It's Only a Flat Tire in the Rain: Navigating Life's Bumpy Roads with Faith and Graceby Max Davis
No matter how much people plan, prepare, or prevent, adversity still finds a way to surprise us. Max Davis believes everyone has the ability to turn tragedy into triumph, hurt into happiness, and outrage into outreach. This wonderful book uses old-fashioned values, new-fashioned wisdom, real-life stories of everyday people, and a big dose of faith to help people
No matter how much people plan, prepare, or prevent, adversity still finds a way to surprise us. Max Davis believes everyone has the ability to turn tragedy into triumph, hurt into happiness, and outrage into outreach. This wonderful book uses old-fashioned values, new-fashioned wisdom, real-life stories of everyday people, and a big dose of faith to help people become problem solvers, not victims.
"If you want the techniques to navigate successfully through your life-read this book." (Mark Victor Hansen, co-creator of Chicken Soup for the Soul)
"[Davis] displays a refreshing combination of honesty, humility, optimism, and faith. This attitude...not only strengthens his credibility as an adviser to the suffering but also sets the book apart; unlike most authors who tackle these topics, Davis yields a book infused with lightness that does not actually make light of the serious topics it covers." (Publishers Weekly)
"This book will be of interest to readers who are believers of any faith but also to those who are not believers but are open-minded and curious." (Sunday Advocate, Baton Rouge, LA)
- Cengage Gale
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.50(w) x 9.68(h) x 0.76(d)
Read an Excerpt
When Life Happens
Crises bring us face-to face with our inadequacy and our inadequacy in turn leads us to the inexhaustible sufficiency of God.
DEAF!" ... I sat there stunned. Numbness came over me. Then, as the word began to sink into my being, all sorts of emotions ran through my mind. "James can't be deaf!" I shouted at the doctor. At that time, all I knew of deafness was those people who chased me down in the supermarket parking lot, handing me cards that said "I'm deaf; please help me by buying a key chain." I always felt sorry for them.
"I assure you your son is deaf," the doctor replied. "We'll need to run more tests to determine the severity of his deafness. But he is deaf."
On this day, when my ex-wife and I found ourselves in the hospital with James, my life would change irrevocably. James was thirteen months old. Up to that point he seemed like a normal toddler, walking, cooing, laughing. But he had not started talking yet. It seemed to me that he should have at least been forming syllables.' When I commented about James's not talking yet, people usually told me not to worry, that a boy's speech sometimes develops a little more slowly than a girl's. These thoughts put me at ease because I didn't want to think anything was seriously wrong with my wonderful little boy. Plus, James had been getting regular checkups and had always come back with a clean bill of health.
Then, at church one day, James's nursery worker told me I might need toget his ears checked because she had called his name and he hadn't responded. His mom and I agreed and made an appointment to see a specialist. We were expecting to hear the doctor say, "James has an infection. Take this antibiotic and come back in two weeks." So you can imagine our shock when he said, to my utter disbelief, "I'm sorry, but your son is deaf."
Further tests revealed that James is profoundly deaf. Which means, for all practical purposes, he has no hearing. He might pick up certain low tones but only if magnified to around 120 decibels. That's about as loud as a jet engine at takeoff. And even then, he hears only certain tones, not complete sounds, the way you or I do. Hearing aids do not help him much.
Leaving the doctor's office, I felt as if the weight of the whole world had been dropped onto my shoulders. My ex and I drove directly to our pastor's house. He and his wife sat with us on their sofa as we wept. Later that night, at home, I sneaked up behind James and yelled at the top of my lungsno response. He never knew I was there. I wept more. I wept for days.
God answers prayer. I believe that. I've seen it happen in dramatic ways. But when I prayed for James, all I felt was a cold silence. Others offered prayers on his behalf. Whole congregations offered prayers. Still, no response. For weeks I clanged pots and pans around James, hoping for some response, some signbut nothing. Pain and guilt dominated my emotions. Maybe we could have caught his condition before it was so profound. Realizing that James would never hear my voice, or the sound of a bird chirping, or music playing made my chest feel as if it were going to explode with pain. Playing the guitar and singing were passions of mine. Now all motivation for performing music left me. How could I play when James could never share that with me?
