My thoughts (Brent Walsh):
Jan leaned forward over the steering wheel just a bit more, peering through the rain drops on the windshield. The steady rhythm of the windshield wipers worked together with the orange construction barrels on her left to hypnotize her and make her sleepy. The only thing keeping her alert was the annoying light on the dash that demanded she was running on her last drop of gasoline. She would have pulled off for gas at the last exit, but construction had the exit ramp closed. That was twelve miles ago, and she didn’t know how long it would be before another opportunity would come her way on this lonely Georgia highway. Jan squinted at the bright lights the oncoming car shined in her eyes and breathed out a silent prayer.
Eleven hours earlier Jan had kissed her husband John goodbye in Miami and loaded their three children in the car. She and the kids were heading to Tennessee to stay with her sister and to wait for John to finish up some work and then meet up with them there a week later. They would then travel together as a family back to the familiar Midwest. Money was tight for them in the late seventies, but Illinois held new promise. They just had to get there!
“Mommy, I gotta go potty,” came the sleepy voice of Jan’s oldest daughter from the back seat.
“I’m hungry,” complained her youngest. The clock on the dash declared it was nearly two o’clock in the morning, and the chances of finding an open gas station at this hour were slim to none. The headlights of the aging Chevy finally spilled out over a sign that promised the next exit was only a mile away. When the car came to a stop at the end of the ramp, however, Jan’s hopes were dashed. The one lonely gas station at that exit was dark, and there was no guarantee that any more opportunities would present themselves anytime soon!
“There’s nothing open here, sweetie” Jan explained apologetically to her squirming daughter.
“But I can’t hold it,” the child whined.
Jan turned the car into the gas station, ready to find a creative way to help her daughter relieve herself in privacy. To her surprise, however, she saw a woman standing behind the counter inside the station. Holding her daughter’s hand, she stood at the glass door and knocked. The woman looked up from a stack of paperwork and smiled, inviting them to come in. While her daughter used the restroom, Jan made small talk with the owner of the gas station.
“I’m surprised you’re still open,” Jan said.
“I was supposed to lock up around midnight,” the woman explained, “but I’ve been so worried about my son that I just can’t sleep. He’s gotten into a bit of trouble and I’m just beside myself! I thought I’d catch up on some paperwork while I’ve got a few hours of quiet.”
The conversation continued as Jan found some graham crackers and milk for her children and brought them up to the counter. She promised to pray for the woman’s son as she pulled enough money from her wallet to cover the cost of the snacks and to fill the tank of the car.
“Please,” the woman said, “save your money.”
“But no, I’ve got enough to get…” Jan started to object, but the woman looked intently at her and held up a dismissive hand.
“You keep your money,” she insisted. “You’ll need it to get where you’re going.” Feeling a bit unnerved, but grateful for the woman’s generosity, Jan got her name and address and told herself that she would send the woman a thank-you note when she got to Tennessee.
A short time later Jan became so sleepy that she had to pull over at a rest area and sleep until morning. Waking with a crick in her neck, she got back onto the highway and pushed on toward her sister’s house. When she was still several hours away, she found that she needed to stop again for gas. To her astonishment, the remainder of the money she had in her purse was just enough to cover this last tank of gas. She realized then that if the woman at the gas station in Georgia had allowed her to pay for the gas and snacks the night before, she wouldn’t have made it to her sister’s house!
With much appreciation, Jan carefully penned a note to the woman explaining that her generosity had been critical in her ability to safely arrive in Tennessee with her children. With a special prayer of thanks, Jan copied the name and address the woman had written on a note card and dropped the letter in the mail.
About a week later, Jan stood in her sister’s kitchen confused at what she saw in front of her. The letter she had written to the woman in Georgia had come back to her with a red stamp across it that said, “No one by this name at this address.” She checked the note card again and found that the address in the woman’s handwriting matched the address on the letter perfectly. Then Jan remembered the intensity in the woman’s eyes as she told her that she would indeed need to save her money for her next tank of gas. It was as if she knew what was to come.
When my mother tells me this story, she does not insist that the woman at the gas station was an angel in disguise. Surely there are any number of scenarios that might have caused that letter to come back undelivered. She leaves it up to me to decide what I believe.
She only tells me to remember this true story whenever I find myself doubting God’s interest in my daily life. Maybe you have a story like this one where someone you did not know helped you, protected you, encouraged you, or sheltered you. You can interpret it any way you like, but I hope that the stranger’s kindness will be an example of how important you are to God.
Thought for the day: Am I open to seeing God at work in my life? Am I taking the opportunities I’m given to be an “angel” to others?
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.
We’re pleased to announce that our very first book of devotionals — entitled Quench! refreshing devotionals by gay, trans, and affirming Christians — is now available! It’s 100 meditations from the very best of Be Still and Know. More info at the new Found Pearl Press website; also available from Amazon.com.