A couple of years ago Jamie and I decided to move down to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. We had three hundred dollars in the bank, and the promise of an acquaintance to rent a home, until I could find a job in the city. We had the zealous hope of a new chapter, and the future seemed wide open…
Shortly after we moved here, I had this brilliant idea to take a road trip to the Carolina coast; I had always wanted to surf the Charleston beaches, so I tucked my surfboard into the car and made it a solo adventure. I surfed with the dolphins and chatted with tourists. I lingered in the surf shops and eventually began the six hour trek home.
*There are parts of South Carolina that you just might want to avoid. Long highway stretches separate the progressive boom town of Charleston, from the backwoods mystery of lesser known places… and it was here, in the middle of the unknown, that my engine blew a head-gasket. Smoke poured from the hood of my Jetta, and there was no hope of a quick fix. I hitched a ride to the nearest gas station, that had promptly closed at five pm. It was beginning to get dark, and I could hear banjo music… No cell phone reception, no credit card, and the music was getting louder!
I finally waived down a motorist, and he gave me a lift to a phone booth up the road. I was able to call Jamie collect and I explained the situation. She scurried to put the girls in the mini-van and attempted to rescue me, but somewhere outside of town, the transmission blew on her van as well. So my wife and kids were simultaneously stranded six hours away!
[That awkward moment when you keep seeing reruns of Deliverance in your mind, as the darkness is setting in…]
Jamie finally got a hold of a friend-of-a-friend who immediately set out to retrieve me. This guy drove an F-350 with a flatbed trailer behind it, and five hours later, he found me on the side of the road (hiding behind some trees!). He loaded my car up and I climbed into the passenger seat. I was so ecstatic to have been found, rescued, and returned…
As we neared Columbia, we pulled off to get something from the drive-through at McDonald’s. He ordered a bunch of food for both of us, and I insisted on calculating the totals, “Here, let me pay!”, but he ignored my request. I kept a close eye on his gasoline, mileage, and time granted; I was going to make this all up, I had promised.
After my persistent requests to let me pay for this favor, he just looked at me and said, “You don’t understand grace, do you?”
Jesus inaugurated an inverted power system as he announced the Kingdom of Heaven and the New World Disorder. “Blessed are the Spiritually Bankrupt” [ptochos]; a word picture of absolutely nothing left in the bank… running on fumes and now the fumes have evaporated. Guilty. Surrender. Ptochos.
The good news of the gospel is that God has heard the cry of his children, and He has set forth on a rescue mission to retrieve the prodigals… And when you find yourself standing on the side of a barren highway, with no money and no hope and a blown head gasket and burned bridges and the scandalous resume as a liar/fraud/cheat, your only posture is to make a collect phone call to Heaven, and beg for Mercy.
Blessed are the Spiritually Bankrupt, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.