Basically, in one afternoon, my whole family was thrust into a world we had no desire to enterthe deaf world. Stepping into this world forced me to confront issues and problems I didn't want to deal with. It meant years of sign language classes for all of us. James had to be enrolled in a special school at the age of eighteen months because a child's first five years are believed to be the most formative.
Once, in preschool, James was placed in a special-education class that included a teacher for the hearing impaired. When I went to visit him, they had him in class with the mentally disabled. I have nothing against the mentally challenged, but James's mind is fine. He just can't hear. I marched down to the school board and demanded that they place him in another school. Back came the painmore weeping. As much as I wanted my son to hear, I was powerless to control the situation. My son was deaf, and I had to accept that fact.
Eleven years have passed since then. It's been a tough eleven years. Experts say that raising one deaf child is equivalent to raising seven hearing children. The typical thing to write would be: "Oh, over the years I've come to see deafness as a wonderful thing, and life is great now." The truth is, I still struggle with James's deafness. Each day brings new challenges. I often feel inadequate to father him. The pain of his situation is still an ever-present reality. I would give up my hearing in a split second if it meant James would receive his. I tell the truth.
Another truth I can tell is There is hope! Our hope lies not in our ability to prevent adverse events from touching our lives, or in our ability to control circumstances, but rather in the fact that we can have peace during tough times and we can transcend these periods, regardless of their intensity. Webster defines transcend as "to rise above." Notice that transcend does not mean "eliminate." Trials will always be a part of the human experience. They come to us in a myriad of fashions, all at different levels. Yet, the principles for transcending trials and experiencing peace within them are the same.
Understand That Life Is a Struggle
This is a hard thing. It's hard because we want to control life. We want life to be painless. We don't want to struggle. We want a "normal life." The difficulty is that everyone's definition of normal is different. In our materialistic society, we are constantly bombarded with images that impose unrealistic expectations upon us. They tell us that in order to be happy we must have this thing, or live in that house, or look like a supermodel, or be married to a supermodel, or live in the suburbs with two beautiful kids and have a marriage with no problems, etc....
Many people's image of a "normal life" is a smooth ride. Hollywood-type ideals leave us believing that a normal life is filled with excessthat if we have problems, we are abnormal or we did something to deserve them. We fall into the trap of comparing our lives to others', often oblivious to their own personal struggles. For the most part, we see only the surface of others. But underneath the surface, most of them are struggling, too.
We find ourselves on a quest, driving toward the way we think life should be. And when adversity hits or our plans don't pan out, we sometimes feel cheated, as if this were not normal. Which leads me to the question, "What is a normal life?"
Scott Peck wrote in The Road Less Traveled:
Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficultonce we truly understand and accept itthen life is no longer difficult.
A "normal life" is one of much adversity and struggle, plain and simple. As Peck said, it's difficult. Things happen out of our control. People sometimes choose to complain or become resentful because they believe that somehow life should not be this waythat their problems are the exception to life's rule. How many times have we heard or stated such words as "Nothing ever comes easily for me"?implying that others don't experience setbacks as we do. Once a woman said to me, "All my life I've tried to do the right thing, and this is what I get." Her perception of how life should be was different from the reality she was experiencing. Somewhere she picked up the notion that if she did "all the right things," her life would be problem-free. As a result of this thinking, she saw herself as a victim of life. This is a tragedy that engulfs our society.
We begin to transcend and experience peace only when we see life as a series of struggles and then, instead of complaining about them, we set out to solve them. Armed with this attitude, our faith, prayers, and optimism become focused upon creating solutions. We cease seeing ourselves as victims of life and become conduits for giving life, regardless of the depth of our trials. This is success in its purest form.
Embrace the Struggle
Once we understand that life is a struggle, we must put this knowledge into action by embracing the struggle. Please understand this is not a negative thing. I'm not talking about being fatalistic, nor am I saying you should allow yourself to be abused or be a doormat for others. If you can get out of a bad situation by making a wise decision, then do it.
