Monday, November 10, 2014

When You Are Preoccupied With Your Own Life

The song by Matthew West, “Do Something,” pulsed through my car speakers as I dug intently through my tousled mess of a purse. I was looking for the bank card I had haphazardly thrown into the heap at my last stop.  This only added to my frustration. I had been running late all morning. Late to pull myself out of bed, late to my first, second and third appointment. Now, I found myself sitting at a gas station, in a part of town I rarely go, thinking it would have been a good idea to get gasoline when the “forty-seven miles to empty,” warning came on, forty seven miles ago. The digital warning on my car no longer blinked red, it stayed solid while making a harsh alarming noise to announce there were no more options until fuel was added.

Once I finally located the card I turned the key off and began to exit my car. That is when the sound of people screaming jolted me out of my little world of procrastination.

In the gas station island next to me a man and woman were in a confrontation. They flung their arms and angry words as if no one else were around to witness it.

I decided this would be a good time to leave.

And leave I would have, except that my putting things off, had left me in a situation, with no choice but to wait. 

So I made sure the door was locked and acted preoccupied.

For a few moments they took their conflict to the other side of their van so I glanced over to evaluate the situation a little more closely. Inside their older multicolored vehicle, sat two adolescent aged children staring straight ahead.

A small amount of compassion seeped into my heart. I continued to look busy. Surely they would move on soon.

That is when this ridiculous thought came into my head. “Ask her if you can help.”

It was an unwelcome idea that I dismissed immediately as I preached to myself about not getting gas yesterday, or waking up earlier today or being more organized any day.

I glanced over at the ongoing confrontation.

Again I felt the simple prompt. “Ask her if you can help.”

It was not an audible voice but it was a persistent, uncomplicated thought in my mind to which I responded out loud, “No!”

Nothing about this could made sense. When has it ever been a good idea to walk up to a stranger who is involved in an escalating fight and introduce yourself?


But soon, I found myself getting out, slowly going through the motions of getting gas, muttering a prayer for help and the how-to, when the enraged woman came to the side near where I stood. In one crazy burst of faith, I touched her arm and stammered, “Is…. is... there something I can do to help you?”

The woman spun around and to my relief dropped her arms as if to surrender and began to pour out their story.

They had given the clerk $20 for gas, started the gas pump and gotten back into the van since it was cold, to wait for the pump to stop. Usually the clerk would set the pump to turn off for the amount pre-paid, but that had not happened and they now owed an addition $60 which they did not have. The argument had escalated as the cashier was threatening to call the police and the man and woman were blaming each other for having no options with which to pay the extra money.  

I glanced at the wide-eyed children in the van.  I turned back to the woman and without even giving it a thought, I asked her if it would be okay if I took care of the difference. Her face softened in disbelief. The man continued to fling angry words. She burst into tears and we hugged.  

Inside, the clerk was in a foul mood in light of the conflict. She waved her finger to an ATM machine and told me I would have to have cash, that she would not take my debit or credit card. I fumbled to operate the machine. My adrenalin was running high and I had never used a machine like it. Peering around the edge, I could see the man and woman pacing in front of their van.

Squinting to focus, I read through the process again.  This time the machine kicked out the necessary amount of cash. I turned back to the cashier, who coldly snapped the money from my fingers and did not look up or say thank you.

It was almost comical at this point how things were playing out. I was wondering how I would explain this to my husband. Plus I mused, this probably wasn't even God telling me to help these people.

I approached the van and the woman.

I told her it was taken care of and I hoped they would have a better day.

She began to thank me, but I looked straight into her eyes and said, “No, don’t thank me. It was Jesus who wanted to bless you.”

As I was walking back to my car, she called to me, “Hey! What church do you go to?”

I was honestly surprised at the question, but everything inside of me came alive. We had a short conversation about the where and when and the come-as-you-are, of the church we attend.

Driving away that day, I replayed the whole unlikely event though my mind and knew that I had just participated in something bigger than me. Somehow in my messy life I was able to shine light into someone’s darkness. Perhaps I was the answer to their child’s breath prayer or maybe Jesus had planned the whole thing to show them that He is real and loves them right where they were.

All I know is that I got to be a few lines in their story that day.

That was two years ago. I have no idea if they ever set foot in the church building, but there is a lot of freedom in knowing that God cares about them enough to bring them help. It wasn't about me being a nice person, but about God Himself being real and tangible in their situation.

I think of them from time to time and when I do I might pray, but mostly I praise God for them.

Moments before I encountered them I was preoccupied with my own life, while jamming to Matthew West as he sang about all the pain in the world around us and how we just settle in to be, “angels of apathy.” Ironically when I was confronted with a need and the opportunity to be part of the answer, I just wanted to lock the door and hide.

They changed my heart and the destiny of my day. They made my small world a little bigger.

It reminds me, that when I follow the Holy Spirits lead, it doesn't always feel safe or even make sense. And when action accompanied my faith by stepping out into the uncomfortable and unknown, it resulted in stirring the smoldering embers of mercy, compassion and unconditional love for people in general and for the God who loves us all right where we are. 

Right in our mess.  

Right now.

What is God asking you to do?

Listen to the song?

Linking up with these lovely ladies:


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© Rhonda Quaney