Our Spring Break is just ending, and it looked nothing like we expected! The main event was that our 15 yr. old Mitsubishi had to be taken to the emergency room. Because the engine runs so rough, David was sure it was terminal a year ago. We attracted the attention of pedestrians, policemen, and irritated residents when we idled too long near resonant housing. Even the cats recognized us, running to the front door before our car was even visible! But God graciously kept it running until we had free time to deal with it. After 3 years without a radio or interior lighting, the inability to visit the mountains due to a weak engine, and lack of leg room for our children who have become lanky teenagers, we were eager for an upgrade. It was the clutch that was going, and it would cost about one third of what we paid for the car 3 years ago.
The problem was that we would need a loan to get something better, and in David’s mind, any French bank manager would cry, “You want us to loan you money wizowt a salaree?? Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha…” This was only the beginning of the attack on David’s dignity as he entered the dreaded world of low-cost, very used cars. Of course since I am relatively clueless, I contribute very little to the process, making it easy for me to walk in complete faith that God will take care of it for us. In the meantime, David is sweating over want ads written in French hieroglyphics (TWINGO 1.2 PACK+DA VE FC, BE AM 2000 rge lucifer 102Mkm cour. nve, pces rec., 2 pn nge, lect CD) and hoping a car will drop from the sky while the old one is gently carried away to its greater reward.
- Miracle #1: The bank did give us a small car loan, and we rejoiced with Elizabeth in Luke 1, who declared, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.”
- Miracle #2: After looking at 2 cars, and paying close attention to passing station wagons, we were able to narrow down what we wanted pretty quickly. I voted for a Peugeot 306. David tends to lean on my gut reaction to confirm big purchases, but I was too ill to go with him to look at the third option – a 10 yr. old Peugeot 306 we’d seen on the internet. He liked what he saw and bought it with confidence.
- Miracle #3: Getting rid of “old Bessie” was the final hurdle to overcome, and the next day, a man walked up to our car and commented on the noisy engine – a blessing in disguise! David proceeded to lament about its condition, and the man offered him 300 euros cash for it, as is – the angel he was hoping for.
Prophetically speaking, in the last 3 years, we’ve been faithfully chugging along like our Mitsubishi, seeing very little movement in our visa and work status. The missing radio and broken lights represent non-communication from God and the French government on behalf of our situation, despite the noise of our prayers and requests! The engine limitations and tight seating represented our financial constraints. As a sign of the old giving way to the new, the clutch broke down when David was driving Rachel to Strasbourg for the obligatory medical visit needed for her her own French residence permit as an adult. It’s unlikely that the government would have imposed the medical visit without a positive response for her residence permit, which in turn bodes well for us all as a positive sign that France is accepting our family as normal residents of their country, even if it is one person at a time. Our “new” car is a French one, and that significance is not lost on us either.
I would like to end this newsletter on a cultural note with the translation of a petition we received via e-mail from French friends. The petition was to protest against the elimination of “le repos dominical” – keeping stores closed on Sundays. The French seem to be the last bastion of “sabbatarians,” but it is not because they are eager to keep the 4th commandment, even though we all look like the Israelites “gathering our manna” on Saturday to get us through to Monday! A little internet research revealed that “le repos” was instituted in France by the king for selfish reasons to improve the well-being of worn out young men during the Industrial Revolution, thus insuring a reserve of soldiers capable of fighting! They were encouraged to spend the day outside walking with their families and that is still the main Sunday afternoon pastime today, after a big meal. Living right on the street, I appreciate a quiet Sunday – there are even local ordinances against making noise in most towns (lawn-mowers included!) I thought Americans in particular would find these arguments thought-provoking:
- Working on Sunday is a personal decision that doesn’t affect anyone else. False!
It endangers the fabric of society when families do not spend one day together, and in a single parent home it is intensified. Who is nurturing the children? Juvenile delinquency is the result, impacting the future of our communities.
- Sunday hours will create more work and stimulate the economy. False!
Small local shops hire more employees per square foot than the big chains, but it is the big chains staying open on Sundays that are putting the small shops out of business.
- Sundays are more convenient for making big family purchases. False!
Stores are already open 6 days a week and some until 10 pm. With the 35 hr. work week and 5 weeks of vacation + the internet, there is plenty of time to shop. And what’s more, the family budget is not inexhaustible – you cannot spend more than you earn, whether stores are open 6 days or 7.
- Employees who work on Sunday do so voluntarily. False!
Most do not have a choice. They will earn time and a half if they work on Sunday and the sales quotas are set so that they have to work Sundays to meet them. If this is not motivation enough, blackmail and other pressures will force them to. An employee should be paid sufficiently during the week to pay his bills without working Sundays. When working on Sunday becomes the norm, you can be sure bonus wages will be eliminated.
- Cities become ghost towns on Sundays – we are bored and need to liven things up! False!
Boredom and loneliness is not fixed by shopping more. We are asking that sports and community centers be more accessible on Sundays instead.
- Not working on Sunday makes no sense in today’s world. False!
Studies have proven that all of nature flourishes with regular rhythms and 7 days is optimal for human beings. Historical efforts by revolutionaries to change the length of a week to avoid any Biblical nuances all failed after 10-15 years. A day off work is also good for the planet – very pertinent in today’s world.
Wishing you a restful Sabbath…