This Monday past came with chill air and a full schedule. I loaded the kids in the van, set out on a series of errands, squeezed in a fast food supper (Ugh! We're growing very tired of Wendy's, but it's a super cheap way to feed ourselves on the fly.), took the eldest to his fencing class, and then, kids in tow, trucked back across town to meet my husband at the train station. His day had been a long one and he was weary and distracted.
We left the Park n' Ride lot for home and came up quickly behind a stalled vehicle. The busy road we'd turned onto on this dark and chilly evening was down to one lane, the right hand lane blocked by a black car with no working lights. An accident waiting to happen.
My reflex was to pull over. By the time I'd stopped, my husband was part way out the door. Our thought: get this guy off the road before someone hits him.
Mohammed, the gentleman belonging to the car, was deeply distressed and struggling with his English, but we managed to get his car pushed to safety. Arms swinging in wide, desperate arches he repeated over and over, "God bless you. God bless you!"
He had been standing at the side of the road, with no cell phone and no offers of help, for forty-five minutes.
And his brother had died that morning.
His grief was tear-less and raw. We could taste the bitter bile of sorrow in our own mouths as he clutched at the sides of his face; large, searching hands at a loss and grasping for something solid, something living. "He has died, he has died! This very morning. My wife is crying at home...I don't know what to do."
We had no words for this troubled man.
Our thoughts turned to rescue.
"We'll take you home. Let's just take you home; we'll call for a tow truck, and the car can be dealt with later. Come. Get in the van and we'll take you home."
We had no comfort to offer him. I had no prayer to pray for him. We were just deeply sorry for his loss and for his obvious sorrow. Onto a scrap of paper, we scratched the address where we'd left the car. Tucking that into his hand we dropped him off at his home.
And we left.
This is not an unusual situation for our family to find ourselves in. And until recently, my habit was to spend days in self-recrimination, wondering why I had not done something to express Jesus to the person we were aiding. I never speak His name. I don't "lead" anyone into relationship with Him. I don't pray powerful healing prayers or see grand visions for their lives. I just help. And that feels small and ineffective in the scope of eternal things.
Ahhh. But here's where I am changing.
I am, perhaps, less important than I have been led to believe!
I can, perhaps, take myself and my part to play a little less seriously!
What if (gasp!!) the small part we played in Mohammed's Monday evening was enough? What if it was the whole part we were meant to play? I spent the evening battling the usual insecurities of "What more should I do?" and peppering my exhausted husband with ideas.
Until the thought struck again: what if we had already done all that we were meant to do?
If we consider our own stories and the countless repetitions of gentleness, kindness, correction, and direction that have shaped who we are and how we think, we are reminded that our teensy role in the lives of the people around us is contributing to their eventual acknowledgement of the Truth of Jesus.
It doesn't look like much from where we're left standing (and the minimal effort that goes into extending kindness on our part is almost laughable!), but maybe Jesus counts the small obedience to the whispered request ("Give a cup of water in my Name...") as "...well done, good and faithful servant..."
A friend later said, "God knows Mohammed's need." That brought instantaneous quiet in me. God knows the real-life needs in the hearts, minds, souls of the people around us. If I just respond to the small thing He's asked of me in this moment, I can trust Him with the life of the one I'm encountering. I can remember, too, that He'll let me know if there's something specific He wants me to do.
If I concentrate on the one thing right in front of me, I will not become overwhelmed with the many needs beyond my help. I can simply shoulder a lightened burden. An easy yoke.
And I can remember, always, that it is God who works to rescue, to restore. I'm just one of many of His servants.
A good lesson in taking myself less seriously. A good motivation to honor the Living God who sees all, knows all, and longs to rescue every one.