24 Oct

I realized yesterday that I needed new tires. So I found a random shop in south Charlotte and headed that way. This was not a part of the schedule for the day but had to be done. I arrived to a full waiting room of folks and found the only open chair. Seated beside me was a woman in her sixties. She was demure. Her features were plain, as was her attire. She was lazily reading a magazine wrapped in a red plastic protective covering. (Evidently three dollar gossip magazines need to be preserved.) After there had been an adequate time of silence between us, we made small talk. She had a tire blow out on her a few days ago. Her husband took over an hour and a half to get to her to fix it. “I wasn’t happy about that,” she said through chuckles and big grin. Conversation continued. She asked about why I was there. We got all the basics of out of the way. She’s lived in Charlotte 45 years and was a real estate agent before she retired. Her husband was a contractor. Each of them are on their second marriage. They have 10 grandchildren together and 1 great-grandchild that she gushed about.

But in the midst of the small talk something shifted. We were no longer strangers. We were old friends. The invisible line of separation between us had evaporated. She told me a story about her 41-year-old son who died six years ago. She said he was riding in a bicycle race in the mountains and was 3 miles from the finish line when he had a massive heart attack. He had a wife and three children ages 1, 8, and 12 at the time. She talked about coping with the loss of a child. Hot tears began to well up in the corners of her eyes as she spoke. The pain was real. Six years of distance from the tragedy and the wounds are still open.

In the midst of this heart-wrenching story she told me something that spoke to me on a level I can’t really begin to articulate. As her son’s heart failed on the mountain that day, he fell off his bike (he was in 3rd place at the time). Directly behind him was a cardiac surgeon. He jumped off his bike and treated her son in the midst of his massive heart attack. His efforts were ultimately futile. “I’m so thankful that doctor was behind him,” she said. I responded with a somewhat puzzled look. He failed. Her son died. It didn’t matter that he was a cardiac surgeon, I thought. “If he hadn’t been there, I would have forever wondered if his death could’ve been prevented. God knew I needed that,” she said.  “He was a gift to me. God gave him to me for 41 years. I can choose to think about time lost or time given.” It was such a genuinely beautiful moment. There was a distinct sense that God was present with us. I sat in stunned silence at the beauty that I witnessed in the life of a woman who had lost so much.She told me that her grandson, her son’s youngest child and only son, asks her regularly to “tell me about my daddy.” “Do I look like him?” he’ll ask. She talked about seeing her son in the boy. Her tears were equal parts devastation and joy. This trip to a random tire store had turned into holy inconvenience.

I believe inconvenience is what much of the beauty of life is made up of. Eugene Peterson says, “Life is full of starts and stops, blind alleys, disappointing detours, and bad guesses. Eventually, by God’s grace, we find our way into acts of obedience, acts of praise.” So I keep stumbling along–trying to figure out what it means to be a husband, pastor, son, and friend–trusting God all the way that he’ll piece together all the raw materials of my humanity into something for his Kingdom’s sake.

Eventually, my car was finished. I had new tires. Two hours had passed. We both searched for parting words after such a beautiful moment and ultimately found none. A smile and a nod and I was gone.  I don’t know the woman’s name. I may never see her again. But we had a moment in a tire shop and the Lord was there with us.

Lord, inconvenience me more.

5 Responses to “Inconvenience”

  1. TootieEmpson October 24, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    That is really beautiful. Sometimes it’s easier to share your grief w strangers. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Kim Ammons Bentley October 24, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    Beautiful story Joe!

    • Larry Leedy October 25, 2013 at 3:05 am #

      God will give us all ‘tire store’ experiences. They really are what helps define life. …..Hey, what’s rockin’, man?

  3. mandy burns October 25, 2013 at 3:20 am #


  4. Jimi Watson October 25, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Incredible story Joseph! Thanks for sharing!

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