Vacation Was a Gas

Dear Will:

A couple of weeks ago my family and I returned from a vacation in southern Colorado. We enjoyed a week of rafting, horseback riding, soaking in hot springs, hiking, exploring ancient ruins, and lots of driving—2,300 miles worth. We had a marvelous time, but as you would guess, by the time we finally pointed the car toward Orange, I was ready to be back in my own home.

So it was that we found ourselves, rolling down I-40, trying to take our minds off of the road. As we approached Havasu City, I remember noticing a Pilot station selling gas for “only” $2.39 per gallon. “Pretty good deal,” I thought—which will tell you all you need to know about what I was paying in and around Durango. As I drove past that exit—the last before we crossed into California—I discovered that I was running low on gas and would need to stop.

(Those of you familiar with that stretch of I-40 can probably anticipate the rest of this story. Having never traveled that stretch of road before, I was not so fortunate.)

When we got to Needles, I took the first exit and pulled into a Union 76 station that was charging $3.09 for a gallon of low-grade unleaded. “I’m not paying 3 bucks for a gallon of gas!” I exclaimed as I drove right through the station without stopping. Assuming that the first exit would offer the most expensive gas, I got back on the freeway and tried the next exit instead.

“Three-nineteen! I’m not paying $3.19 a gallon. This is ridiculous. We can get gas in the next town.” Once again I got back on the freeway without refueling. I looked at the gauge and concluded that I would have plenty in the tank to get me to Fenner—only 38 miles away.

Not far down the road the low-fuel indicator came on. I was averaging 17-18 miles to the gallon, so now I was worried. I had my whole family in the car and the in-dash thermometer indicated that it was 122 degrees outside. I imagined my wife and children baking in the unrelenting heat while I shuffled up the road, gas can in hand, in an ever-growing state of delirium. The desert stretched before me, blank and unforgiving, and the word hubris pounded over and over in my head. Somewhere nearby a lizard laughed. Hysterically.

We came over a rise, pushed onward by the last few drops of fuel in the tank, and finally saw in the distance evidence of what we thought must certainly be Fenner, California. As we drew nearer, however, the highway was pinched down to a single lane. Road construction. “Just watch,” my wife said. “With our luck the exit will be closed.”

It was like some kind of sick joke. The exit was closed. As we drove past the exit and saw the gas station—tantalizingly close, but unattainable—I gnashed my teeth and berated myself for my pride and stupidity. If I were a swearing man, I’d probably have felt a little better right about then, but not much. The next town was almost 60 miles further west.

Quickly I saw what I must do: At the first opportunity, I broke several traffic laws by driving across the median so that we could head back the other direction (there was no construction activity westbound) so that I could get to Fenner. We limped into that gas station, hot and relieved . . . and gladly paid $3.59 for a few gallons of gas.


“Why Should I Ask God?”

Dear Will:

My wife Dana and I have been grappling with a difficult decision in recent weeks, one which for years to come will have a rather powerful impact on Luke (our eldest)—and on our whole family for that matter. Because Dana and I are both smart enough to know how little we really know, it seemed like a good idea to us to make the decision a subject of fasting and prayer to see if maybe we could get God’s help in sorting it all out. He knows what’s best for us, we figure, and so why not try to get Him to tell us?

Thus resolved, we invited Luke to join us in our quest for spiritual insight, assuming that he would do so without much prodding. But this was another of those times in which a teenager zigged just when Mom and Dad figured he would zag. “I already know what I think I should do, so why should I ask God?” he explained. “Even if he gives me a different answer, I’m going to do what I want anyway.”

His honesty was refreshing even if his attitude was not. Try as we might, we were unable to persuade him that it would be helpful to know ahead of time if he were about to embark on the wrong course of action. As all of this was taking place, I was reminded of a time when I was—get this—about his age, a time when I did not want to ask God for guidance for fear that, once informed, I would be held accountable for whatever He told me. I was familiar enough with the implications of religious living, and I was not yet prepared to commit. So while I wish Luke had a little less hubris, I have a hunch I know where he got it. (Don’t you just hate that?)

I don’t believe that Luke is particularly unique in this regard. The world is full of people who live strictly by their own counsel—we all do from time to time, I suppose. Likewise, our history books are rife with those who have risen and fallen based almost solely on their own cunning. But what I hope for Luke—and anyone else similarly inclined—is that the day will come when he feels the need for help from One wiser and more powerful than he, and that when that moment arrives he will know where to turn and do so with appropriate humility.

Fortunately, as our family struggles onward, help is on its way. This weekend the Church will be holding its semi-annual General Conference, and we’ll have the chance to hear from our prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley.  It’s the next best thing to hearing from God Himself, but I’m hoping that my son might pay attention since it will be coming to him through the TV screen. In my view, it’s a chance for him to get an answer to questions he has not yet been willing to ask.

Who knows if it will really work that way for him. I can tell you this, though. It often works that way for me, which is why General Conference weekend is always one of my favorites. If nothing else, maybe it will provide me some insight on how to be a better father. God knows I need that. Besides, I’m sure there are plenty of questions which I have not yet asked for which God, through his servants, has already prepared an answer. Now the only remaining question: When He tells me—as surely He will—what am I going to do about it?