I will never forget when it dawned on me that I was too busy saving the world to actually see the world. It was around 13 years ago. The culmination of this huge revelation happened as I was driving home one night with my wife and young daughter in the car.
There was a slight rain outside and I was so tired and looking forward to settling in after a long day. That’s when I saw him. We had just hit a busy intersection and there was a guy with an older BMW pushing the car and trying to steer at the same time. I’m ashamed to tell you that my first thought was something along the lines of, “Wow… poor guy… that really stinks. Hope it all works out for him.”
You have to understand, I am not the most mechanically inclined person. So the thought of pulling the car over and help this guy with his car never entered my mind. Oddly enough I had just finished reading Steve Sjogren’s book, “Conspiracy of Kindness.”
As I started to pass by the car, I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit saying, “You need to stop and help this guy.” My immediate response was, “No Lord, that’s not you speaking. I mean, you wired me… you know that I’m terrible at this sort of thing. Besides I have my wife and daughter in the car… and it’s raining.” Once again and firmer, “You need to help this guy.”
So I pulled over and got out and helped him push the car off to the shoulder. He was a casually dressed guy with longer hair. He seemed to be in about his mid thirties. He looked at me and muttered a weak thanks and then slid under the car. “I know what’s wrong,” he said, “Happens all the time I can fix it.”
So I watched kind of helplessly, and tried to figure out why I was the one who was supposed to stop and help this guy. Under the car he was tinkering and cussing, and getting frustrated. At one point he made kind of a yelp and I asked, “Is there anything I can do?”
“Yes,” he replied, “You can stop standing on my hair.”
So far my first attempt at noticing people and showing the kindness and love of Christ was not working so well.
“Can you get my flashlight out of the glove compartment?” he asked.
As I reached into to get the flashlight I was struck by the strong smell of alcohol. I grabbed the flashlight and bent down to hand it to him and when I did I could smell the alcohol on his breath.
He puttered around and then asked me to hold the flashlight for him for a second while he tried to fix a part under his car. More than once he had to ask me not to shine the light in his eyes.
From my perspective, we were off to a horrible start. As I held the flashlight I found myself beginning to pray for this man. I could see he was frustrated. It seemed he had a quite a bit to drink, and I thought, “This guy doesn’t need to be driving.” I began to pray that his car would not start. At least for now. And it didn’t.
“Can I give you a ride someplace?” I asked.
He looked at me a little puzzled and said, “Really?”
“Well,” he said, “I am staying at a little motel about five miles down the road. If you could take me there, I could come back in the morning and fix the car.”
So my wife jumped into the back with our daughter and we loaded our guest in the car and started to the hotel. As we were passing a fast food restaurant I asked him if we would like a cup of coffee. He said that would be great and so we pulled in to the drive-thru and I bought him a cup. When he offered me money for the coffee, I refused.
He looked at me very strangely and said, “Why are you doing this?”
“Why am I buying you a cup of coffee?”
“No, everything. Why are you helping me?”
I smiled my best Steve Sjogren smile and said, “I’m just trying to show you the love of Christ in a practical way. If Jesus were physically here right now, and if He saw you in need, He would be stopping to help you. That’s what I’m doing.”
That’s when he started to cry. As we drove the five miles to his motel, he opened up and told me his story. He was a surveyor, and about a month earlier he had walked out of his marriage, left his wife and two young daughters and had hit the road. He found himself in Florida and found some temporary surveying work. He said he would work all day and then drink all night. He would then sleep a couple of hours and do it all over again. This was his life.
When we pulled into the motel parking lot, he asked me to wait while he got something out of his room. He came back with a picture of his wife and daughters. As he showed me the picture, I told him, “You don’t have to live like this.”
He looked at me and his whole body demonstrated openness. We sat and talked for a while and I told him the story of the One who loved him so much and invited him to begin a relationship with Him. We prayed together and I welcomed him as a new brother in the kingdom of God. I gave him my phone numbers at work and at home and told him that if he would call me the following morning, I would pick him up and take him out to his car and help him get it working.
We said our goodbyes, and I headed home. The next day I thought about him all through the day, but there was no call. When I got home, there was a message from him on the answering machine. He said, “I just wanted to call you and thank you for all you said and did for me last night. I went out this morning and got the car started and wanted to call and tell you that I am going back to my home and to my wife and daughters and I’m going to tell them all that happened. I’m going to start all over. Thanks.”
You see, I am like most people. I see, but I don’t really see. Sometimes I am so busy doing what I think is the work of God that I am not even aware of the people around me. Normally I would’ve seen the man with the stalled car, but I would have made excuses why I wasn’t the one to help him.
I have learned that every day has opportunities. The bible tells us that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. So every day I look for opportunities to show someone the kindness of the Lord. For me, it’s not a gimmick, or a fad, it’s a lifestyle of serving the people that Christ died to save. And everyone can do that. We just have to open our eyes and see, open our ears and listen, and open our hearts to serve.
If you do that everyday, then little by little you will love the people of your community into a relationship with Jesus Christ. And how cool is that?
Robert is the lead pastor of Coast Community Church in Gulf Breeze, FL, which he helped plant 11 years ago.
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