I knew I was in trouble when the huge mound of wet sand flopped and slitherered across the back of the pick-up. There was just too much of it. I was sitting in the cab and I felt the springs strain under the pressure, and I felt (or imagined) the whole cab rising slightly as the weight of the sand pushed down at the back. I’d driven to the quarry without a care in the world. It was up a steepish hill and I wove round the various mountains of aggregate to get to this beautiful peach-colored river sand. Just the job. The quarry was mainly equipped for much bigger operations, and the tractor driver had heard my request for “Just a ton, mate” and obligingly delivered the load on to the small truck bed. But there was just too much of it.
It did cross my mind that I was actually getting something for nothing. I’d already paid for one ton and this felt more like two, two and a half. As a small-scale landscape gardener, an extra ton or so was very handy. Look on the bright side. But when I arrived back at the quarry gate and looked down the steep incline, the knowing-I-was-in-trouble sense went up a couple of notches.
The truck was a 1984 Datsun One-Ton Pick-Up. I was very pleased with that truck. It’ was a real workhorse that had never let me down. But here’s the question: who had given it that unglamorous designation “One-Ton-Pick-Up? Was it the guy who did the paint-job? (Bright red, very flashy). No. Was it the dealer who sold it to me? Of course not: it was the designer. It was the guy who planned the thing out, who had calculated down to the last ounce just what it was capable of. And what it wasn’t capable of. The designer had drawn a line and I had stepped over it.
As we lurched on to the narrow lane and as the hill steepened down, the truck immediately began to flounder. The brakes were sluggish and resistant and the steering almost non-existent. I could feel the pressure of the excess pushing downwards and forwards and yet –in my imagination- the cab was pointing upwards, looking up to the hills for help. The thought came to me that as long as we didn’t pass another vehicle I’d probably be ok, but just as the thought expressed itself, a truck with trailer lumbered into view at the bottom of the hill.
I was somewhat pleased that my wife wasn’t in the truck with me at that point. She would already have noted the extra load and probably suggested that I spaded it back out, back on to the quarry pile. But more to the point, right now, she would have…uh…reacted vocally to the oncoming truck. I have a theory that Val would make the same vocal response to being eaten by a Great White Shark as she does to touching a piece of seaweed with her bare toe. But even so, grading on a curve, this moment would have initiated a SWAT team of a rapid response. She would have screamed that truck into submission.
As for me in my horror-struck silence, I just don’t know how I missed it.
I mean that quite literally. I don’t know, because at the critical moment of two trucks passing, I firmly closed my eyes. I had the sense of veering into the hedge whilst the oncoming truck blared at my wobbly steering (though perhaps he had his eyes shut too. Who knows?).
And the moment passed.
I arrived, cold and clammy at the foot of the hill with the feeling of one of those saints who’s gone through a whole lot of dangers, toils and snares, and I had a revelation.
You may mock, but only because you’ve probably already had the revelation, which some call common sense, that there are some loads that you are not intended to carry. The truck was not intended to carry that load, and consequently it became uncontrollable and dangerous.
There’s a wonderful statement about God in one of the Psalms. It says “He knows our frame.” Given the perspective of the Psalmist, that God is our creator, our designer who lovingly fashioned us together, it’s an obvious insight. He knows what we can carry and he knows when we try to carry too much. When we take on too much then things may get out of control and there may even be damage.
I remember as a little boy trying to please my mum by taking all the tea things into the kitchen. She said “Just come back for the rest” but I wouldn’t. I mounted everything on the tray and then promptly crashed it all to the ground.
Don’t try to carry too much.
He knows our frame.
There have been times in my life when I’ve just tried to carry too much. When I got divorced. Man, that was terrible. For a long bad time I just floundered down that incline, pretty much out of control.
And when my mate committed suicide, well, I could barely function. You really need friends, don’t you? Especially friends who won’t say too much; just make the tea and hang about at the edges. Waiting for you to open your eyes again.
I took great comfort in that verse that says “We sorrow, but not of those that have no hope.” I realise that some sorrow comes into every life, sooner or later, but there is a bigger picture. That the sorrow is not everything: it just blocks out the sunshine for a while.
I believe in a bigger picture. I believe in a God who “knows our frame.”
When I was little, I used to try to help my dad carry the suitcases when we went on holiday. But I just couldn’t help much. It was beyond my ability. And Dad knew the limits of my ability better than I did.
So nowadays, when things get heavy, I have to look to my Father to carry those suitcases that I can’t manage.
Otherwise, I’d be in a ton of trouble.