by Shawn McEvoy, Crosswalk.com Managing Editor
You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day.
With Memorial Day weekend's arrival, summer travel season is upon us (well, for those who haven't been grounded by the economy, anyway), so I've been reminiscing upon all the times the Lord has watched out for me on the road through all my journeys. Here are just a few examples:
When I helped my wife - before she was my wife - move from Columbia, South Carolina to Farmville, Virginia, we rented an auto transport to trail her car behind the U-Haul so that we could both ride together in the truck. I had helped load her car onto the transport before we left. We decided to get out of town and onto the interstate before we gassed up. We'd traveled up and down hills, across several railroad tracks, on the interstate, in stop-and-go traffic... and it was raining. You'll understand the reason I tell you all that momentarily.
When we pulled into the gas station, we realized we didn't have Valerie's key chain. It held the keys to her car, her new home, her old home, and several expensive keys to the University of South Carolina. Neither of us had any idea where they could be. I got out of the truck to think... and I spotted them, there on one of the two-inch thick beams of the auto transport. I yelled for Valerie, who came to look. I carefully touched the keys with my fingertips... and they dropped to the ground. Neither of us could believe our eyes, or that those keys had remained there of their own accord over the route we had driven. It had to be the Lord. If not, well, He got the praise and glory anyway.
Another time, when I was just a boy, my mother's station wagon had a flat tire on a remote stretch of road outside Tucson. My sister and I were in the car as my mother struggled to get the hubcap off. In those days, on that model, a special tool was required to be able to get to the lugnuts. We didn't have the tool. Just then, a guy rode up on a bike. He happened to have the tool. He handed it to my mother, who to this day swears he was an angel. I'm not sure I can argue with her.
At other times there have been individuals who showed up with just the right help during blowouts, or - believe it or not - airline personnel who actually made my trip better than it could have gone. The most memorable of these instances, truly, have come during times I prayed, read my Bible, and had decided in advance not to get bent out of shape about delays or other problems. One such cross-country trip resulted in an out-of-nowhere upgrade to first class from Philadelphia to Seattle, where I also ended up in position to calmly solve a dispute between passengers. Indeed, the Lord has been gracious to me in travel.
My wife's family has a tradition before every trip they take to read Psalms 91. It reminds them that God is their refuge as they go, wherever they go. And of course before every trip we take, my family prays for safety, and mercy... and the opportunity to minister, even if it is an inconvenience to our plans.
One way or another, this prayer is always answered. Still, it's hard to remind myself of goodness and opportunity in delay. Sometimes I still feel that the trip, the vacation, is my time… that whatever gets in the way shows that the Lord does not care, or did not "bless" our travels. That’s when I remember Paul's travels. I am certain the Apostle didn't think shipwrecks and imprisonment were helps toward spreading the Gospel. But in the end, they were. Are our travels - no matter what purpose we think they hold - any different?
Jesus told a story about a traveler who had been robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the road. Those who passed him by had in mind only their own agendas and their desire not to be inconvenienced, even if they were priests by vocation. What would you do? Would you have the time, yearning, and empathy to interrupt your travels to do as the Samaritan did?
Understand that I am not discounting that the Lord must lay on your heart the decision to stop and help, especially in these troubled and dangerous times. But do be open to it. So few times anymore do we venture outside our home or neighborhood. Those times we do should not merely be restful, but ministerial. Pray that God would give you opportunities to serve him - and yes, to see His glory in watching over you! - as you go.
Intersecting Faith & Life: This summer especially, be on the lookout for fellow travelers who are stranded. Rising gas costs could cause some motorists to run out of fuel. Consider taking along a spare gas container and can of fix-a-flat to assist stranded folks who might be in need of genuine help (and the gospel message).