But there are some situations that have to be walked through. I'm talking about being real. If you knew me personally, you would know that I am an eternal optimist. I am a faith-driven person. Embracing the struggle is an attitude. It simply means replacing the fear of pain with seeing the value in that pain. Obviously, no one in his right mind wishes for pain. But pain is a fact of life, and what we do with it makes all the difference.
Packaged with James's deafness has come much pain, but with the pain have also come many unexpected blessings. Personally, I've experienced a depth of character that could have come no other way except through this trial. I'm a deeper person. James is a deeper person. Pain and struggle will do that, if we allow it. The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass said, "Where there is no struggle, there is no growth." Strength and definition come to the bodybuilder as he increases the resistance in his workout routine. A little chick struggles to peck its way out of the egg; its struggle is being used to build the strength necessary for survival in the outside world.
One day I went by James's school to take him home early. Recess was in progress, and I could see him on the playground playing with other children. His school includes both hearing and nonhearing students. Off to the side was a little boy who was both blind and deaf. Teachers communicate with him by using sign language; he actually feels their hands as they sign. It is a truly remarkable sight to behold and a means of communication that requires a great deal of patience from both the signer and the signee.
My eyes teared up as I watched my son, the wall climber, the "Wild Thing," patiently and compassionately hand-signing to this deaf and blind child. It was precious as the boy tenderly felt James's hands, almost surprised by the fact that someone other than a teacher was taking time with him. After James finished signing, he gently turned the boy in the direction he needed to go and walked with him to his desired destination. In the background, sounds of children playing blended with balls bouncing and jump ropes skipping on concrete. Most of the hearing kids didn't even notice the boy. They were too busy playing. With only fifteen minutes of recess, time was a valued commodity. They had to squeeze every second out of it. Others avoided him because he was different or because they just didn't know how to communicate with a blind and deaf boy. Yet, James, at ten years of age, compassionately understood this boy's frustration and took time, his highly valued recess time, to communicate with him.
James wasn't embarrassed or too busy. He wasn't worried about what his friends thought. He wasn't afraid to touch someone different. Now that's depth! That's maturity-more than many adults have! And it has come because James, himself, has had to struggle. My temptation as a father is to try to remove the struggles from his life. I'm learning that this would be a great mistake. It is the struggle that has helped mold James into the compassionate person he is today. It is sometimes difficult to understand, but struggles have a way of instilling compassion and understanding in our hearts, if we allow them to. As we embrace struggle, instead of resisting it, we grow.
Meanwhile, where is God? ... When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, if you turn to Him then with praise, you will be welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence ...
C. S. LEWIS
My sister is an audiologist. Recently she ran a hearing test on an eighteen-year-old young man who had been deaf since infancy. He told her, "I have been praying for years that I would be able to hear. Now I think I'm hearing some sounds." His faith and hope were high. He was sure that tests would reveal that his hearing was beginning to be restored. But they showed no change. He was just as deaf as he had ever been. When my sister broke the news to him, tears of disappointment ran down his cheeks. My sister, too, felt heartbroken. The young man's mother said, "Don't worry about him. He'll be fine. He's used to this."
Could you imagine being used to this type of disappointment? I'm sure, more than once, this young man has asked, "Where are you, God?" "Why have you abandoned me?" "Have you not heard my prayers?" In my mind, there's no doubt; he, too, has felt the cold silence that C. S. Lewis described in the above quote.
Personally, I can't tell you how many times I've prayed for God to "fix" James's ears. I've prayed a multitude of times for direction on how to deal with him. "Is he getting the right education?" "Should he go to the deaf school or be mainstreamed with hearing kids?" "Is he learning to read properly?" James is twelve and cannot talk at all. "Is this normal?" "How far behind is he?" "What can we do to catch him up?" You get the picture. And when I say I prayed, I don't mean some five-minute poem, either! I've pleaded, cried out, wailed in anguish for direction only to hear nothingto feel nothingto feel as if I'm making decisions with no guidance. In some instances, circumstances actually got worse.
