A 1992 Volvo Wagon and the Gauges of the Soul

For a long time I drove a 1992 Volvo 240GL black wagon until it reached about 170,000 miles. I loved this car, bought it used. The engine of this Swedish-designed and -built car ran well, but a few things started to break that weren’t worth fixing. Like I said, it had over 170,000 miles, but I’m not sure because the odometer didn’t work. At first it rolled intermittently, but then it just plain stopped. All I know was that I was driving that car with mileage approaching 200k

Well, one day I looked down at my gas gauge and thought that I must be running on fumes — it was below empty. I stopped at the nearest gas station to fill up the tank, but the gas pump clicked off after about five gallons of my 16-gallon tank.

It was then that I realized that my gas gauge was also no longer working.

Which wouldn’t normally be a big problem because I could gauge how much gas I had left based on resetting the trip odometer each time I filled up. But alas, the odometer wasn’t working either. Without these two essential gauges, I had no idea how much gas I had left. Without these two gauges informing me, I couldn’t know that which I couldn’t see. (And I am not like the guy I heard of recently who had a similar problem, so he took off the gas cap and lit a match to be able to see down into his tank!)We’re now approaching the final few weeks of summer 2012. I’ve had a chance this summer to recalibrate my life’s gauges that keep me from suddenly running out of fuel. I spent some time fishing with our youngest child, Sam. Paula and I took the kids on a vacation that focused on Christian history, art and good food.

Later in the summer my batteries were charged at Cannon Beach, Oregon, where we travelled as a family and I was one of the Bible teachers. We hung out in Nehemiah, and we hung out in a spectacular coastal town. We also sat under the teaching of my former boss, Dr. Walter Kaiser, who was the other speaker at Cannon Beach, as he unpacked the truths of Malachi. I then attended a Council for Christian Colleges & Universities Board meeting in Annapolis and worshipped on Sunday morning at the U.S. Naval Academy. What an inspiring service as I thought of our nation’s Christian heritage, evident as the sailors came to worship.

And though it seemed a long time ago, I loved the time that many employees gathered with me in Marshburn Hall to pray for our incoming students.

Family. Scripture. Inspiring art and architecture. Vistas with mountains or oceans. Space. God’s people. Prayer. Meals with friends. These were some of my summer’s highlights that not only filled my depleting resources, but they were good gauges too. They were gauges to alert my soul that I wasn’t about to run out of gas. This summer has given me some precious moments to make sure my spiritual gauges were working. Why? So I don’t break down on the side of the road … so I press on over the long haul.

And thankfully, there are still a few weeks of summer left — weeks that, for many of us, will include some time spent watching gifted athletes from around the world compete in the Olympic Games. (Speaking of people who know a thing or two about pressing on over the long haul.) I am particularly excited about Biola alumna Amy Atkinson (’11), who will be running as a track and field competitor in the 800-meter race to represent her home island of Guam on Wednesday, Aug. 8. As a university, we look forward to cheering her on and supporting her endeavors in this momentous event of the season.

I hope your summer has afforded you some moments to deepen your faith and focus on your most important relationships. In a few weeks we’ll gather together for what will be a glorious and sacred moment as 1,300 new undergraduate students and hundreds of new graduate students arrive on campus from all around the world. As they arrive and the campus comes back to life, may our gauges be working, our spirits renewed, our solidarity as an international community be invigorating, and may we, as Nehemiah said, find that the joy of the Lord is our strength.