Out Of Gas

“Remember…the first thing you do when you get to Fairmont is fill up with gas.” Dad handed me the keys to his 1978 Oldsmobile 98 Regency.

“Yeah, Dad. I know. I’ll remember.”

It was daylight when I left for Fairmont, the closest “big town” for us just across the Iowa state line into Minnesota. I was 16 years old and thoroughly enjoying the independence of my newly acquired driver’s license. And the Oldsmobile was a sweet luxury ride. A big engine and padded velour seats, it felt like you were driving a La-Z-Boy down the road.

I ran my errands and stopped at Hardee’s for two Big Twin burgers, one roast beef sandwich, fries and a Coke. It would all get run off at basketball practice. Then I headed for home.

About five miles out the Olds started sputtering.


I forgot to remember.

I’m out of gas.

Shifting into neutral I let it coast as far as it would go before pulling onto the shoulder on Highway 15. With my Dad’s words ringing in my ears, I started walking toward a farm house up the road about three quarters of a mile.

It was about 9 PM on this December night. Frigid cold, but no wind. A coal black sky full of sparkling stars. I would have appreciated the beauty were my face not freezing.

I rang the bell. The farmer warily opened the door. “Uh, I, uh…Hi. My name is Todd and I was wondering…I, uh, ran out of gas up the road.” He didn’t say anything, just reached for his coat and came outside.

Walking over to a shed, he got a gas can and pointed me to his pickup. “I’m really sorry about this. Thanks for helping me. I’ll be happy to pay for the gas.” He shook his head no.

He’s not talking. He must be mad. I’d be mad, too, if someone got me out of my toasty warm house to haul gas for some teenager who can’t remember the difference between “E” and “F” even when it lights up. “I’m really sorry for getting you out here on a cold night”, I said. The farmer said nothing. He just drove down the road.

I hate this.

He did a U-turn and pulled up behind the Oldsmobile. Then he opened the gas cap and poured a full five gallons into the tank, about four and a half gallons more than I deserved. Again, I offered to pay and again he shook his head “no”. I thanked him profusely. Then he spoke his only sentence.

In a kind voice he said, “Son, it’s just as easy to keep the top half full as the bottom half.”

He got in his truck and pulled away, probably wondering if I’d be smart enough to remember his advice.

I did remember. And aside from having never run out of gas since, the thought occurs to me that there is an application of this truth to my relationship with God.

If I’m honest, too much of my relationship with God has been lived from the bottom half of the tank. Too often I’ve allowed myself to run on fumes. Too much time without prayer and without time reading God’s Word. Not enough time spent with other believers. Then, when life gets cold and harsh, I ring God’s doorbell and foolishly wonder out loud to him why I’m not capable of handling the situation with confidence and strength?

God always listens, then kindly points to my empty tank.

The farmer’s advice is true. It’s just as easy to keep the top half filled as the bottom half. Being disciplined to pray, worship, study God’s Word, and regularly learn from others older and wiser than myself keeps my tank full. And when my tank is full, I’m better able to handle life when circumstances turn cold and harsh. Life is hard, but it’s harder when we’re running on empty.

Praying that we all focus on the top half of the tank.

Go fill’er up.

“I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have revived me…Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

– Psalm 119:93;105

Todd A. Thompson – February 24, 2010

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