Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Hebrews 13:2 KJV
I have a long and, well, colorful, if you will, “relationship” with hitchhikers. I was not brought up to pick up random people off the street, but I learned at a youngish sort of age that my path would often lead me to places where I would do just that.
My driver’s license was not even dry yet before I had my first experience with a hitchhiker. It was dusk and I was driving alone down a long stretch of road. The road was chain link fenced on both sides and I was the only car on it. I passed a young man going the same way as I with his thumb out. Without a thought I drove right past him. Women alone in cars don’t pick up strangers, right? But I immediately felt the Lord prompt me that I should have offered the man a ride. I made a U-turn as soon as I could to go back, but the man had disappeared. To where? There was no one else on the road, and there was no way to get off the road. I had thoroughly missed an opportunity. And I decided that in the future, if I could help it, I would not let that happen again. Over the years I practiced listening to that prompting and picking up people that I felt I was in the right place at the right time to render aid to. I never felt much in the way of hesitation. Until eight years or so ago…
Instead of flying on my annual September pilgrimage from Colorado to California to visit my people, I was driving this time. The sun was just rising as I crossed from Colorado into Utah. I found myself alone on the vast expanse of the freeway winding my way through the high desert. Off in the distance I saw a figure walking along the edge of the road. “Please Jesus”, I begged, “please don’t make me pick up someone out here in the middle of nowhere.” I slowed down as I drove past him. He looked pretty rough, was unshaven, and was barefoot. I kept him in my rear view mirror so I wouldn’t lose sight of him as I briefly argued with God, ultimately pulling over and stopping about 200 yards in front of him. He walked up to my window as I was tossing things into the back seat from the passenger seat next to me. He was rather incredulous as I told him to get in and asked where he was going. I knew full well this guy might be in my car all the way to Los Angeles. Offering him a ride stretched even my usual calm reserve about picking up hitchhikers.
No, I don’t remember his name. He was on his way to Phoenix and I told him I wasn’t on a schedule and offered to take him there. He declined that offer. We decided on Moab. A big detour, but what the heck. As we talked I learned that he’d been trying to get to Phoenix from the East Coast for months. It had been a huge struggle. He’d walked most of the way as few had been willing to stop and pick him up for more than a few miles at best. His shoes wore out some time ago. He hadn’t bathed in weeks. He was hungry. He had absolutely no money. His little kids were in Phoenix and it had been years since he’d seen them. We ate breakfast out of my cooler. When we got to Moab, we went shoe shopping. I gave him money, offered one more time to take him to Phoenix, and prayed with him.
But none of that was all that important. After he first got into my car, he told me why he almost couldn’t believe that I’d stopped for him, and it’s truly amazing…
“I slept out in the desert last night. I was cold and I was wet. It was the worst night of my life. I was feeling desperate, and I was feeling so angry. This morning I stood up and raised my fist to the sky and shouted at God at the top of my lungs…WHY WON’T YOU SEND SOMEONE TO HELP ME????? That was fifteen minutes ago.”
This man learned that God sometimes answers prayers immediately, even ones that weren’t asked in the nicest way. And I learned that I never want to forget what it felt like to know that had I not listened to that voice I would have missed out on the opportunity to be the almost instantaneous answer to that desperate shouted prayer. Now, instead of waiting to hear the voice, I ask God if I’m supposed to pick up this or that person. I even offer rides to some people who are not asking for one. Part Two of this particular story takes place on the way back to Colorado on this same trip. Stay tuned. (Click HERE for Part Two)
But don’t tell my dad.