How, then, can I recommend that one principle for achieving transcendence and peace is trusting God? Especially when there are so many unanswered questions. Trust God? It sounds so simplistic, so childlike, and so naïve.
But I say trust God, because He can be trusted! Consider St. Paul. God spoke to him through a bright light on the road to Damascus. St. Paul saw many miracles firsthand. He was delivered supernaturally from certain death on countless occasions. And yet, God did not remove the noted thorn in his flesh: many scholars believe Paul suffered from poor eyesight. Regardless of what it was, several times Paul pleaded with God to remove his thorn and God responded, "My Grace is sufficient." In other words, God was saying He can be trusted, not always to keep adversity from entering our lives, but to guide us through it. Time has shown this truth to me. Many times, when things have seemed hopeless and I felt overwhelmed, God's light has broken through my darkness in surprising ways that assured me He was on the scene.
For example, James loves sports, and he's a good athlete. Because of his deafness, however, he requires extra attention. Most coaches have no idea how to communicate with the deaf, nor do they have the extra time to focus on one player. As a result, James has had to learn through observation of the other boys. Last summer I volunteered to coach a little league baseball team at the YMCA. I figured that because I knew sign language, I could sign to James and talk to the hearing kids at the same time. It would be no big deal. When I volunteered, I made a point not to tell anyone that James was deaf. It was important to me that James receive no special treatment and that he get an equal chance. James's sign-up sheet asked his age and grade. It asked nothing about deafness, and I didn't tell. When the first coaches' meeting came around, I again mentioned nothing about his deafness.
Baton Rouge is a relatively large city, and I did not know any of the other coaches, nor did they know me. At the meeting, we were given a roster of names. This was our predetermined team. My instructions were to contact the players' parents before a certain date and set up practice. After the meeting, I went home. That was it.
A few days after the coaches' meeting, I received a phone call from the YMCA's director. The call went something like this:
"Mr. Davis, this is Bill at the YMCA. We have two deaf boys that are looking for a team to get on. Would you be willing to allow them on your team?"
"How did you find out that my son was deaf and that I know sign language?" I responded enthusiastically.
Silence on the other end ... "I didn't."
"Wait a minute. You had no idea that I have a deaf son and that I know sign?"
"Then why did you call me?'
"I just picked your name from our coaches' list."
"Of course I will take them. This means we have three deaf kids on our team. James will be thrilled!"
As you can imagine, I could hardly contain my excitement. And the story gets even better. Later that week, I started calling the parents of the children on my predetermined roster. When I got to boy number thirteen, his mother warned me in a concerned fashion, "Now I want you to understand that Aaron is deaf and will require some special help." I about leaped out of my chair! We had eight teams in the YMCA. There were only four deaf kids in our entire league. And all four ended up on my team! All this without any orchestrationat least human orchestration.
Now, I've seen some occurrences in my time that one could call mere coincidences. But even the most die-hard skeptic would have to admit this one could hardly be dismissed as such. All four deaf kids in the league end up on the one team where the coach knows sign language. Come on!
The message that comes screaming back to me is this: Even though I don't understand why James is deaf, even though I badly want him to hear, even though I struggle, something bigger than me is going on. It is bigger than my limited understanding. Did God make James deaf? Ten years ago I would have answered a hearty "No!" Today, I'm not so sure. I do know that God allowed it.
Through his deafness, James has different gifts than if he were "normal." My simple point is: God knows exactly where James is, and He cares for James as much as I do. God took something as ordinary as baseball to show this to me. Peace comes to my heart when I simply trust in that. We transcend our troubles and experience peace when we learn where knowledge and intellect end and trust and faith begin.
As I mentioned earlier, being an author/speaker has allowed me the opportunity to visit with a wide range of inspiring people. Many of them have transcended struggles much more challenging than mine and are living incredible lives despite their pain. I take note of these people. Almost all of them, either consciously or unconsciously, are applying the three principles I've shared with you in this chapter. Let me share one of their special stories with you.
