For a couple different reasons I’m going to have to drop you right down into the middle of this scene without giving you the background. You can get the prequel later.
In 1978 when I was a teenager, we were living on the first floor of an old 5-story hotel building that had been converted to a retirement home. My parents owned and operated it. When I wasn’t at high school or behaving badly, I worked the switchboard and in the dining room. This building was (and still is) located in downtown Rogers, Arkansas and one summer morning my mother was awakened way too early for the umpteenth time by a terrible noise and decided to do something about it.
(Now those of you reading this who knew my mother are getting a mental image, aren’t you? Feeling a little nervous perhaps?)
The Pepsi bottling plant was about a block and a half down the street. Starting at the crack of dawn every weekday they bottled and loaded and transported their product in big ol’ trucks. My mother was a hardworking businesswoman who got her second wind at paperwork usually about ten o’clock at night and sometimes didn’t get to bed until around two. Thus the noisy Pepsi people and their trucks screeching and braking and the drivers hollering and working at 6:00 a.m. was not a good thing. Oh if they only knew . . .
So on this beautiful Arkansas summer morning she had had enough. I’m sure she appreciated the fact that fellow businesses must carry on with their business, etc., but the sticking point seemed to be the truck brakes. Scraping. Screeching. Grinding mercilessly. They were intolerable.
I didn’t witness the marching, but I’ll bet there was marching. Purposeful marching. The kind for which you get out of the way. I can see it clear as day. She was not a rude person–far from it. I’m sure she found the first person she came upon and very politely explained the situation and let them know of her confidence in their abilities to achieve a satisfactory outcome of silencing those outrageous 6 a.m. truck brakes. She was accustomed to having her plans followed.
What was about to transpire will go down in our family folklore and be passed from generation to generation with pride. It’s one of those sayings that we use on occasions that call for a show stopping, shut-everybody-down kind of response. It did indeed shut down my mother and that very well could be the only documented instance in history. The nice Pepsi man, after hearing what was most likely a courteous well-planned strong suggestion from the nice lady whose accent didn’t sound like his about how she thought he could solve the truck problem, looked her straight in the face and with a definite southern twang uttered these immortal words: “They ain’t nothin’ can be did about that, Ma’am. It’s just the way them diesel brakes is.”
Awkward silence. The story goes that she meekly accepted that answer, thanked the nice Pepsi man, and strolled slowly back the way she had come. Grinning. She loved language and appreciated his explanatory rendition so much that it took the steam right out of her engine and the wind immediately out of her sails. I never heard another complaint from her about the 6:00 a.m. Pepsi trucks. But the family at large had gained an invaluable response for unsolvable situations.
“They ain’t nothin’ can be did about that, “Ma’am. It’s just the way them diesel brakes is.”
Unsolvable. Without a solution. No way out. I’m no expert at diesel brakes and wouldn’t even know one if I saw one. I can identify a truck and that’s about it. It’s bigger than a car, right? However, dear ones, I’ve seen situations in my day, many of them, with no way out. No solution. Lived through, am still living through, and may continue living through some until I die. As will you. If you’re young and reading this please don’t think I’ve cracked up and gone all melodramatic. Life is complicated and messy even though there is still great and wonderful, glorious gladness in it! It’s a hodgepodge I tell you! You might find yourself dealing with circumstances you never could have imagined. You wonder if anyone else carries the same weight of burdens that you carry, suffers anxieties like yours, wishes like you do that situations you’re going through could rewind and never happen in the first place. Friend, you are not alone. There are folks all around you who walk similar paths–maybe not exactly in your same footsteps, but alike in their degree of heartache and are wondering, like you, when answers may come. And though your circumstances may appear dire, unsolvable, unending, there is a balm for your spirit and an uplift for your tired soul when you cast your cares before Jesus. The unsolvable becomes tolerable. The journey changes. I’ll certainly be proclaiming that Good News until the end of time!
Earlier this week I put words on these pages which were hurtful to someone and though it was unintentional on my part, it brought about a rather fierce reaction that seemed initially unsolvable. The humor aspect of my post had fallen flat and what I meant by my words was not what was heard. I am truly sorry about that. While this may not count as one of my ongoing or enormous life challenges, it did need addressing with a humble attitude. Where did I turn for help to find a solution? To the place I always find direction for the unsolvable, the messy. To scripture. To God’s Word. The Bible.
The third chapter of James in the New Testament is oh so familiar to me. Its pages are worn thin in several Bibles around here. If you read it you might understand why. I’ve actually written term papers on that passage in college classes. James knew me! Ha!
I hope you understand my heart. If you’ve known me enough years, you do. My motives are good and scripture based. Knowing that, if you take issue with what I write, please keep the storm within reason and come after my words not after me. I’m new at this and willing to learn. But the basic me is still gonna be me and, “they ain’t nothin’ can be did about that, Ma’am.”
Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life. A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything–or destroy it!
James 3:1-4 (The Message)
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:14 (NIV)