It's a Blessing to Be a Blessing
Sometimes a string of "random" stuff coalesces into a glimpse of God's hand on our lives. Rich and I were humbled by such an occasion on April 20, 2009. Our church small group had accepted a challenge to a bowling match issued by another small group. Our group had "spun off" from the challenging group a few years earlier and we joined forces from time to time both for service and for fellowship. Rich and I almost begged off, as we awaken at 4 A.M. on weekday mornings and we knew the evening at the bowling alley would be a "late one" for us. The night of the bowling match, I didn't get home from work until 6 P.M. To make our bowling date, we had to leave home again almost immediately after I arrived. It had been a full day at the office and I was tempted to beg off. Rich is always mindful of my energy level.
"We don't have to go," he reminded me." "I think we should," I said. He asked, "Any particular reason?" "I dunno. But we should go." And so we went.
Once we arrived, a series of strange, but not "so" strange, things happened.
I don't usually comment on logos on people's shirts. But Don, a member of the other small group, was wearing a Surefire polo so I asked him about the flashlight company. Don showed me a flashlight he carries in his pocket. Since I was eating at the time, I didn't examine it. Later, when I was done eating, I asked Don if I could see the flashlight again (Boaters harbor an innate interest in flashlights). He suggested I take it outside and try it in the dark.
About that time Tom, another member of the other small group, was preparing to leave. Tom has ataxia, a medical condition that makes him a bit unsteady on his feet at times. Like me, Tom was watching the bowling, rather than participating, so I asked him if he'd like to come outside with me to try the flashlight. We exited the door of the bowling alley closest to the lanes we were using. Outside, Tom seemed a bit disoriented; he commented that he'd need to get his bearings to find his car in the parking lot.
When we went back inside, Tom said his goodbyes and mentioned that he was off to look for his car. I told him I would walk him to his car so that I could stretch my legs. I don't usually volunteer for activities that will put me alone in a dark parking lot, but I was concerned that I'd thrown him "off course" by taking him out the back door to play with the flashlight. I walked through the parking lot with Tom until we found his car. I had never taken note of Tom's car before, but that night I got a good look at his white Solara. I bid Tom goodnight and returned to our group of bowlers inside.
Twenty minutes or so later, Rich and I left the bowling alley. As we waited in a left turn lane for our green arrow, Rich called my attention to police cars on the side of the road to our right. "Looks like they've got customers," he said. I looked over and saw two police vehicles with lights flashing. I could make out just the rear end of a white Toyota. I blurted out, "That looks like Tom's car! "
At that moment the light turned green, so Rich completed our left turn, We had to drive a few blocks away from the scene before Rich found a spot to u-turn so we could get a closer look at the police activity. I remember feeling an urgency to get back there. As we returned, Rich said, "There's Tom." He was standing on the sidewalk with three police officers and two women.
We acted without discussing what we would do. Rich pulled over and I jumped out of our car. As I strode up the sidewalk towards the group, I silently prayed: "God, I have no clue how to help here. Give me the right words!" An officer was subjecting Tom to a field sobriety test. The other two officers were standing a few feet away, so I approached them. "He has a medical condition," I told them. "He told us that," one of them replied. I explained to them that we were friends of Tom's and had been with him at the bowling alley. Rich walked up. Later he told me that he'd waited to make sure the police didn't shoo me away before getting out of our car to join me.
Having completed the field sobriety test, Tom turned and saw us standing on the sidewalk. While Tom was fairly calm, given the circumstances, he was a bit rattled. I hugged him and helped him gather some of his belongings from his car. Tom told me he had provided the officer with a note he keeps in his wallet: it's from his doctor and describes his condition. I asked the officer if he had any questions about the note. Rich moved our car to a safer location in a nearby parking lot. Tom's hands were shaking, so I extracted documents from his wallet for the police officer. The officer directed his flashlight's beam so I could look for the items he'd requested; I allowed his gaze to fall upon Tom's I.D. card indicating he's a retired probation officer. I figured it couldn't hurt.
After a few moments one of the officers asked me, "If AAA tows his car, can you drive him home?" Those words fell sweetly on my ears. I assured him that we would. We couldn't find Tom's AAA card, so I provided the dispatcher with our AAA number instead. Within a few minutes, a tow truck arrived. Tom asked the driver to deliver his car to his home.
Relief poured from Tom as he, Rich and I walked to our car. "I can't believe you guys saw me and stopped! I was afraid they would arrest me for being drunk!" His voice carried the indignation of a righteous man, falsely accused. I squeezed his hand.
So. If we'd stayed home, or if Don hadn't worn his Surefire shirt, or if I hadn't asked to see the flashlight again, or if Don hadn't suggested I take it out in the dark to test it (doh!), or if Tom hadn't gone with me to test the flashlight, or if I hadn't been concerned that our flashlight-testing expedition had left Tom a little disoriented, or if we hadn't walked together to his car, or if Rich hadn't noted or commented on the police activity.....well, then I wouldn't have recognized Tom's car and we wouldn't have known to stop.
When we took Tom home we chatted with him in his driveway for a moment, then walked him to his front door and returned to our car. As we were walking back to the car I heard --actually heard in my heart--the words, "Not random." Indeed. As I told Tom, it was God taking care of His child...we were just His handy tools at the moment.
17 The Lord hears His people when they call to Him for
help. He rescues them from all their troubles.
Psalm 34:17 (NLT)
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)