Smog Check (Romans 8:28)

It should have taken fifteen minutes. It was a routine smog check, something I had performed upon all of my cars, dozens of time ever since I first starting driving in California. There are a plethora of smog check stations, but for the last eight years, I have only used two, and within the last two years, it was only one of these. Thus, the other day, I found myself running errands in a part of the city where I do not often frequent, but it was close to the smog check station that I used for nearly six years. I pulled into the station, expecting to be greeted by the owner. Instead there was an unfamiliar face. His demeanor was cold. I asked if Dave, the previous owner, was around. He looked at me suspiciously and said, “Dave?”


“Yes, Dave. He used to own this place.”


“Dave hasn’t been here in 3 years.”


Flustered, I sheepishly muttered, “Oh, I guess I haven’t been here in awhile. Anyway, I am pleased to work with you.”


He took my paperwork and proceeded with the inspection. At the end of the ten minute test, he turned to me and said, “You have a problem.”


I had never heard these words uttered at a smog inspection so I was naturally perturbed.


“The light on the sensor should have gone on but it didn’t. I need your car manual.”


I fished the manual from the dashboard and handed it to him. He spent the next ten minutes poring over the pages, looking for what, only he knew. He then proceeded to spend another 15 minutes under the steering wheel, searching for something. Then, he spent another 15 minutes under the passenger’s dash, removing things with his screwdriver. I was growing suspicious.


“ much longer will this be? It’s not like I have an unusual or old car.”


That did it!


“What are saying? You have a problem. I have to fix it!” he snarled at me.


“I’m just asking how long will this be. I need to leave by 2PM.”


“What time is it now?”


“It is ten till two.”


“This test takes ten minutes.” his voice was rising in anger.  “I usually charge customer $50 to make this kind of repair.”


My antennae went up. I smelled a scam! I searched for an exit strategy.


“Listen, I appreciate what you are doing but I need to get back to my office. I am a physician and I need to attend to my patients.” I wasn’t sure if I should disclose my occupation but I wanted to speak the truth.


“Fine. You go. I usually charge $50 for this.” He repeated himself, emphasizing his disgust.


“Thank you.” I wanted to salvage this entire interaction. “Listen, I apologize if I seemed like I was questioning your expertise. It’s just I have never had this happen before. I thought this would take ten minutes.”


“Go.” He dismissively proclaimed.


I got into my car, anxious to leave this nightmare; it should have been a routine smog inspection. But it seems this inspector was determined to mark his territory. I started the car and to my horror, the entire dashboard was dark and the odometer, speedometer, fuel gauge, and battery gauge were not moving. I restarted the car, hoping this was a weird aberration. It was not. Fortunately the car seemed to work and I quickly drove away.


As I drove, I debated my options. I could take the care to the dealer and hopefully they could fix the issue. But I decided to take a chance and take it into my usual smog check station. I would explain the situation to him, I reasoned with myself, and hoped he would have compassion and fix the problem.


As I drove, my feelings alternated between anger and anxiety. But God intervened at that moment. He spoke to my heart and asked me to trust Him. He brought to mind the familiar verse from Romans.


And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28 (ESV)


After I recited it out loud and prayed, I said, “Ok Lord. You are in control. I know that all things work together for Your good. I honestly cannot see the good in this situation. Perhaps You are preventing me from being in an accident. Perhaps, You are protecting my daughter the next time she drives this car. Perhaps I will never know. But I will trust You and not grouse and complain like I usually do.”


I brought the car in to my usual smog check station. When I pulled in, I was chagrined but explained the entire episode to him. At the end I looked at him, searching his eyes for any compassion, and said, “I am so sorry I didn’t come to you first. I feel like I betrayed you!”


With a serious face, he said, “You did!” As his face broke into a smile he said, “Let’s see if we can figure this out!”


Within five minutes, he isolated the problem. It was a burnt out fuse. There was also another fuse missing. All signs pointed to a manipulation by the first smog check station. I quickly drove to an auto supply shop down the street and returned with the two fuses. He replaced the fuses and the dashboard instantly lit up. He then completed the smog inspection.


God used this surreal experience to teach me about trusting Him. Instead of lashing out in anger and frustration, I turned inward and upward to God. Looking back, I realize that my faith is still so weak and I stubbornly cling to old habits. God has to use absurd situations like this to rivet my attention.


Praise God for His faithfulness to me even when I so often turn my back to Him.


Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.