I began the weekend off in a good way by getting my butt out of bed and to the weekly men’s breakfast and Bible study. Because of travel and chores, I hadn’t been in a couple of weeks and it was good to see the guys there.
We dove into the scripture of 1 Kings, Galatians, and Luke. The readings that hit me were Galatians and Luke. Galatians 5:1-5 talks about being free in the Holy Spirit and leading a Spirit filled life. Luke 9:51-62 talks about committing your whole heart and life to Christ. Together with the discussion they had some impact on me. We need to be guided by the Holy Spirit, serving Christ, loving our neighbor, and being pushed out of our comfort zone. It was enough of an impact that, as I got in my car and left down the street, I distinctly noticed a wandering man at the foot of the freeway offramp. My first instinct was to offer help. However, several things justified or distracted me to inaction. He was on the other side of a busy street and there was traffic behind me. My personal safety wouldn’t be ensured. Maybe he was an adventurer and he wanted to be there.
As I got on the freeway headed away from him and towards home, I struggled with the thought of my nice Bible study, my comfortable car, my (fairly) orderly life, the safe cocoon I live in — it seemed too hypocritical for me to just go on about my business. I was very uncomfortable turning around but I prayed for God to guide me, use me, and protect me.
By the time I returned to the road, the stranger had crossed the busy road and now, again, was on the other side. However, he was headed towards church which was only a block or two away. I thought that was perfect because I knew there was leftover breakfast we could share with him. I had to turn around anyway so I went into the church parking lot and ran inside to make sure they didn’t put away the food.
As I pulled up to the traveler, I got out and approached him, asking him if I could help him with anything — specifically if he was hungry and needed a meal. He said he had just finished a candy bar and asked if there was a gas station he could get a Pepsi at. It seemed like a strange request and I secondly asked if he would like a nice breakfast seeing as how we had one already set up at the church down the street. He denied it and was prepared to keep walking. I asked him where he was headed which came with a response of Lexington (which is about 70 miles east). I told him that I couldn’t take him that far but would he like a ride to Shelbyville (about 17 miles east). He asked how far that was and when I told him he was very happy.
I swung by the church to let them know we wouldn’t be needing breakfast and told them I’d call them after I dropped off my friend in Shelbyville. As we left the church, I introduced myself. The man said his name was Mike. He was about 60 or 65 years old, had short grey hair, some grey stubble, and very few teeth on his lower jaw. He mumbled his answers and I had to carry quite a bit of the conversation. He said he was heading towards Lexington so he could catch the I-75 to head up to Dayton, Ohio. I asked if he had family there. “No, sir” was his reply. I followed up with “Is there a job up there?”. “No, sir” again. It turns out there is a laser show up there he was going to.
“Okay?” I thought. This along with the original candy bar answer when I met him began to give me the picture that Mike wasn’t all there. I found out later in the drive that he was from the Atlanta area, used to work for Eastern airlines, had at least two sons and an older sister down in the Atlanta area. He hadn’t spoken to them in years. I asked if he knew their numbers or wanted to call them on my cell phone and he declined. I asked him other questions about where he’s been, what he’s done, etc. He likes winters in Florida (who doesn’t?) and enjoys being farther north during the summer.
Taking a cue from Bible study too, I asked Mike if he believed in God. He did. I asked him if he believed in Jesus, knew that Jesus loved him, and forgives us of our sins. He did. I asked him if he carried a Bible, ready to give him the one I carried to the men’s breakfast. He said he didn’t but that he couldn’t read since he injured his left eye. I asked if he had a favorite verse or wanted me to read something and he declined. I told him that even more important than the ride I was giving him was sharing the good news of Christ with him. Again, that was a stretch for me because I usually don’t discuss matters of faith with strangers but rather that I be a disciple of example and let my actions speak.
As we approached Shelbyville, he asked to be dropped off by the interstate. I told him that at that exit there were no facilities, gas stations, or fast food joints. He didn’t care and I pulled off to the side when we got there. I asked him if I could say a prayer. We bowed and I put an arm around him. I thanked God for the beautiful day. I prayed for safe travels for Mike. I prayed that He continue to provide for us. And I thanked Him for His Son, Jesus.
With that Mike unpiled all his stuff out of my car. I asked him if he needed any money and if I could pay for his next meal. He politely declined and said “No, thank you, sir”. I gave him a few more direction updates and headed away. I expected him to hitch a ride there at the onramp or begin heading towards Lexington. Imagine my surprise when, after my 30 minute trip to Lowes to get paint with my wife, I saw him headed back down the street the way we came. I pointed him out to my wife and gave her some of the story.
I sure hope Mike is ok. Please say a prayer for him. And don’t be afraid to help him or any other Mike’s out there. It’s not as scary as you think.
…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net