I had just turned left onto Concord Road off of Nolensville Pike when; from a distance, I saw the car pulled over on the shoulder of the road. I was late for work because, of course, I had made what I call a “drive-thru” cup of coffee, meaning a travel cup filled with coffee from my home coffee pot. For those who don’t know, “Drive-Thru” coffee is one of the staples of balanced spiritual people. Some of the other staples include pop tarts, chicken and biscuits, and large quantities of chocolate milk. These along with fried bacon and donuts are essential to make one wise. I mention this just in case anyone was wondering what contributes to my acute spiritual acumen.
Sipping on my very hot coffee with cream and enough sugar to stunt the growth of anything good in my body I, of course, rubberneck (the art of slowing down to stick one’s nose in the business of anyone unfortunate enough to be pulled over on the side of the road, yet making sure you don’t inconvenience yourself by stopping to help), to see what misfortune had befallen the motorist.I was in luck! I was able to see that the car evidently had a flat tire. Thinking to myself “what a pity” all the while thanking God it wasn’t me, I consoled myself with the thought, “oh…that person is close to all kinds of businesses or gas stations…they’ll get the help they need.”
I patted myself on the back for slowing down to show I cared, then drove on down the road. The drone of my tires against the concrete roadway and the music streaming through my truck speakers were not quite enough to drown out the inner voice trying to tell me to stop, turn around and go help. In my defense, my right hand turned up the music as Timothy Schmitt of the Eagles sang, “I Can’t Tell You Why” and I sang louder too. Reaching for my perfectly balanced coffee, I tried lifting it by the lid, and the lid came off…coffee spilling all over my spiritually balanced front carpeting and partially ruining my chicken and biscuits.
Praise did not emanate from my pie hole. I was ticked off that I had done something so stupid and just as I had pulled over to sop up the creamy, sugary mess, out my driver’s side window I saw people rubbernecking ME! That’s when the inner donut voice said, “How’s that feel?” “How does it feel to need help and people just pass by?”
Rebuking Satan and continuing to clean my carpet, I had to get out of my nice comfortable truck cab to walk over to the other side of my truck to get some shop towels out of my back seat to finish cleaning up the mess. Again, out of the corner of my eye, I saw people slowing down to look at my misfortune, only to gun it when I made eye contact. I realized at that moment that; as a stranded driver, looking at someone on the side of the road and saying ‘Bummer” did not help them at all. In fact, It was at that exact moment that I wouldn’t have given a rip about how good someone prayed for me if i had really needed some help…and then, I remembered the person with the flat tire.
“No,” I said out loud. “I am not the archangel of roadside repair…life happens and that sometimes stinks!” I said to no one sitting there. This soliloquy happened in three seconds. I busily wadded up the soaked paper towels and threw them in my truck bed under some cardboard so they wouldn’t fly away. Getting back into the driver’s seat, I looked into the rear-view mirror to make sure no one was nearby when I pulled back into the road. As I looked, I realized that all of the spilling and cleaning and inner voice resisting had taken place only about 50 yards past the person with the flat tire.
I sat looking at that car in my rear-view mirror for almost a minute. This was a pivotal moment. Did you know that dread almost always precedes me moving in obedience? Yes, DREAD. It’s because serving others is not convenient and not a natural impulse. Self-sacrifice …crawling up on the altar and willingly laying down our lives… quite simply sucks. There, I said it. Having mercy has to cost you something and oh, how my flesh hates it. The greater the mercy, the higher the value of it impacting a life. Believe it or not, I NEVER considered at that moment whether this would make a good story! I usually try running from stories far more than I ever live them!
My eyelids closed and then I looked forlornly at my empty silver “Drive-Thru” coffee cup sitting there from my formerly favorite big box store. I then remembered something I wrote last summer. “Inconvenience is one of God’s greatest servants.” This means to me that nine out of ten times whenever I have to do something that requires self-sacrifice it is usually God’s Spirit saying, “What are you going to do?” I then have a choice.
Going against the direction of traffic, I reluctantly backed up closer to the car with the flat tire. Again looking in the rear-view mirror and making sure it was safe to get out of my truck, I opened the door and walked toward the person sitting in the car.
I waved and stood back so they would know I was safe and shouted, “Are you okay?” The guy in the car rolled down his window and said, “Yeah I’m good!” I was relieved…”Hey, I said to my self, he’s good…I can leave!”My natural inclination would have been to say, “Okay man…just checking!” My conscience assuaged, I could now walk away with confidence knowing I had listened and obeyed.
Only I didn’t say “Okay man…just checking!” No. Instead of escaping, my mouth opened again…against my will. “You have a jack? Is someone on their way?” The guy looked miffed. “No, but I don’t need your help” he yelled back. I scrunched my face into that “What do you mean?” look and walked closer to his window. Did I hear him correctly? I asked him, “Did you say no you don’t have a jack and no one is coming?” “he nodded to the affirmative. He didn’t have his phone in his hand so I wondered what I should do. Not knowing where my jack was located on my truck, (it’s under the back seat I discovered), I again walked closer and asked, “What are you going to do?”
