Jesus Drives a U-Haul

The unlikely places we find our Savior.

Dave was a dear friend of mine until he moved away. I remember the phone call when he called me up to let me know that he was losing his job and probably moving to the MidWest. At first I tried to be a faithful friend, a strong shoulder of comfort, a wise counselor to help navigate the mutability of life. But when the reality sank in that one of my dearest friends was leaving me, I felt abandoned. I took it personally. Can’t you just find a job here and make it work? We are no longer very close friends and its my fault.

All this was well after Jesus drove a U-Haul. Rewind.

My wife and I used to live in Vancouver, across the river from Portland, Oregon. Not that Vancouver, the U.S. one. Anyway, we were living in the ‘Couv and life seemed to be pulling us more and more towards Stumptown, a hip name for Portland, which was once a lumbering mecca. Portland was home to our church family, home to good coffee and beer, but also home to OHSU, the Oregon Health and Science University. OHSU is one of the best hospitals on the West coast and we had just received a gut punch of a diagnosis.

Our third child was going to be born with Down Syndrome. With that diagnosis, the die was cast and we knew we should move to Portland where our new home away from home would be. I was teaching at the time in a bedroom community to Portland and a week after school was out, our son was born. We had gone in for a regular check up and our little guy was pretty chill, too chill. The doctors told us, “We think today is his birthday.” And with that, our son was born. We spent the next 75 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. But that summer is another story, back to Jesus and the U-Haul.

After our 75 day summer vacation in the NICU, I went back to teaching, we put our Vancouver house on the market and in 7 days, sold that house and bought a beautiful little ranch home in SE Portland. Our world was spinning in so many ways, so many plates we were trying to keep from careening and crashing. Our older two kids weathered the storms on a shoestring of grace. So many saints watched and played with and fed our older two that summer. Freshly home, we had to pack our home and move our home, all while caring for a little guy who was still quite medically fragile and needed tube feedings every few hours.

Our house was boxed up by family and friends, near and far. Moving day arrived. I was planning to get up early to pick up the U-Haul, coffee, and donuts, the triumvirate of any successful move. Instead that morning, I woke up to grace: free, lavished, unmerited grace. Dave had it all taken care of. I vividly remember as he came around the corner into our cul de sac, baseball hat on, leaning out the window with a big smile, working on his left arm tan. Dave drove that big rig, big enough to haul all the good and bad of my life, he drove it with grace and glory. Jesus drove a U-Haul that day.

We made the move and settled into the new normal of caring for a medically fragile little guy with Down Syndrome. For 9 months he was fed via an NG tube (a bright orange feeding tube that went from his nose to his gut, NG). Dave and his lovely bride and their sweet trinity of children, were our closest thing to family. Their home felt like coming home to Grandmas. Warm, welcome, and a fridge full of good food and good drink. Dave brewed his own beer and I always enjoyed imbibing one of his latest creations. I guess Grandma didn’t brew her own beer, at least not my grandma, but I trust you can feel the warmth and love of this home. It was a good place to be, a place you didn’t want to leave.

And then Dave left. And he took his lovely bride and his three precious children, my own kids’ closest friends, he took it all away. And sadly, wrongfully, I took it personally. I got angry inside, disappointed, and stopped caring. If he doesn’t want to be that friend that sticks closer than a brother and if his big fat paycheck is more important than this community we are creating here together, then fine. Move on, go live your best life now! While I’m stuck here all alone, raising our child with a disability. That’s the painful inner monologue that brewed below the surface. And it was a bitter drink no one would enjoy cracking open on the front porch. And so I lost that friendship.

This story doesn’t have a happy ending, at least not in full. Apologies have been made and a friendship has begun again. But time and distance are too much to really recreate it into something it once was or could have been. But I tell this story for my own healing and to hopefully help others see that Jesus drives a U-Haul. Don’t miss it the next time Jesus pulls up in a big rig into your cul de sac and offers you free, forever grace. Embrace him, thank him, thank God that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. I still have that picture of Dave driving that big rig and every time I see it, I see my Savior and my heart is warmed.

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