A spare tyre means, if I can quote Maya Angelou completely out of context, “hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”
When I took delivery of our Honda Jazz four years ago I had no idea it did not have a spare wheel, not even a space saver. Instead, as I discovered at its two year service, it had a small plastic bottle. This was the sealant kit. It was only this Saturday I learnt how to use it – and failed. This – as I have since discovered – is what usually happens.
Incredibly in going to compete in the Blackpool 10k (I came 198th out of 444 incidentally), I managed two punctures, one there and one back. The second time I needed the help of the RAC – along this year with another 79,999 drivers lacking a spare wheel.
The patrolman was brilliant. He explained how the car manufacturers have decided to give the spare wheel the push. It may save some weight but it could have meant a long wait for me. Anyway, I have now bought a space saver tyre through eBay.
But do Christians need a spare tyre? I’m sure that there are some saints out there who claim God’s protection. May angels guard my tread.
A technologist in my congregation in Heswall all those years ago was telling me how health and safety considerations in India are at best minimal, usually non-existent. Apparently unsafe work conditions is one of the leading causes of death and disability among India’s working population, killing some 403,000 people every year.
He considered the reason was theological, that the Hindu mindset tended towards fatalism. If you were going to die from an accident, there’s nothing you can do about it. There’s no need for a safety belt (or a spare wheel). Just relax and enjoy the view.
I’m not sure how accurate his assessment was. But such a way of thinking is not at all uncommon in our own culture, even amongst Christians. “What’s meant for you won’t pass you by.”
And of course, for the Christian, this has an element of truth. God indeed is sovereign throughout the created order, something very much emphasised in the Hebrew scriptures. “The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.” (Psalm 135:60). God rules on high.
This theme is developed in the New Testament, which marvels in the truth that we may stand in the grace of God. So the apostle Paul rejoices that “ God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Jesus tells his disciples, he tells us: “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:16). It’s all down to God.
So there is a sense in which nothing which happens happens outside his will. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.”
But does that mean that we can dispense with the spare tyre?
For does my responsibility come in? God rules but I am also accountable for my decisions. We can’t simply opt out of taking tough choices by singing with Doris Day “Que Sera, Sera.”
For the spiritual reality is that in serving Christ we are more likely to need our spare tyre. This is because we face spiritual warfare.
Bishop David Leake, Andrew’s father, once told me that in travelling on Argentinean buses he always carried a torch and a small hammer (to break the window). The fact that he was travelling in the Lord’s name did not entitled him to any form of immunity. But even so he boarded the bus for the sake of the Gospel, praying for God’s protection.
Indeed as beloved children of God we may enjoy a security this world cannot even grasp and yet put our seat belts on.
We are at the very limit of human understanding here. “Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.” (Romans 11:33 Message translation).
Remarkably God’s sovereignty and human responsibility finally converge at one spot, the cross of Jesus. Our saviour may die but God is in complete control. Such is his awesome love, the good news of his resurrection.