In high school, my friend Patrick drove an enormous 1983 Oldsmobile Delta 88. It was burgundy-red, and due to its size and color we called it “The Delta Demon.” Invariably, on the way home from causing some (minor) mischief Patrick would glance at the Demon’s fuel gauge and exclaim, “Uh oh. Out of gas. We have to stop.” We’d coast into the nearest gas station on fumes.
The Demon’s gas tank was insatiable. Patrick would pump gas, pay the cashier with the rumpled five dollars from his pocket, and collapse into the driver’s seat exclaiming in an exasperated tone, “Just once I wish I could top off the tank.” It seemed as if it took the entire five dollars—all that Patrick had—just to get us home.
In 1988, the year I turned sixteen, the average price of gasoline was 98 cents. Today the average price of gasoline is $3.81. In this era of economic difficulty, it is not unusual to pull up to the gas pump and see that the people in front of us have put only five or ten dollars in the tank, because that’s all the money they have. Indeed, on some days we may be such people. Some days we lack the resources to fill the tank. Some days there’s not enough gas to get us home. Some days we subsist on fumes.
Our spiritual lives are not so different from our gas tanks. Too often, we rely on our demons to carry us through the world, those insatiable aspects of our lives that drain us of our strength and our joy but which we cannot seem to let go. Too often, we find that when we need to endure and carry on our tanks are empty. We don’t have enough gas to get us home.
Who can fill our spiritual gas tank? What can top us off and see us through the long and crooked miles of life?
St. Paul counsels, “Be careful how you live, not as unwise people but as wise…Do not get drunk with wine [which is, undoubtedly, one of the demons on which many people rely] but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:15 & 18)
The difference between filling our spiritual gas tanks with the Holy Spirit rather than demonic and destructive things is made clear when the Psalmist says to God: “You have made known to me the path of life; you fill me with joy in your presence.” (Psalm 16:11)
Life is, indeed, a journey down many and varied roads. We can travel in one of two ways: We can move forward in fits and starts, lurching on fumes until we gather just enough worldly resources to get us down the road to the next stop. Or, we can fill our hearts and souls with God, who empowers us through hill and valley, along smooth stretches and over potholes. Best of all, God doesn’t charge us anything, and he will fill our spiritual tanks to overflowing. He will be fuel, vehicle, and riding companion all, and the road trip will be one of joy.
So, who will fill your gas tank?