January, 2017 – “Be Ready in Season – and Out of Season”

January, 2017 – “Be Ready in Season – and Out of Season”

It was such a cold, blustery Sunday evening several years ago when my boys and I were on our way to church across town for the service.  It was that ‘bitter cold’ that a January offers us in New England.  It wasn’t just freezing, it was literally below freezing!  And besides that we had so much snow that the banks where the plows had tried to keep us free to move about were piled so high that it was nearly impossible to see around a corner to get out of a street.  And, some of the back roads were plowed to only a car and a half-width with the snow frozen on both sides.  These were snow-packed back roads with only an occasional sighting of a glimpse of tar.

As I think about this now, I have to think- ‘WHAT was I thinking?!’  But, I was a lot younger and at the time it didn’t seem quite as daunting as it does now.  Until! – we reached the end of one back road needing to get onto a busier thoroughfare, and there was a semi right across the road in front of us trying to get onto this back road.  I burst out with a “WHAT is he doing?!  And how can he do this to me when I need to get to the church?!”   After all, I was ‘the music’.  As music coordinator of the church, I just had to be there!  I was pianist and in charge of other music.

As I tried with great difficulty to squeeze by this big-rig, I thought I heard someone calling.  Generally, being very careful – and always, not one to communicate with (of all people) a truck driver, I stopped and actually rolled down my window.  My boys were in the back seat truly urging me to not speak to the driver.  But, I had an ‘inner urge’ – a ‘still small voice’ within me that seemed to tell me this man was in distress.  He called down to me asking if I knew where a certain business was.  Although this was a place of business we drove by nearly every day, I had never known its name so didn’t recognize what he was asking for, and wished that he would just move.  I told him that I was sorry I couldn’t help him, but that if he backed up and continued on the busier street, in a mile or so there would be a doughnut shop where I was sure someone could give him the information he needed.

All the while being so polite to this man – inside of me I was saying, “Just get out of my way!  Don’t you know I have to get to the church?  Don’t you know I’m important?  Don’t you know they depend on me?!  Just get out of my way!!”  (In retrospect today, I say ‘Whoa!”)

I ran up the back stairs to the auditorium, got my boys settled in our usual row, went to the piano and began playing.  Phew!  I had made it!  ‘Thank YOU, Lord!’  But as soon as I started playing the introduction to the first hymn we were singing, I began to feel strange – awful – horrible inside me.  It was a terrible deep agonizing inner pain that I couldn’t shake.  The service continued and my mood was dark and heavy.  I left the piano to take a seat along-side my boys.  Never heard a word of the sermon.  All that I could hear over and over and over came from inside me: “You were too busy to help one in their need.  You got your priorities all mixed up.  Why was getting to the church exactly on time more important than helping ‘Me’ in My time of need?”  I felt as if my physical heart were dying.  My spirit certainly was crushed beyond what I thought could ever be repaired.  I had grieved the Holy Spirit!  I needed to get ‘out of there’ (the church) just as soon as I possibly could after the service was over.  I wrote a note and passed it along to my boys letting them know.  I also told them that we would need to leave by way of the back stairs.  I just couldn’t bear to talk with anyone.

As soon as we got into the car, I told them what was going on – of my grievous sin of omission in neglecting a stranded one who was simply asking for just a ‘cup of cold water’.  And all I could do was send him on his way for a cup of hot coffee . . .    I also let my boys know that it had come to me during church where the business was that the truck driver had asked me about.  So, we headed towards home – ever so carefully.  It was even icier and colder.  As we were approaching ‘that’ place of business, I let my sons know that this would have been the place the truck driver was asking for.   When all of a sudden, as we almost got past the place of business, I cried out, “That’s him!  That’s the truck!!”  I pulled into the parking lot.  Once again, my boys thought I was totally crazy – and may even have said so, but all I could think was, “Lord!  You have given me a second chance with this man who was in need!”

I asked one of my sons to grab one of the New Testaments that we always kept on the back shelf, made sure I had my big old-fashioned glasses on (hoping that would make the intent of my motive very clear to the truck driver) – jumped out of my car leaving my boys in utter disbelief – held the Bible up, apologized for not being a help to him and further, explained we had been on our way to church.

He answered simply and so kindly, “I thought that was where you were going”.  He lifted his own Bible off his dashboard showing it to me and said, “I have felt the Lord calling me into full-time work for some time, but I have just kept running doing anything else I could including driving this truck”.  He then said, “Through you, God has clearly let me know that He wants me to serve Him.  As soon as I get back to Tennessee, I’m going to talk with my pastor, pray with him and my wife and truly seek once and for all what it is that God is calling me to.”   He was a Brother in Christ!!  – and in my uncaring and ungodly behavior toward this man, the Lord still used me.  You can’t imagine how my spirit soared.  Gone was the dark, morbid, heavy spirit of not allowing myself to be led of the Spirit.  I told the gentleman that if he ever were in the area again to please visit church with our whole family, and then come home with us for fellowship.  It never happened.  My work was done.  I had done, though the long-way around, what God had assigned me to do that evening.  ‘Be instant – be ready in season and out of season’.  Instead of its being a painful lesson, I learned a really important lesson that freezing, cold and blustery January evening.  It has made me more in love with my Lord every day for His patience with me, His unfailing love for me, and that He would ever use one like me!

“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, Who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season;”  – II Timothy 4:1,2a