You should know that my "It's a Gas" blog, that I posted last week, was actually written, for the most part, in September. So, the day after I wrote it, -THE VERY NEXT DAY - I had to go to one of our suppliers down on Terry Road in South Jackson. Usually, when I do this, I leave that store and head back the way I came, up Terry Road to get back to the shop. On this day, I decided to go on down to McDowell Road and out to I-55 so I could get something to drink at one of the 4 convenience stores that occupy the corner of McDowell and 55.
Those of you familiar with the area know that there is a fairly new Exxon where the old Dixie station used to be. I haven't been to the "new" Exxon, and I generally like to try out the new places. My plan was to stop at the Exxon, get my Diet Dews and go. Something was saying, though, "Go to the Shell", which is where I usually go if I go anywhere on that corner. I listen to the "something" a lot more these days, almost exclusively. Why? Because "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." (the question is not "Is He directing?", the question is "Are we listening?")
So, I listened. I didn't know whether the Lord was protecting me from some kind of danger (easy to get into in South Jackson these days) or whether He was directing me towards someone who needed encouragement, or whether He was sending me to someone who had some encouragement for me. I went into the Shell, bought my Dews and I'm walking out to my truck, which is parked all the way across the parking lot past the gas pumps. I'm looking down, watching my step, when I hear, "Help! Help! Ain't it something when a sixty year old man is out asking for help?"
I didn't have to look up. The voice and the line are now very familiar. "It sure is," I reply. I almost laughed as I'm thinking, "Lord, you really are something!" It's the gas man! . . . and not in Byram, . . . but in South Jackson! . . . and at the Shell station to which I was directed . . .at the time when I was directed there. . . . and, to my discredit, at a time when I was least expecting it, . . .and when I was least prepared.
"Don't look at my teeth," he says. (He has said this to me before knowing the conclusion that will lead to.)
I kept my cool and tried to talk to him as though I was concerned about him, which I am. I calmly informed him that this was the 5th time he had approached me with the same story. He said, "Well, sir, God has all kinds of children with all kinds of need."
"Yes, He does," I replied, "but I don't think gas is what you need right now."
My mind was racing. This was an appointment and I needed something to say to the man. Either it didn't come, or I couldn't hear it above my own thoughts. That was the end of our conversation. He didn't walk away angry or resentful or defiantly, as usual. He just hung his head and walked back to his truck.
Any guilt or remorse or conviction that he may have felt had little effect on him, though. I watched as they drove across the street to the Texaco. And I stand there in my own guilt and remorse and conviction. I should have said more. I should have said something different. I should have been ready, particularly in light of what I had written just the day before.
It's not that I think I'm going to change the man. I don't know that Jesus will change the man at a gas pump encounter. He can. Maybe, though, something said out among the gas pumps will stick with him and come back to him when he is alone with his thoughts and not out chasing some kind of artificial high. Maybe a desire to change, to have a better life, will grow within him, and God will keep making appointments for him until that heart is given over and all those chains are broken. You and I might not be thrilled when we see him and all those he represents coming toward us at a gas station, but all the angels in Heaven will rejoice when they see him coming to Jesus!
Proverbs 16:33 We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.
I have long said that nothing happens by accident in life. There are no chance encounters. This particular meeting proves it to me. All the "random events" that put the gas man and me at that place at that time were orchestrated by our God. There is His reason and His purpose behind seemingly insignificant and inconvenient events.
"Make me ready and able, Lord, to rise to the occasion, and always with Your purpose and Your glory at heart, and always speaking Your mighty Name into the situation whatever it might be."
As for the chains; It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
I'm glad I get to post the video below. A great and beautiful reminder of what is at stake . . . and what is in store.