As Church Facility Managers, we have all had those days where our task list is longer than our work day. That was the case for me four weeks ago. I was preparing to attend the NACFM conference the following week. I knew that I needed to pick up some supplies my team would need while I was gone. On this particular day, interruptions and new tasks required me to work longer than usual and I never made it to Lowes. I decided to pick up the supplies on my way home. Luckily, the store was just a quarter mile past where I normally got on the interstate to go home. I am, like a lot of people, a creature of habit. As I approached the interstate, I took the ramp to go home instead of going straight to Lowes. I immediately realized my mistake. I was so mad at myself. I was tired and hungry. Now, I had to go to the next exit, get off, cross over the interstate, get back on and return to the previous exit. I could feel my blood pressure rising as I calculated the time my absent-mindedness would cost me.
As I took the ramp off the interstate, I could see a man trying to put gas in his car on the right shoulder. I immediately noticed two things. First, his vehicle had come to a stop only partially off the ramp. He was standing on the ramp with the gas can where cars were zipping by at 60 mph. A couple of cars in front of me came close to hitting him. The second thing I noticed was that he was having trouble putting gas into the tank. He seemed to be staggering and having trouble standing. I thought he was drunk. As I stopped, I turned on my emergency flashers and parked so as to shield him from traffic. As I walked up, I asked if I could help. His reply was, “Thank you, Lord!”
My first impression had been completely wrong. He explained that he had been driving to a clinic to see a doctor for food poisoning. He had walked almost a half mile to a convenience store to buy gas. Now back at the car, he couldn’t get the gas out of the gas can. He had paid a small fortune for one of the new style gas cans that had a locking nozzle safety feature. He told me he had been trying to pour the gas for 15 minutes. He had vomited on the pavement and now I could see he was nauseous. I told him to sit down and I would be glad to put the gas in his tank. The locking nozzle would not open. After considerable frustration and tearing the nozzle apart, I was finally able to get the gas in his car. He was very grateful. We prayed together and he was on his way. I had an overwhelming feeling that my mistake was a divine appointment that may have saved the man from a serious injury.
I am sure that literally hundreds of cars had passed this man in need. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan. A priest and Levite had ignored the bleeding and beaten Jew on the side of the road. It is easy to talk ourselves out of helping strangers. And in today’s world, it can be dangerous to stop and help someone on the side of the road.
This event reminded me of a close call I encountered 30 years ago. I was preparing for a business trip the following day and hoped to leave very early to drive to Knoxville. At the time I lived in Chattanooga. That night I received a call from a customer who needed to see me the next morning before I left town. Instead of leaving at 6:00 AM, I would not be able to leave Chattanooga before 8:30. At 6:30 that morning, there was a 90-vehicle pile-up in the fog on I-75. There were multiple fatalities and dozens injured. If I had followed “my plan” that day, I would have been in that fog-filled valley at the time of the terrible crash. The frustration I felt the night before gave way to gratefulness. Even if I had not been killed or injured, I would have had to deal with repairs and lost time from work. I took the time to thank my Lord and Savior for my safety and prayed for the dead and injured, as well as their families.
“For I know the plans I have for you, 'declares the Lord,' plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
It is easy to dismiss events like these as mere coincidence. I have made many “wrong turns” in my life that were not arranged by God. In fact, God had nothing to do with most of them. As Christians with an “active” prayer life seeking God’s will, we can see where God has been and continues to be involved in our lives. I am sure that the man I stopped to help thought I was the answer to the prayer he had just lifted up. I am not advocating that you stop and help every stranded motorist. I am suggesting that we be open to the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit in all facets of our lives. (On a personal note, I have discovered that I need to say less and listen more in my private conversations with my Heavenly Father.) The next step is obedience to the opportunity God places in our lives. On this day, I felt humbled and amazed that God used me to answer the prayer of my fellow man in need.
As always, I ask for your prayers for the NACFM and our members!
Yours in Christ,
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