He scowled at me. “I said I don’t need your help!” he said; this time forcefully. I shook my head to indicate I understood. I then realized, that he DID have a spare and, that he DID have a jack…but he didn’t know how to change his tire! He was about thirty years old. I felt an inner nudge and said, “Hey, I’m all dressed in construction clothes, it doesn’t matter if I get dirty…want me to get your jack and tire out of your trunk?” It looked like he sighed like, “oh man, I don’t need the humiliation of you discovering I don’t know how to change my tire.”
Without waiting for him to answer I said, “Pop your trunk!” and began walking to the rear of his car.The trunk popped open. He then got out of his car and walked back to where I was in order to see what I was doing. “Man, you don’t have to do this…I can figure this out!” he said in an agitated way. I nodded without making eye contact. “I know you can…so I’ll just get it out and set it up and let you do it…that way you don’t get all dirty.”
I then chanced a look at him. His hands were on his hips and he then said, “Oh, THAT’S where the jack is! I tried to make a joke, saying that carmakers tried to hide the jack from car owners and finally got a little chuckle out of him.I set up the jack and his little “donut” tire and set it next to the side of the car. He wanted to save face…I could tell that right away because, in all honesty, he didn’t know how to use, or where to use the jack. I just continued finding the lift point near the rear tire for the jack, placed it under, and began to lift the back of the car.
“Is the emergency brake on?” I asked. He looked at me and said, “Oh, yeah, I guess that’s a good idea.”During all of this, I continued loosening the lug nuts, then lifting the car. He was taking mental notes. Again he said, “you didn’t have to stop…I could have figured this out!” I smiled…and the voice inside said, “Mercy is gentle…be gentle.” “I know you could have”, I said as I removed the flat tire. This was when I realized that being shown mercy, for the lost, is embarrassing and frightening.
For those who live in this world who believe they are the captains of their own souls, the fruits of the Holy Spirit are a threat to them. I continued silently without acknowledging the guy at all. I replaced the flat in his trunk and placed his jack and tire tools in the trunk as well. I wiped my hands on my jeans. I didn’t offer my hand to shake or say, “There you go!” I just began walking back to my truck.
The guy was silent until I was almost to my truck. He then used the last weapon he had in his arsenal. “Hey man, I can pay you…hold on!” I swiveled and shouted, “Stop…wait a minute!” I walked back toward him so he wouldn’t reach into his car to get money. I finally said it out loud.
“Okay, I don’t want your money…just like you didn’t want my help.” That slammed the door on that. He stood looking vulnerable. I said, “Dude, you may not want to hear this, but God saw you on the side of the road this morning and had someone stop to help in order to show you He is There and Real. That is the only reason I stopped…THE ONLY reason I stopped.”
The guy blinked and looked directly at me. “I don’t believe in God,” he said. Unshaken I said, “I know that…that’s why you were shown mercy…God will never stop showing you He cares until you finally give up and acknowledge Him or slam the door forever!” I was surprised by the force with which I said it. I turned around and walked back toward my truck.
Getting back into the cab, I was looking in the rear-view mirror to check the road and to merge back into traffic. My truck smelled like dark roast with cream and sugar. I felt no compunction, no urge to go read him the “Four Spiritual laws” or give him a Bible or give him my email or blogsite. That would have lessened the point.
The Fruits of the Holy Spirit are lethal firepower to pride, arrogance and self-sufficiency. They are the assassins of the lie of the enemy that “You are the captain of your own fate.” Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are the tangible evidence of Christian morality still alive in the world and they kick pagan philosophy brutally to the curb.
The Fruits of the Holy Spirit is the aroma of a country that the lost do not know. Their presence on the earth is both enticing and heightens their senses to the fact that there is a land they do not know or understand…and it scares them. And that is good. Mercy, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are foreign qualities to this world.
People on the earth who do not know Jesus understand, Patriotism, courage, and forbearance…because these can possibly be conjured up by the law of natural selection and humanism. But Love? Mercy? …These gifts; when demonstrated to this generation, is like those who stood on the sands of Kitty Hawk and watched the first demonstration of the laws of drag and lift overcoming the laws of gravity. Both exhilarating and fearful. It makes them question what ELSE do they not know…what ELSE is there beyond their own mortal experience. God gives a slide show to the inhabitants of the earth on the screen of His people…if they are willing to be inconvenienced.
We belong to a country far away, Whose King is loving and compassionate, and we speak a language that is foreign to the inhabitants of this earth. We are ambassadors of a Sovereign who bids us to crawl upon the altar of sacrifice in order to demonstrate what his Kingdom is all about. Take up your cross…show the passport of your citizenship to that faraway Kingdom and show the earth that Jesus is still looking for them…Still looking.