I had a decidedly bad attitude the other day.
In the morning, I was taking a homeless man to a clinic for his bad back and found myself drumming my fingers, thinking, "How late am I going to be to work?"
The man called while I was in a meeting at work to have me pick him up and bring him back to his camp and I was thinking, "Great, I've interrupted this meeting and now I'm going to miss lunch."
There were problems at work, problems I couldn't fix for some reason. I was being rather snippy with people.
On the way home, I was scheduled to give another homeless man a ride so he could stay at our house and be close to where he was working the next morning.
Heavy sigh. I'd have to make sure he had dinner as well as fixing something for the kids.
After dinner, I was tired, wanting to be left alone. A voice (it sounded like my own) suggested I treat myself to some frozen custard a couple miles from the house. I loaded my son in the back seat and off we went.
Halfway there, on the other side of the road, I could see a large, unkempt-looking man hitchhiking. That's pretty unusual in the affluent neighborhood I was driving through. Part of me thought, "Thank God I'm not going that way. I don't have to give him a ride."
But I realized that, 10 minutes later, I'd be coming back.
"God," I found myself praying, as I watched car after car passing that man by, "Please let someone else pick him up. You know I'll stop if he's still there on the way back. But Lord, I'm just tired. Send someone else. I need a holiday."
Yes, a holiday, my mind echoed. That would be great. ...
I got my frozen custard -- to go -- and started driving back, eyes scanning ahead on the roadside for any sign of the hitchhiker.
There he was. Car after car ahead of me drove blissfully by the man.
My car coasted to a stop next to him. He climbed in.
He didn't look good. It had been a very hot day -- over 100 degrees -- yet he wasn't perspiring. Just breathing heavily.
"Where you going?" I asked.
"The hospital," he breathed. "I need to get my blood pressure checked."
God, I thought, please tell me you aren't going to give this man a heart attack in my car!
The hospital was less than a mile away. I dropped him at the entrance, helping him out of the car and making sure he felt able to get inside.
"God bless you and your family," he said. "I never would have been able to walk here."
Then he extended his hand and said, with no trace of a smile:
"My name's Holiday."
I got this silly grin on my face. I could just picture God rolling His eyes at this punch line that spoke to me on so many levels.
"My yoke is easy, my burden is light," He was telling me. God wasn't ready to stop calling on me, but he was merciful enough to provide a blessed sign of his providence without pushing me over that edge I felt like I was treading.
God is so amazing! How can we ever forget that!?
At least, when we do, He gently reminds us.
The incident reminded me of a story in John 1: 47-51.
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false."
"How do you know me?" Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you."
Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."
Jesus said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that."
Certainly, Nathanael would see greater things, but how incredible to have this one miracle that he could call his own! Jesus saw HIM under that fig tree. He cared enough to remember it.
In the same way, God saw my frustrations, my weakness, and chose to acknowledge them WITHOUT abandoning His agenda. He even did so with a sense of humor.
I tell this story and others about seeing God's hand, and people will ask, "What do I have to do to see God myself?"
When you break down the story, you see the answer.
1) You believe in God.
2) You believe God works through you.
3) You believe God knows what you are going through and will answer your prayers when you are tired and out of sorts.
4) You look for God's answer to that prayer everywhere, not just where you expect to find it.
5) You obey God even as you search for His providence.
As a result, you may get to feel God's loving presence, His mercy, even His humor.
The ultimate answer? EXPECT GOD. He's always there, and the more you see His hand, the better you get at recognizing it.
Al Boyce is a former writer and reporter for The Associated Press. He lives in Raleigh, NC, where he now writes for God.
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