By Coke Newell, Contributor


When a former classmate dropped his cellphone, ran the light at Maple and 5th, and T-boned the far side of Jessica’s ancient Honda Civic two days after high school graduation, she thought the flying glass would be the problem. When she couldn’t move her head or left arm 40 seconds later, she knew it was bigger than just cuts on her face and neck.

But even with a fractured left clavicle and two broken vertebrae, Jessica could not be talked out of college that fall. She had been admitted to the university several hours away, and she was determined to go.

Intending to protect their daughter from an inadequate recovery, though, her parents told her they wouldn’t pay for her living expenses at the distant school; she could attend the community college this first year and live at home for free.

Eleven weeks later, Jessica left home for the university, fully committed to covering her own housing and food. It wasn’t that she was a rebel, but that she had a dream. And she admired the Honda: still entirely drivable with mostly just a collapsed passenger-side door. It was emblematic of her determination.

So she went, she moved in, and she started looking for work. It became quickly apparent that she was in physical condition for few—if any—typical college-student jobs. The college employment counselor was truly very sorry.

Anxious to complete at least one semester of college before succumbing to circumstances, she started “extending” her food budget by eating only two meals per day, then two meals only six days a week. And simple meals, at that: cold cereal, oatmeal, and lots of spaghetti with dollar-store pasta sauce.

And then the Honda was stolen, the inevitable victim of that one-key-practically-fits-all quirk common to Civics of that vintage.

No job. No car. Possibly the city bus, but to where? Not to a job.

So she limped to classes. She trudged through homework. She told no one. And she took it to the Lord: OK, I’m not so smart; I’m not so independent; but I also don’t want to just give up.

Walking to Sabbath services that Sunday, she saw parked down the street a car that looked just like her Honda, clear to the smashed in doorframe weather-shielded with a 42-gallon lawn-and-leaf bag and a lot of duct tape. She called the police on her cellphone while she waited nearby, her right hand fumbling with the keys in her purse.

Thirty minutes later, she thanked the officers, then drove the Honda back to her apartment building, where she sat in the parking lot, pondering at length the only thing in the car she hadn’t left there eight days before: an apparently unused donation slip from a church in the next town over.

She took it as a sign—or at least a timely reminder¬—and she walked back to her church building, calculating along the way what an honest review of her records revealed was a tithe, the “tenth part” (Hebrews 7:2, ESV, KJV) she had occasionally paid as a teenager. Too late for the meeting after all, she met the pastor as he emerged from the chapel and handed him a check for $40. It was almost everything she had left in her checking account.

On Monday morning she received a phone call from the college employment counselor, who had something that might be of interest to Jessica. They met that afternoon, but Jessica was almost immediately heartbroken to hear that “this isn’t really about a job.” The real story: Another student had just opted out of school and forfeited a private university grant. Jessica was offered the grant—almost exactly what she needed to pay for housing and food for the remainder of the school year.

Jessica left the counselor’s office smiling but teary eyed. Who would have thought the wreck and the theft of the same ugly car could turn into such a lesson in faith and fortitude?

She thought of it from then on as the Parable of the Honda.