It was a warm, sunny day when I traveled to my birth home for my aunt’s funeral. The hour and a half trip is usually a pleasant and relaxing drive, and the warmth and sunshine should have made the trip even more enjoyable. But on this particular trip I was feeling rumpled in spirit, and I didn’t want to be driving at all.
I didn’t really know my aunt that well and saw very little of her when I was young. So when my father called to tell me my aunt had passed away, I didn’t give much thought to attending the funeral. Besides, my work as a fulltime youth minister took up a lot of my time, and I held my weekly day off sacred – my day of rest and relaxation just to myself. And money was scarce so I didn’t want to use valuable time and money to attend a funeral for someone I barely knew. However, I sensed God speaking to me that I needed to attend. Initially, I ignored this prompting and was content to stay home. But the morning of the funeral I decided to make the trip back home. I didn’t want to, but something inside me said I had to.
The funeral and interment were conducted according to usual procedure and without any mishaps. Gathering with family afterward, I was searching for any opportunity to be a voice of hope to those grieving and minister words of comfort. Certainly that was why I “had to” be there. Wasn’t that why God prompted me to go? Talk was trivial and superficial. There must be some words of meaning and significance that I was there to share. Yet the minutes and hours passed with no opportunity to speak of God or offer words of hope. A pointless day indeed!
I drove back to my apartment frustrated at a wasted day and upset at God for a prompting that was to no avail. And if things couldn’t get any worse, my car broke down while still a significant distance from home. Already in a sour mood, a broken down car only complicated things. I had AAA roadside assistance, but my tow package only covered a minimal distance. I did not have the money to cover the cost of the tow. Nevertheless, I called AAA, alerted them to my location, and waited for help to arrive while musing over how I could better have spent my day.
The tow truck arrived within thirty minutes. I rode with the driver in the cab to my mechanic’s shop to drop off my car and then back to my apartment. He was kind and talkative. Conversation was trivial and inconsequential, as to be expected among strangers. However, small talk was the last thing I wanted given the day I’d already had. But ignoring his sincere inquisitiveness was not an option, so I responded to his questions with patience and sincerity. When he asked what I did for a living – for work – conversation quickly became more significant and meaningful. Learning I was a youth minister, he spoke openly about his struggling faith, about questioning God and His goodness, and talked extensively of his three wayward boys whom he wished were walking with God rather than living the ways of the world.
At the moment of his openness I became acutely aware that the “had to” of my trip was unfolding before me. I don’t recall the specific words I spoke to address his questions of faith and doubt, but I knew God was using me to be a voice of hope to someone grieving and to minister words of comfort. My seemingly pointless day was now a day of great meaning and significance as I ministered to this man who was struggling with his faith and grieving over his lost and wayward sons.
Upon arriving at my apartment, the driver thanked me for listening and offering words of comfort and advice. Then, the most unexpected happened: he gave me money to cover the cost of my tow. Wow! Never speaking a word to him of my financial hardship and not being able to pay for the tow, I was amazed by his offer. He said he felt led to help me out and to please accept the money as a gift. From all he shared with me, I knew he didn’t have much money himself and was struggling to provide for his own family. I humbly accepted the money and thanked him for his kindness and generosity. I walked up the stairs to my apartment in tears, awed by how the events of the day unfolded and grateful for the lesson learned about God’s infinite wisdom and my finite understanding of life and the events around me. Indeed, the encounter between the tow truck driver and me was a divine appointment, and we were both touched by God the day of my aunt’s funeral.