It was Wednesday evening about 9:00 PM. We had just come home from visiting the Petersons who live across the lake from us. I parked the car in the garage and closed the garage door. As I walked into the house I noticed the right front end leaning towards the floor. I investigated and saw the right tire was going flat.
“Oh no,” I mumbled to myself. “This is the last thing I wanted to do tonight, change a tire.” But it needed to be done. Rebekah had her painting class the next morning. The car needed to be ready for her. So, with some additional grumbling, I changed the tire. It took twice as long as usual. The spare had a universal rim with lots of holes for the bolts. It took me forever to fit the tire onto the right bolt pattern. Finally I called Rebekah and asked her to hold the flashlight so I could see what I was doing.
On her way to class Rebekah dropped the tire off at Mountain Tire. She paints with the owner's wife. On the way home from class she picked up the tire. Eight dollars and fifty cents later everything was back to normal; at least that's what I thought!
Two days later I ran a few errands. After parking the car in the garage, I noticed the right front end leaning towards the floor again. I looked, and, “Oh no,” the same tire was flatter than a doornail. This time a strange whimsical type of unexplainable joy came over me. I said to myself, “God might possibly be trying to get my attention about something.” I changed the tire in record time while our friend, Bob Klein, encouraged me with his jovial presence. It was Saturday afternoon and all the places in town that repair tires were already closed. And anyway, I did want to go back to Mountain Tire. I had a sneaking suspicion that maybe their patch did not hold. But how very wrong I was! And now comes the essence of the story.
Monday morning I took the flat tire back to the same garage and asked them to fix it. I made a casual remark about the same tire going flat they had fixed a few days earlier. But this offhand remark veiled an accusing spirit. I asked if I could run a few errands and then pick up the tire. That was OK with them. When I came back the tire was not fixed; but it was off the rim. Ray Lucas, the owner of the garage wanted me to see who or what the culprit was that caused the flat. It was a sharp, small stone that had worked its way through the tread. The owner did not want to fix the tire until I could see for myself that the hole he had fixed earlier was still fixed. He had sensed that I was accusing him in my heart for having done a poor job. “Give me about twenty minutes and I'll have the tire fixed and back on the car,” he said.
I got myself a cup of coffee at City Market across the street, wandered through the store for a few minutes, visited with a friend in front of the Citizens Bank, and then went back to pay for the repair and pick up the car.
It was hard, but I did it anyway. I said to Ray, “I came into your place with an ‘attitude.’ I accused you in my heart for having done a poor job. Please forgive me.” He replied, “I could feel your hostility in the back of my neck,” as he rubbed the back of his neck with an open palm. And then he went on to say, “The county is putting some sharp gravel on the roads,” not realizing that the accusing spirit might also be working through him.
From now on Satan will have that little sharp rock permanently in his shoes. Little did I realize that whenever we hear the words, “such and such a person is a pain in the neck” there is a legitimate basis for those words. Whenever we are accused or accuse someone else, we are under attack or are attacking another person, group, race, religion, employer, spouse, or sometimes even God Himself. Prejudice is deadly. Prejudice alienates us from God and one another. A critical, judging attitude poisons relationships. There is a judge, jury, and executioner lurking in every human heart that is filled with prejudice of any kind. A person with prejudice has already singled out his victim or victims and has sentenced them to death or hard labor in his own heart.
For many years I have sensed a dull ache in the back of my neck when I am in the presence of hostility whether it is spoken or unspoken. Sometimes I feel distress in every part of my being, including my body. Now I know why. Now I know I am not imagining things. Anger and or prejudice kills, maims, injures, paralysis others and ourselves whether it is expressed in a tangible, physical, audible way or not. It often makes us tense without knowing why. At that point we may reach for a cigarette, a drink, a pill, growl at the dog, or whatever without knowing why.
It will be a lot harder now for Satan to hide in others or me. The devil, the accuser of the brethren, has been exposed and flushed out of my heart. It is a lot easier to recognize and catch him when he hides in someone else; but instead of looking for him in others, I am now willing to let the Holy Spirit put His searchlight on Peter so that everything that is hidden in Peter will be revealed and flushed out to make room for the gift of mercy.
This story costs me two flat tires and an apology. Saying, “I am sorry,” or “I am wrong,” or, “I have sinned” has never been easy for me. I thoroughly dislike eating “humble pie.” What I learned about myself was a small price to pay for the benefits in store for myself and others via this story. Every time this story is passed on, we will be putting another sharp rock in Satan's shoe. I can see him limping, screaming, and scurrying down the road in great agony. “Get away from me,” he will be yelling, “I hate this story. I can’t stand to hear it one more time.” Every time it is told, another nail will be driven into Satan's coffin. With the help of e-mail, snail mail, the telephone and Xerox machines, there is no telling how many times it will be repeated and how quickly it will travel around the world. Many hearts will be cleansed and purged of prejudice. Those who will not allow Satan to hide in the crevices of their own hearts or look for him in others will hasten his exile to the bottomless pit.
And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ, for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” Revelation 12:10
The little sharp rock is still on our knickknack shelf. What Satan meant for harm, God has turned around and made into a story that is setting many captives free from an accusing spirit. And thanks for being such good listeners. I just love being the Lord's storyteller.
Peter D. Laue
Pagosa Springs, Colorado, USA
(Revised - Palm Sunday – 2005 - Excerpted from the Spring 2000 Stretcher Bearers for Christ Newsletter)