a sign that said “gas AZ exit 9”. I thought, I can make it nine more miles, and I could have, however there were still ten more miles to go in California that I hadn’t planned for. So we entered Arizona and I was closely watching each mile marker as we passed, 1…2...5…6…7, and then it happened! Our car started to coast as we (I really mean “I”) ran out of gas.
Just two miles away from my goal!!! We were tired, dirty, had been crammed in a car for ten hours, and we were running on empty. Instead of turning around when I realized I had passed the last gas station in Needles, I figured I could will the car to make it to the next gas station. But my will was not enough.
We had two options. One was for me to walk two miles to the gas station to get gas and walk back, leaving Becca and the kids in the middle of the desert at 11:00 at night (I was informed this was not really an option), or sit and wait for AAA to come and give us gas. So we sat and waited…
As I reflect back on this, I think about how many times this same thing happens in our every-day life. No, not running out of gas in your car, but emotionally, physically and spiritually running out of gas. We often find ourselves running from one event to the next. Whether it is for meetings, kids’ activities or work, we push ourselves to the limit thinking, if we can just make it to the next stop we will be ok! And sometimes it works. Sometimes we can make it, but sometimes we can’t. Sometimes we find ourselves stuck on the side of the road at 11:00 at night with 200 miles to go, completely out of gas.
We often find ourselves pushing from one activity to another until we get to the point that we are spiritually drained...empty! Sometimes when we see the warning lights we take time to be with God. But other times we think we can do it by ourselves and we push on until we completely run out of gas.
If your tank is filled up and you are cruising spiritually, continue to stay plugged in and keep cruising. However, if you find yourself running from one thing to another, running on empty or even out of gas, know that God is there to help fill us up. Scripture tells us that God is our refuge and strength; our very present help in trouble. We don’t have to go far, but we have to be willing to take the time to stop and focus on God so that he might fill us up.