One interesting thing about life, is that some of the most random things give you some of the most valuable experiences. These experiences come at us at the strangest of times. Half the time the actions that foster these experiences have so little to do with each other, it’s almost laughable when we actually try to mentally or verbally associate them with each other. This thing we call life, these experiences, have so little to with each other in and of themselves, yet at the same time, in often intangible and unexplainable ways, they seem to have everything to do with each other. They are connected in this tangled and confusing network called life.
For example, a decision to go to the hardware store to buy a pair of pliers you saw on sale (just because for some odd reason you decided to actually read that hardware store flier that comes in the newspaper every week) could cause you to run into someone you haven’t seen in a long time. As you talk, you might discover that he is really struggling with discouragement and depression. You end up deciding to meet for coffee later on that day and he ends up really opening up about what’s hurting him. You pray together and have an excellent time of sharing and encouragement.
Unless you have the gift of prophecy or something, there is very little possibility you could have actually foreseen this seemingly arbitrary decision to go to the hardware store, as being something that would actually really affect anyone–you or any of your friends. Let me rephrase that If one of your buddies told you he was going to the hardware store because he was anticipating a time of counseling and inner healing, I’m guessing you would probably tell him he should go to the doctor’s office instead of the hardware store.
That was a lengthy introduction to the story I want to tell, but I trust my point is clear. The experiences we have, have the ability to teach us a lot if we make the decision to let them.
On the way home from my grandma’s funeral, I was torn–torn between two feelings at completely opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. I had cried a lot and was feeling pensive and moody. I also knew that in roughly twenty-four hours I would be expected to party exuberantly with my friends as we enjoyed each other’s presence on and off the slope.
It wasn’t that I was ungrateful that my friends had rescheduled the trip so I could go along. That part was great. I wanted to go snowboarding. It just felt sort of. . . betraying. It felt like I was being given a very small amount of time to process a very big thing: my grandmother’s death.
I could feel that it might be very difficult to attempt to mix two types of emotion, and expect something good to come out of it. To be honest I was dreading the thought of trying to do both and was feeling pretty weird about the whole thing. I’m not really sure what I was feeling but I know that it was strange. I think the best way to describe it is: numbly sad and confused. That’s about the best I can do right now, because I myself, am not even sure what I was feeling.
To those of you who thought, I was going to do a lengthy essay about why God likes it when we go snowboarding, a defense and justification of your hobby, my apologies. I am instead talking about the things God sends our way to teach us things that really, in and of themselves, have nothing to do with actual lessons themselves.
I arrived at my parent’s house in Hutchinson with around twenty minutes to pack up my stuff and head for Colorado. I was feeling pretty tired feeling a little depressed about my situation. The rest of the group had already left from Copeland, so I was going with my friends, John Miller and Kevin Nisly. We hit the road and Jon asked me about how I was feeling. I told him about it and he said he could see where I was coming from.
We rolled along westward and about ten minutes down the road we saw a guy with a big backpack and several other bags walking along the side of the road. I don’t know what prompted me to do this, but I said to the other guys something like, “Hey shall we stop and pick him up?”
John glanced at me in the rearview mirror and said, “Do you guys want to?”
I felt a little bit of an adrenaline surge as I thought about it. “I’ve always kind of wanted to pick up a hitchhiker.”
“We could at least ask him if he wants a ride,” Jon said. “Do we have enough room?”
I looked at the pile of luggage and snowboards on the seat next to me. I thought we did. As John slowed down his parents’ tan Camry and pulled a smooth U-turn, he said something like, “Jesus, I hope we’re doing the right thing. Please protect us.”I silently agreed. I felt kind of crazy doing something like this. It also felt good. We were actually going to pick up a hitchhiker!
The above conversation and deliberation took place in a matter of probably half a minute. It was a strange experience as we headed back toward him. The poor guy probably wondered what was going on, seeing us turn around and come back for him; he didn’t even have his thumb out or anything. He probably thought the hit-men were coming after him. Jon rolled down the automatic window and asked him if he wanted a ride.
“Sure,” he said.
He had more luggage than we thought–around three bags, including a large duffel bag that we perched on top of the rest of the luggage beside me in the back seat. His duffel bag was very heavy. The luggage was almost touching the ceiling now. The entrance of the hitchhiker had a dramatic effect on my attitude. It was strange how I now no longer thinking about myself. I introduced myself.
“Hi, my name is Ryan,” I stated, smiling at him and extending my hand for an introductory handshake. “What’s yours?”
“Don,” he said shortly.
When we asked him where he was headed he told us that he was headed to the West Coast. I didn’t make the connection right away, but eventually I realized, that for better or for worse, this guy was probably riding the rest of the way to Colorado with us. I had a feeling, however, that if we were willing Christ could use us to show His love to Don.
Hmmm. This could be interesting, my head said to itself.
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To be continued . . . Note: My apologies to those of you who were expecting a lengthy defense of why God likes your favorite hobby. I don’t know if that’s what you were expecting when you saw the title, but I won’t pretend to know how God feels about snowboarding. If you want to know you should probably ask him.