When I first met my friend Robin, she wanted to die. She is forty-five years old, and for over twenty years she has been plagued with the most serious form of kidney damage. Her condition had produced other problems such as cataracts and nerve damage to her limbs. The medication she was on caused unwanted weight gain. Her body is frail, and she walks with a cane. But perhaps the worse side effect of her condition was her inability to maintain any lasting relationships with the opposite sex. Her lifelong dream was to get married and have children. Now it seems that will never happen. These problems all left Robin feeling tired and bitter.
Robin's doctor told her that because her medication was becoming less and less effective she would eventually have to go on dialysis. On numerous occasions, she confessed to me that she would rather die than go on dialysis. She told me she had no reason to live. "Why would I want to prolong a life I hate?" Robin contended.
I, of course, argued the point, yet there was no reasoning with her. For over two years, Robin and I dialogued about her condition. We debated about her gifts and talents. We debated about her past. We debated about God. Robin believed in God but was pretty upset with Him. She was honest about it, though. To her, God seemed cold and unconcerned. She had prayed to Him for her health. She had prayed for a certain relationship to work out. Both situations only worsened. "If God is so great," Robin argued, "why does He allow so much suffering in the world?"
Finally, the day came when Robin's doctor told her that if she did not go on dialysis, she would be dead in three months. Robin told me she was ready to die, and she was going to refuse the dialysis. She asked me to perform the eulogy at her funeral. We argued again. This time, though, I got pretty emotional with her. Instead of playing into her self-pity, I asked her to go ahead with the kidney dialysis and apply the three principles I've recommended in this chapter for at least six months. "If you don't see a dramatic change in your outlook, then make your decision," I said. "But give it at least six months." Please understand, I was recommending this as a friend, not as a professional therapist. Then I asked if I could say a prayer for her. I am an advocate of the power of prayer. She responded, "Sure, go ahead, but don't get your hopes up": a typical answer from Robin. Note that I was not trying to convert her to any religion.
I prayed a simple prayer: "Lord, in your own way, unique to Robin, reach down and get through to her that you love her and that she is precious to you and the world." That was it.
That night, before Robin went to bed, she said she had three thoughts on her mind: (1) "I have no reason to go through dialysis because my life is miserable"; (2) "I have made up my mind, I am not going through with this"; and (3) "I am wiped out physically, so I'm not going to work in the morning." She then fell asleep. When Robin woke up the next morning she said, "I was consumed by a consciousness that overwhelmed me. I don't know why, but I wanted to live! And I felt compelled to call the doctor right then."
She continued, "It is pretty obvious that God did something while I was sleeping. That He changed my mind. It had to be God because my mind was made up." She was compelled by this inner guidance to read a book that had been lying around her house for a long timeYou Can Be Happy No Matter What, by Richard Carlson and Wayne W. Dyer. It helped her realize that she could choose life, regardless of how she felt.
Robin asked herself the question "Am I going to allow bitterness to destroy me, or am I going to let it go?" She then made a conscious decision to throw away her victim mentality, to embrace the struggle, and to trust God.
It has been over a year since that day, and Robin's life has changed dramatically. She is not the same person today. In fact, I am continually amazed when I am around her at the almost 180-degree turnaround in her life. Because it has been over a year, I know that Robin is not just on an emotional kick. She says, "Nothing about my life externally has really changed. Some people would even say things have gotten worse. Mr. Wonderful has not walked into my life. I spend twelve hours a week on dialysis. But internally I've changed a great deal. For the first time in my life I am happy."
She continues, "I'm now seeing that blessings are happening all around me, but until I opened up to them, I didn't recognize them. I've noticed that as I've opened up to receiving blessings, I have started to become a blessing to others around me."
Wow! What a transformation! Robin is not afraid of dying, but she's in love with living, despite her difficulties. She is transcending!
By the way, James and I played touch football this weekend. My wife was the quarterback for both teams. He beat me three touchdowns to two. We all survived.
Meet the Author
Max Davis is a former senior pastor and counselor who now devotes his time to writing and inspirational speaking across the country.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >