| || |
Look for the Good--Part II
(originally posted March 18, 2019)
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
That's right. You may FEEL alone, but you are NOT alone.
I was visiting a friend recently who is on a long road to recovery. He is in the midst of a huge uphill battle. I wouldn't blame him if he felt that he was all alone, in the dark, slipping and sliding in the icy bitter cold, with little hope of reaching the top of this hill in his life.
As we talked, I was reminded of a time late last fall when the Lord used that kind of literal experience to remind me that I may FEEL alone, but I am absolutely NOT alone. Do you feel alone? Perhaps you can enter in to this story and glean encouragement and gain strength to continue heading up the hill. He is with you, dear Christian, dear child of the King. (If you don't have a relationship with Him yet, may I encourage you to seek Him, so that you may find Him, and never be alone again.)
RUNNING ON EMPTY?
Would you say that you are full of fuel, or so depleted that you are continually fanning smoldering flames in your life?
Jesus once spoke of ten virgins (in Matthew 25:1-13), some of whom were wise enough to bring extra oil for their lamps during a long period of waiting.
There was an incredibly memorable moment late last year that is probably still remembered vividly by just about every commuter in the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut area. It was the Thursday before Thanksgiving, and anyone trying to get home from work that day probably still has a story to tell about that fateful afternoon and evening. Perhaps sitting alone in their car, yet at the same time sharing an unforgettable communal experience with their fellow captive-auto-audience.
My story is no different. The lessons from those long contemplative forced-to-be-still hours remain vivid and worthwhile sharing with others who could use a little extra fuel in their spiritual tanks right about now.
Heading home early in the afternoon, right after the snow began, thinking it would simply be flurrying a little, and with plenty of time to get home…. Problem was, everyone else thought and did the same thing, all at once. That morning, it would have been a good idea to fill up my gas tank, and I had thought about it, but hadn't actually DONE it. I had less than a half a tank, but surely enough to make it to work and home…. So, I planned to get some gas on my return trip….
That was the first mistake. Once on the road home that afternoon, it became quickly apparent that no one was going to get ANYWHERE fast. The only thing FAST was the rate at which the snow was falling. No big deal at first, until we sat, and sat, and sat…. Moving a little, but mostly participating in what seemed to be a mass parking lot experience on every road in the area.
After a while, the dwindling gas tank seemed more urgent than when leaving home earlier in the day. Now, praying to somehow make it to a gas station and that it would be possible to get IN and then OUT of an unplowed parking lot.
Sit … move … sit some more … watch the snow accumulate … sit … wait … watch the gas meter…. Pray…. No sign of any plow or salt truck....
Don't know quite how long this went on. Passed one gas station, hoping there would be another before long, because that one wasn't plowed…. (Looking back, I might have been more contented to have gone to that one, since it was earlier in the storm, but of course, no….)
The sense of relief and gratitude was palpable when FINALLY after what was probably a couple of hours, there was a gas station on the highway that was OPEN, accessible, and somehow didn't have a line waiting for gas! Didn't know it at the time, but there was still a LONG portion of the drive home; but having that whole tank of gas made the wait much less daunting and far easier to endure. To this day, it's a mystery how I never ran out of gas. Felt like the Israelites to whom Moses said "Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years." (Deut 8:4 NIV)
With the full tank, the stopped traffic was bearable, as the long slow climbs up hill after hill ensued. Who KNEW there were so many hills on this highway? Wow, when the hills are full of icy packed snow, each one is very noticeable! Finally, a hill that must have been a bit steeper and slicker than the prior ones, because it became apparent what had been tying up the traffic for so may miles behind it…. Cars made their attempts to get up the hill, and there was a mix of spin outs, cars stuck, spinning wheels, and four wheel drive vehicles carelessly speeding through the obstacle course of cars, sometimes handling it with ease, other times, spinning out as well and almost hitting the sitting ducks in their cars…. I watched what was ahead of me with uncertainty, for sure.
My turn at last…. Get up a good amount of speed and drive right through it, right?
Well … not so much. Since other cars all around were spinning and swerving, of course the brakes need to be applied to keep from hitting them…. And voila! Lessons in how to become a sitting duck yourself!!!
Spin, swerve, move a little, try to avoid hitting neighboring car, sense jaw DROP open as crazy driver in next car swerves recklessly while trying to become free of the ice trap, nearly careening into the cars strewn in its path. There were indeed many accidents that evening all over several northeastern states; thankfully and miraculously, none on that little stretch of hilly highway while I sat in its clutches.
I prayed and prayed to get up that hill. Slowly but surely, each of the others stranded with me made their way out of the trap. There was a huge line of cars at the bottom of the hill behind me, which I figured would soon be coming up and joining me, adding to the chaos, but they never did. Just a bunch of lights at the bottom of the hill, and my car alone pretty much. Who knows WHEN the people at the bottom of that hill ever got up to the top?
Before I was the only car left on the hill, there had been one other car with me. I remember that because suddenly, to my astonished eyes, I saw a man running down from the top of that dark, icy hill toward my car. He ran around back and began to try to push me up the hill! Angel? I don't know, but I could barely believe my eyes. Helped me not feel quite so "all alone" for sure. He got me unstuck a little, and then ran to help the other car that was also stuck, which eventually did get traction and get to the top. After a while of his gracious efforts, he ran off up the hill. He had enabled me to get out of my original rut, but of course, with all the icy slush, I was stuck again fairly soon afterward.
I FELT alone, but in my HEART, I KNEW that God was with me. I KNEW that I would get home, although I FELT like I might NEVER do so, knowing that I might also easily be killed in this very dangerous situation.
I ever-so-slowly inched my way up that hill, revving the motor and hitting the brakes as needed … sliding and swerving in the iced-over layer of snowy slush, praying continuously. It was likely hours, although time seemed suspended. I do know it took me over 6 hours to drive the distance that usually takes 35 to 40 minutes. Somehow, by the grace of God, I did finally get to the top of the hill. The rest of the commute was also quite a snowy and icy challenge, especially the very last little hill when nearly at my final destination…. But eventually, I made it safely home, praise God!
These lessons were tucked deep in my heart as I pondered that experience (and I share them now, hoping to encourage you):
1. Be sure your tank is full of fuel (like the ten virgins, have oil in your lamp; be full of the Holy Spirit, read the Bible, draw near to the Lord).
2. Be prepared for a long wait, because you're going to need the extra fuel and a lot of patience and grace to make it the whole way, especially when those around you are panicked, slipping and sliding recklessly as they try to navigate this life).
3. You are NOT alone. It may feel as though you are, but stay surely rooted in your faith. He is with you, and will accomplish what concerns you (Psalm 138:8). Be not afraid….
Surely that's easier to say from THIS side of the hill, but it's true just the same! Each experience like this builds our faith so that we CAN remember that we are not alone when our situation screams the opposite to us.
He may even send an angel your way to keep you focused and hopeful, who knows? :)
Whatever cold, slippery, lonely hill you face (or a loved one faces) today, may He encourage you, let you know you are NOT alone, and help you to see the beauty that awaits once you persevere to the top of the hill and beyond, by His amazing grace.
And after all, the spring always seems to be especially beautiful after enduring what some of us consider to be the pain of winter :). Sorry if you love the winter…. You'll just have to endure the painful attitude of those of us who prefer what's up ahead ;).
Look for the good. Look for the beauty in the midst of the pain.
If you desire to know more about having a relationship with Jesus Christ, here is a wonderful resource to guide you:
| || |