It was the scariest moment I’ve ever experienced while driving on the interstate. I was in the right lane behind a mid-sized maroon-colored SUV, and the driver swerved off of the road and missed a guardrail by inches, maybe less. And then it happened again. And again. I felt panic well up in my chest—not for me, I could slow down and stay away—I was scared for the driver in the car in front of me. We were driving 70 miles per hour, and I knew that if this guy or girl lost control, he or she was dead. No question. Absolutely dead.
At that moment, I made a decision to do something that I knew was dangerous. I decided to drive up next to the person to see if I could get his or her attention. I was hoping that I could see what was wrong. Was the person having a heart attack? Was he or she tired and falling asleep even though it was in the middle of the day? Was there a bee in the car?
I pulled up next to the vehicle, and saw an old man hunched over the wheel. I tried to see if he was okay, but all I could determine was that he didn’t have any hair and that he was around eighty. I couldn’t tell if his eyes were opened. I couldn’t get his attention. I didn’t know what to do. While I was next to him, he swerved over the rumble strip again, and at the last minute, corrected his trajectory barely missing the rounded yellow front of another steel guardrail. Have you ever seen a guardrail that looks like an accordion because someone obviously hit it head on? I was nearly 100% sure that I was moments away from seeing how that happens.
I made another decision. I got in front of him, and tried to slow down and force him off the next exit. Unfortunately, when we got to the next exit—a poorly designed exit—someone was trying to get on the interstate and my plan failed. In fact, I ended up having to stop on the other side of the white line until traffic cleared for me to begin driving again.
A few moments later, I caught up to the maroon-colored mid-size SUV, and the old man was still swerving off the road. I was out of ideas. I prayed. Actually, my prayers sounded more like begging.
“God, please get this guy to get off the next exit. Please Lord. If he does I will follow him until he stops and help him. Please God, get him off the next exit. Whatever you have to do. Please God.”
I begged for the next two miles, and guess what, the old man got off the exit. I literally watched God answer my prayer.
“Thank you Lord! Now have him stop as soon as possible. Have him stop, God. And I will see if he’s okay.”
We got off the exit, and at the top of the ramp I got stuck at a red light. Traffic was coming so I had to wait a moment. By the time I was able to take a right turn, the old man was out of site.
I prayed again.
“Okay God, help me find him.”
I kept driving straight, hoping and praying that I would find him. After a mile or so I caught up to the old man. He went through one green light and then another, and then turned off the road into a neighborhood. I turned right, pulled up behind him and ran up to his window.
“Excuse me sir, are you okay?”
(I thought for sure he was having a heart attack.)
“Actually no, I can’t find where I’m going. This GPS says it’s right here somewhere, but I can’t find it.”
It occurred to me that he had no idea how he’d been driving–that a few moments ago, he had been swerving off and on the interstate. He had no idea that this conversation was a miracle, and that he had been so close to dying.
“Do you want me to grab my phone and look up the address? I bet it will tell us where we need to go.”
“Sure, that would be okay.”
I ran back to my truck and plugged the address into my phone. His destination was close—only three miles away.
“Why don’t you follow me to the address, and I’ll make sure you find it? I’m going that way anyway.”
I wasn’t really going that way, but I wanted him to say “yes.” I was afraid that if he felt like he was inconveniencing me that he would say, “no.” I tell you that to illustrate how quickly our faith can fail us. I just watched God direct this guy off the exit and to a safe stop in a residential neighborhood. Yet, I felt like I needed to lie to keep helping the man. God still used me despite of my decision to lie.
“If you don’t mind, that would be really nice,” the old man replied.
I got back in my truck and we turned left out of the neighborhood. A half-mile later, we turned left at a green light. We drove down a five-lane highway for a minute or so until we merged into the center turn-lane. I could see our destination across the street. We were so close. I looked in my rearview mirror to make sure he had pulled in behind me. He had. Not only was he behind me, but his door was open and he was getting out of his car. We were in the middle of a five-lane highway, and this guy was getting out of his car to come up to my driver’s side window. I rolled down the window.
“I see it now,” he said, “thank you so much for your help.”
He looked at me and a wave of sadness mixed with thanksgiving came over his expression. There was hurt in his eyes–a deep hurt. He continued…
“What you don’t know is that I’ve had throat cancer four times and surgery four times. The doctor just told me that they found the cancer behind my heart, and I probably don’t have long to live. I’m trying to get to my family to tell them. You have no idea how much it means to me that you helped me get here. Thank you very much. God bless you.”
I was shocked. I was sad. I didn’t know how to respond. I fumbled over my words. This was not the conversation I expected.
“I’m so sorry to hear that, sir. May I pray for you?”
“Yes,” he replied.
So I prayed for him. Right there in the middle of a five-lane highway while cars were zooming past us at 50 miles per hour. I don’t remember my prayer very well. I do remember feeling like it wasn’t very good. I think I asked God to be with him and his family and give them peace. But mostly, I remember feeling like my words were inadequate.
We got back into our vehicles—well he got back into his car—and I waved to him as he turned into a parking lot. I pulled into a nearby gas station and prayed for him again. I felt guilty that I hadn’t shared the Gospel with him. I felt like my prayer for him was lacking. Mostly, I think I was still recovering from what I had just heard.
That morning, I had prayed that God would give me “eyes to see and ears to hear what role he would have for me to play within the context in which he had placed me.” I pray that every day, although I’ve never ended up in this situation before. That prayer describes the foundation for Intentional Christianity—the idea that we already have the tools and opportunities we need to make a difference in the world. That we’re not waiting for ministry opportunities or God’s call before we do mission work, but are daily surrounded by situations that are pregnant with the potential to show people God’s love.
I thought I was trying to save this man’s life, but instead, I was helping him make it safely to his children to tell them some very important news. What if he had died on the interstate or on some other road in town? He wouldn’t have had the opportunity to talk with his kids. You and I have no idea what God can use us to do. We have no idea the ways in which God can direct our steps to situations beyond our imagination.
May you and I hear God’s voice today, and be open to doing whatever he has for us to do within each context in which he places us. Whether at work, school or while driving on the interstate, every situation and setting is an opportunity to live out our faith and make a difference in the world. May God give us all, “eyes to see and ears to hear.”