Sunday, September 21, 2008

Gas, Identity and Faith

My aspiration was to rise early this morning and do some writing in the home study. The day broke long ago, and I am just now settling in with the laptop after a successful quest for, of all things, gasoline.

Middle Tennessee in particular has faced a severe gas shortage since the fury of Hurricane Ike a week ago. I drove throughout the main corridors of the city of Franklin at 6 a.m. this morning, seeing nothing but empty pumps until at last I spotted some activity at a station just past the interstate. I filled one car (and a gas can for my new lawnmower) and then sped home to switch to the minivan, and found an even closer gas station for that one. We are now set for, hopefully, at least a week.

It seems kind of crazy, having this mentality of being grateful to have found gasoline--almost feeling as if I got away with something, that I was undeserving to be lucky enough to spend $3.99 per gallon for gas. Never in my driving lifetime of 24 years have I ever thought twice about my ability to find gas; affording it has been another matter. Resources like gas, food, clothing--I've taken these for granted across a lifetime. I've never had a ton of money to buy whatever I've wanted, but I've always had enough to get whatever I've needed and could certainly find it nearby.

This pauses me to grapple with some larger questions. Where do I place my hope and trust, when I run across circumstances beyond my control?

This connects well to a passage I just read, in John 1:22. Jesus is being questioned about his identity and intent by various people, and one of the questions posed is, "What do you say about yourself?"

I set down the Bible and my journal and pondered that. Still pondering, actually. I've been thinking a lot about my identity/brand/"what I am known for" dynamic, especially as it pertains to my writing and what I have or have not accomplished at the age of 40-and-a-half. I'm still not convinced that I'm spending all of my time doing what I'm supposed to be doing, yet the clarity eludes me. I'm wrestling with what to say about myself, and what to do with myself.

The past several days haven't helped much, because of annoying distractions. Not only has it been hard to find gas to put in our cars, but just keeping the cars running has been a challenge. First the minivan has a blow out and a dead battery within the same afternoon, then my car's battery dies on Friday. I've spent a lot of time the past few days running around, dealing with mini-crises and looking for gas. It's been hard to focus on creative, deeper things. There is more substantial fuel I want to pump inside of my mind and heart, but it's been hard to get to the station to fill up.

I also read the first chapter of Job this morning.

When tested by incomparable loss, he mourned with passion and then fell to his knees to worship. Job will waver later in the book and question God, but his first instinct is to trust and adore.

So I'm reminded to be grateful for the many things I have and to juxtapose them with the small annoyances that I've allowed to detract from my energy. What I'd like to say about myself is that I'm someone whose faith and perseverance are not rattled by sweating the small stuff.


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