We were driving down the interstate, having just crossed from Colorado into Kansas shortly before five on a Friday afternoon. Suddenly, we lost power and started blowing smoke out of the tailpipe. My initial thought was, “Oh no! I’ve got to get safely to the side of the road.” The words that came out of my mouth were, “Lord, this is your truck. What do you want to do with your truck?”
Very quickly after asking the question, the smoke stopped blowing, and the power came back. The message center on the dash alternated between two messages: “Exhaust filter 90% full” and “Exhaust system maintenance required – see dealer now”. With the power flowing again, we accelerated back up to 72 mph and, for whatever reason, I just kept driving instead of pulling off the road.
Calls for Help
Dallas started messaging our board and a couple of our prayer warriors asking them to please begin interceding on our behalf. We were coming up on Goodland, Kansas, so I had Dallas start looking for diesel mechanics in Goodland. She found more than one listed.
We called the first one; no answer. Did I mention that this happened at 4:55 pm on a Friday afternoon? The next mechanic answered, but he didn’t perform that type of work. He was kind enough to give us two more numbers. We kept calling one after another with the answer consistently being repeated. They all advised that we needed to go to a dealership.
We called the closest dealership in Colby. Since it was now after 5 pm, we were slightly amazed that someone in the service department answered. After explaining the situation, the mechanic quickly said that it would be a week and a half before they could get us in. I thought, “A week and a half! Lord, that doesn’t work. We’re supposed to be in Tulsa tomorrow and moving east from there. That would completely upset our schedule and appointments.”
After stumbling for my words, the service tech asked if we were pulling a load. “Yes, we’ve got a 15,000 pound trailer we’re towing.” He then asked if there was a place where we could drop the trailer and be able to drive the highway without it. I didn’t know where he was going with his question, but answered that we could find a place.
His suggestion was that we drive 30-40 miles on the highway without the trailer, and the exhaust system would regenerate. What logical sense did it make to drive even further to resolve an issue that the computer was indicating would be even more problematic by saying to get to a dealer immediately to fix? It felt a lot like Elisha telling Naaman to go dip in the river seven times to be healed of leprosy (see 2 Kings 5).
Regardless of the weird instructions, we decided to give it a try. After parking the trailer in a lot, we filled up the fuel tank and started back up the interstate. About 10 miles in, the warning center message changed to, “Exhaust System Regeneration In Process.” I now, after some online reading, know more about the exhaust filter system on modern diesel trucks, but at that moment, it was as if we were experiencing a miracle. Every few miles the percentage full for the exhaust filter went down … 90% … 80% … 70% … until we got the message that the regeneration process was completed.
Instead of days at a dealership, and who knows how much money, we were back on the road in less than two hours with just the cost of a few gallons of diesel. Regardless of the explanation for how it worked, that is enough of a provision for us to celebrate God’s goodness.
Without getting into the details of how a diesel exhaust system works, I’ll give some basics. There is a filter that traps the particulates from the exhaust, keeping them from going into the air. The heat from the system then burns these particles until they are just ash. Eventually, the ash has to be cleaned from the filter, but otherwise, the system takes care of itself.
The reason that we had a full exhaust filter is because of how we were driving the prior week. A diesel engine is designed to run for long periods. Not just be started, go a little ways, and be shut off. That week, we had attended a conference where it was only about three miles between the RV park and the conference center. With multiple back and forths each day, the engine never got fully warmed up where it operated properly, thereby building up particulates in the exhaust filter.
Often in our Christian walk, we go short distances with the Lord. We dabble in Scripture reading and prayer, with a little worship tossed in here and there; never getting fully heated up and going the distance. The particulates start to build up in our life. Some frustration, mixed with some negative thoughts, and a little inappropriate behavior here and there. Before we realize, our exhaust filter is full, and we are blowing smoke all around us.
When our life gets clogged up with junk, we need to pull aside for a time of regeneration. In a sense, we need to call the dealership service manager, aka The Holy Spirit, to get advice on what we need to do to fix the situation.
Most likely, we will need to drop our load for a time, much like we needed to park the trailer and drive without it. This may be a time for a vacation or a sabbatical. There are seasons where we need to pull back from our normal level of commitments.
“But Mark,” you may say, “If I don’t do it, then it won’t get done.” While that may be true, life will go on even if it doesn’t get done. In the church, we often think that if something goes undone, it is a bad thing. In reality, the church will survive, maybe even thrive, if you don’t pick up all of the loose ends.
To keep from filling up our exhaust filter, it is important to have regular maintenance breaks. A weekly sabbath is of huge benefit to keep our life running smoothly. A Sabbath rest is not something to do because of the Law, it is actually made for us and our benefit (see Mark 2:27). I’ve found that, in God’s economy, more work can be completed in six days than in seven.
Get Fired Up
Instead of getting just a little warmed up, we need to be fully fired up for the Lord. We need to allow the heat of His presence to burn away the particulates in our life; cleansing and purifying us through His regeneration process.
Just like the ministry’s big diesel truck is designed to pull big loads long distances, we are made by God to do His work. That work isn’t always easy, but with His strength, we are able to do it well.
If we get lax in our relationship with the Father, it is like those short trips. We’ll build up issues that reduce our power and make it difficult to keep going. We need His heat to burn away the dirt and make us pure again. Once we are regenerated, we will be able to pull the heavy loads as we are designed to do.
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