It was one of those phone calls we all dread. My dad had had a serious stroke during the night and was in hospital in Toowoomba, Queensland. We returned home to Townsville from our weekend away, unpacked, repacked, made a couple of phone calls and at about 10.30 pm began the 17-hour drive south. We slept for four hours in Mackay and then continued.
In the late afternoon, just outside the small town of Eidsvold-- about four hours short of our destination--our car started making a terrible noise. We pulled to the side of the road, tried a couple of semi-mechanical remedies and waited for a few minutes. The car started again but the noise continued and we nursed the car as it limped into the first service centre on the highway in Eidsvold.
The mechanic's assessment was brief: we would not be going any further in that car any time soon. He estimated a repair bill of around $2000. At that stage, we were more concerned about getting to Toowoomba and we told the mechanic the story of our urgency.
The next bus didn't leave town until the following morning, there were no hire cars available and a call to the local truck stop to find anyone heading toward Toowoomba was fruitless. He left us to use his phone to call my mum to see if she had any ideas.
Meanwhile, the mechanic told his sister-in-law our story and a few minutes later she came over to the mechanic's workshop and relieved our growing frustration with the offer of her car. With much gratitude, we headed off into the early evening.
Another hour down the road, we pulled up at the public toilet block in a park in Gayndah. The area was dark and deserted. I made use of the facilities, washed my hands and turned to leave. The door I'd so carefully closed was now impossible to open--I was locked in. I tried using a key in my pocket to prise open the catch. I tried everything I could think of with the limited options I had available. But I was still stuck there. I called out to my wife and she checked what tools might be in the car we'd borrowed. All she found was a small pair of scissors. I tried kicking the door down, but it didn't happen as easily as in the movies and the door stood firm. After various attempts, my wife decided she'd find the nearest roadhouse to see if she could borrow a screwdriver to dismantle the door lock.
So I was left locked in. I sank to the concrete floor--tired, sad and worried. And this present predicament was either another blow in this whole horrible circumstance or the comic twist providing a little light relief. I chose the second option and took the opportunity to laugh at myself and reflect on the absurdity of the moment.
But these thoughts led me on to prayer. I began to thank God for all the good things in life. I thanked Him for great parents, whom I cared about enough to be racing across the countryside to be with them, to support them. I thanked God for a wife to help rescue me from my present confinement--and for all the other ways she helps and encourages me.
I thanked God for a kind woman in Eidsvold who was willing to lend her car to complete strangers whose own car had just broken down. I thanked God for the opportunities He gives us.
I thanked God for what He did for us through Jesus. I thanked God for the hope that this gives us, no matter what our present circumstances. I thanked God for His love and goodness.
I heard the car drive up and my wife slid a small screwdriver under the cubicle door. I was soon released. As we headed back to the car and our journey, I thanked God for one more thing--for a moment of reflection forced on me in a Gayndah public toilet block.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can't even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up in the morning, you are still with me! Psalm 139:17, 18.
Nathan Brown is an editor at Signs Publishing Company and lives in Warburton, Victoria. He wrote this story while living in Townsville, Queensland.