Saturday, June 22 2024 - 1:23 AM
pumping gas
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Pumping Gas and Going to Church

I’ll never forget the first time I got gas in the grand state of Oregon. Having just moved out from the Midwest, I stood out at the pump and was about to lift the little lid when suddenly there was this guy standing there next to me, smiling awkwardly. Was I in the self-serve lane? I looked around and reached in for the nozzle and there he was, reaching for it at the same time. It was very quiet for a moment, and then I figured I’d just let him pump my gas if he wanted to so badly.

That night I learned that in the name of more jobs, Oregon legislators had set down the law that nobody was going to be pumping their gas anymore. Instead, they’d have it done for them and this would instantly create a network of jobs for people who needed to get back up on their feet again. How very nice.


These memories all came flooding back to me when my newly Oregonianized friend ranted to me about how freaked she was when someone had run around her car and started opening the gas door as she parked at the gas station. In Ohio, nobody touches your car unless they’re keying it or robbing you! Then she noticed this phenomenon was common to all those parked at the station. Maybe he was not the enemy…. We had a good laugh.

This is probably why I’m a bit sad about moving to Washington in a few months. Yes, Washington. Yes, moving. I like the area all right, but it’s the millions of gas-pumping moments that now shine brightly in my future that have me grieving. Just last week while up there, I had to actually climb out of my cozy car and hike around to the nozzle (for the first time in years), heave the pump switch up, and get some gas for myself. Oh criminy! As mindless a task as this is for the rest of America, for an Oregonian, the task looms larger than life—and that’s even in mid-summer without rain, hail, or snow freezing your hands to the metal while you desperately watch the numbers changing and pray for patience.

Yes, I am sad about this to be sure. And why should I not be? I’m very much used to being cared for in this way. My skills in pumping gas are rusty and my joys at sweeping through mundane tasks while capping off are many. Just as my newly inducted friend is finding it quite an adjustment to sit still and wait for someone else to fill up her faithful Civic, so I am loath to think of having to feed and water my own automobile again.

The Merits of Church

And here’s where the merits of church will now enter the story. While musing over these thoughts last night, I couldn’t help but think about how the culture we choose to place ourselves in will condition us over time into new behaviors or away from old ones. In Oregon, we all have weak hands and no sense of drive when pulling into a gas station. That’s because we have all agreed that gas pumping is a paid job that someone else gets to do. Well, what about church? Do you go? It seems to me that placing yourself in a culture of people who act and believe the way you want to will make it all come together for you with minimal focus and work.

Do you want to give God credit for the good things in your life? Be more grateful? Be more patient? Then you probably want to move in and among a group of people where these are valued behaviors. It’s a simple observation maybe, but a helpful one nonetheless. We are communal and conditional by nature. The community we live in will condition us whether we notice or not, so why not then choose that community with great care?


A good example of this is Easthill Foursquare Church up in Gresham, Oregon. I love this place. I go whenever I’m in town. The focus here is to know God and heal and grow and live out loud from a place of strength and faith. When you mingle among the thousands who attend each weekend, you cannot help but notice the quality of conversation. These people will talk about feelings, struggles, joys, and all the rest with the kind of abandon most of us long for.

And why? Probably because they moved themselves to this spiritual location years ago where openness was the norm, and it has now rubbed off. This is true of every church. I can guess a person’s church background in five minutes. All you have to do is ask a few questions about God and you’ll get the kind of emotional response that is familiar to each different group. And then, for even greater contrast, you talk to a person who’s never been to church and one who has, and there’s a whole world of vocabulary and identity words that do or don’t exist in their reality.

So What’s the Point?

The point is this. Choose very carefully where you place yourself and your family. You will become like those folks. Not only this, your kids and loved ones will too. Do you want your kids to be loving and kind? Well, what does the community you worship in or the social circles you run in value? Do you want to be aware and respectful of God—honoring Him with your life? Well, is that the sentiment of the group of believers you congregate with?

Where you live and with whom will greatly determine your choices and lifestyle. Check out the story of Lot in Genesis. And remember, if you want your kids to grow up knowing how to pump gas, you better not move to Oregon.

If you liked this, you might enjoy, Guarding Our Hearts.

Claire Worley writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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About Claire Worley

Claire Worley

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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