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FIRST-PERSON: Service station theology

FENTON, Mich. (BP) — This will certainly date me, but I remember filling automobile after automobile with gasoline at my father’s Fina service station for 19.9 cents per gallon for regular. Ethyl sold for 24.9 cents per gallon and was purchased by the guys who owned high-powered hot rods.
On a Friday or Saturday night, teenagers in town would pull in and ask for a “dollar’s worth.” If it happened to be a motorcycle, they would usually flip me a quarter and say “fill ‘er up.” To say the least, things have changed. A dollar will only purchase a third of a gallon of fuel and a quarter won’t even buy a candy bar.
I worked in that service station for several years and, as a result, learned a great deal about people and a small amount about running a business. My dad was a hard-working man who provided well for his family. But he was very softhearted and created credit accounts for various people in the community. When we finally left the business, the family was holding thousands of dollars of delinquent accounts that were never collected. Plenty of folks wanted something for nothing. It was a learning experience, to say the least.
I came away from my “service station days” with a new perspective on people and, for that matter, life. I don’t believe I was jaded by those encounters, but I did become more discerning. My time there helped me be a better judge of people and their character. While gullibility level went down, I still inherited the “softy” gene from my dad. People in need still get to me and I would probably “give away the farm” if my wife would let me.
I also have learned that the character and actions of people today aren’t much different than people in that day and time. People are people, no matter when or where they exist. And I have learned that the human characteristics common to all of humanity transcend into the spiritual realm as well.
Many people want to have a full and meaningful relationship with God, for example, but they don’t want to pay the price for it. They just want God or someone to hand it to them with little or no sacrifice on their part. Many are well intentioned when they try to make deals with God, and reason with Him that they will do much better in the future if He will just meet their pressing need right now. They want the blessings of God, but on credit.
I have even seen some display the same actions and attitude of one fellow who pulled into our Fina station in a mad dash and didn’t even wait for me to come out and start the pump to put fuel in his vehicle. (In those days they were actually service stations and we actually serviced their cars. What a concept!). By the time I got out to the pump he shoved $5 in my hand, jumped back in his truck and told me to hurry up. But before I was finished, he thought for some reason that his tank was full and he cranked up the motor and peeled out as fast as he could. The nozzle was still inserted in the filler neck of his truck and gasoline was still flowing as he pulled away. The hose came out and fuel was spewed all over the pavement because there were no automatic cut-off valves on pumps at the time. He was in such a big hurry that he never really filled up, leaving me with a mess to clean up.
Too many people today believe they can be spiritually filled without ever slowing down and stopping in the process. They are in such a hurry that they believe in a sort of “in-flight fueling system” that doesn’t require a reduction of activity or actions.
In order to get filled, we must first get close enough to God for Him to provide what we need. We also must slow down and wait until the process is finished, or we will go away with only a small portion of what we need, or worse still empty. Besides, running away from the work of God in your life before it is complete will always result in a mess. That is usually when you rely on the service station attendant (local pastor) to help clean up the mess.
The price of filling up today may be high, but the cost of running on empty is not something anyone can afford.

    About the Author

  • Tim Patterson