In celebration of my recent birthday, my wife and I went down to Portland for the day. We ate out, went to a bookstore, and generally had a wonderful time. As we neared our housing development on our return, we noticed a Jeep by the side of the road that seemed to need some assistance. Turning around, we discovered that the two ladies who were driving it were indeed stranded. The one had been teaching the other to drive a stick-shift and something had gone awry. The vehicle was dead.
They had jumper cables. We turned our new-to-us 96 Honda Odyssey around and tried to give them a jump. No luck. So we tried again. Still no luck. Since the engine wasn’t starting, there didn’t seem to be anything to do other than attempt to push the Jeep back to their house, which was “only” a half mile or so away. With some effort, we were able to get the Jeep all the way off the road and into the development where we and they live. We were making pretty good progress towards their house—until we came to a hill. We stopped.
Short of a tow rope, there didn’t seem to be any way up that hill. The ground was wet, the night was dark, and the manpower was limited. Two sailors stopped by, took a look, and promised to be back soon. Sure enough, five minutes later, they returned with a battery that one of them had sitting in the garage and offered to install it for free. Yet when he popped the hood open, he noticed something that cast the efforts of the past half an hour in a different light. The battery cables were loose. Grabbing a wrench from his trunk, he tightened the cables and shut the hood. The Jeep started.
Though the problem with the battery had seemed to be a serious one, in reality the solution was almost frustratingly simple. I don’t know when those cables came loose. Perhaps they had been coming loose for a long time and finally loosened enough to cause a problem. Perhaps they had become loose in the throes of experimental gear shifting. Perhaps they had shifted when we tried to jump start the Jeep. In the end, everything turned out fine. The ladies went back to their driving lesson, I went back to my house, and the sailors went on their way.
Later that night I reflected on the experience. When something goes awry, it can complicate our life in significant ways. It is easy, in the heat of the moment, to assume that both the source of and the possible solutions for that problem are as wide ranging as the consequences it has produced. Yet quite often the problems that complicate our lives the most have solutions that are almost embarrassingly simple.
Sometimes batteries do die. Not all problems have an easy answer. Yet no matter how complex your problem seems to you, the first step should always be to double check on the basics of your Christian life. Better yet, go over those basics with someone who has more experience living for Jesus than you do. It wouldn’t have done me any good to take a look at the wires running to that battery as I had no idea what they were supposed to look like, nor how to go about tightening them. The sailor with the battery did. When there doesn’t seem to be anything else to try, check the basics. The solution might be simpler than you think.