Blessed Interruptions

She didn’t have the look of a seasoned hitchhiker. Aged in her thirties and wearing baggy shorts, a t-shirt and thongs, she turned toward us momentarily, revealing a face lined with worry as she lifted her thumb.

Mark glanced at me, his eyebrows raised, as we drove past. ‘Should we pick her up?’

‘Yep.’ I nodded, checking my watch. ‘We’ve got time.’ My husband knew I was wary of hitchhikers. But something in this woman stirred my compassion. If we left her behind, I was sure I’d regret it.

Stopping for this stranger wasn’t part of our plan for that evening. It was our 27th wedding anniversary and we’d been following our usual tradition of celebrating all day. We’d walked the Zigzag Track at Cataract Gorge with our teenage daughter, picnicked on a blanket in the shade of a spreading tree, then taken a cooling dip in the river that flowed behind our house. All we wanted to end the day well was a quiet dinner for two at a special restaurant.

That final part of our plan had already faced some challenges. Vague as we were from moving interstate only two weeks earlier, we realised that morning that we’d forgotten to book a table. Being a Friday in the peak of summer, free tables were going to be hard to find. So, as we walked, lunched and even swam, our conversation kept turning to the dinner problem. Again and again, we scrolled through websites and made phone calls, only to keep coming up with the same answer—no room.

The afternoon wore on, the scorching heat began to wane and we still hadn’t found a solution. After our swim, we showered and dressed ready to go out, then sat side by side on the couch—one armed with a phone, the other with a laptop. Dining out was a treat reserved for days like this and we weren’t ready to drop the idea. Not yet. There had to be a place for us somewhere, surely.

LORD, You know where it is. Please show us, we prayed for the umpteenth time.

We broadened our search, researching cafes and vineyards up the river—they had closed at 3pm. We looked at more restaurants in and around Launceston—all were fully booked until late. My thoughts drifted, picturing where I might set up a special table for us at home—we’d done that plenty of times before. But on this day, it just felt wrong.

Finally, at quarter past six, we discovered a restaurant in a new hotel on the edge of town. Mark phoned. They had room for us! We booked a table for 30 minutes later, kissed our daughter goodbye and set off on the 20-minute drive.  

Now, here we were, performing two U-turns so we could pull up behind the lady on the highway. As our car slowed, she turned and looked at us, her eyes narrowed. I climbed out of the car and offered my best smile and friendliest voice. ‘Hi! Would you like a ride?’

She hesitated, her gaze moving between us, then nodded and walked the few metres to climb into the back seat. ‘Thank you.’

I lowered myself into my seat and turned to face her, my smile still fixed in place. ‘I’m Sue. This is Mark.’

‘Hi.’ She spoke quietly.

Mark glanced in the rearview mirror. ‘We’re heading through town. Where would you like us to drop you?’

She named the area and Mark pulled onto the highway.

‘Thanks for picking me up.’ Her words sounded strained.    

‘That’s okay.’ I kept my voice bright. ‘It’s pretty hot out there.’

‘Yeah, it is.’

‘Had you been walking for long?’ Mark asked.

‘I went to visit a friend.’ She took a breath. ‘I was there for a couple of hours and everything was fine. Then he got angry and started yelling at me. I don’t even know why.’ She was silent for a moment before more words spilled out. She told us her friend had started acting strangely—like someone she didn’t even know. When she tried to calm him down, he wouldn’t listen. Then he became more aggressive. ‘I wanted to help him but, in the end, I just opened the front door and ran. I had to get out of there. It wasn’t safe anymore.’ 

‘It’s good you left when you did,’ I said. ‘That must have been really scary for you.’

‘It was.’ I heard the tremor in her voice. ‘I was afraid he might follow me, but he hasn’t.’ She lowered her tone. ‘I keep wondering what he’s doing now.’

Mark eyed her in the rearview mirror. ‘Are you worried he might hurt himself?’

‘Yes, I am.’

‘So . . .’ I spoke softly, ‘do we need to take you to the police, then?’

She hesitated. ‘Mmm. Yes, I think so.’

While we drove to the police station, she rehashed the story as if she was still coming to terms with it. When we pulled up across the street from the station, I sneaked a quick look at my watch. Our restaurant was only two blocks away. Maybe we could still make it to dinner on time. Maybe. But if we ended up getting there late, that was okay. This woman’s safety was more important.

A couple of minutes passed and the woman remained in her seat, still talking through what happened. I turned to see confusion and pain flickering in her gaze. She paused and looked me in the eye. ‘I don’t understand why he would do that . . . I’m his friend.

‘I know.’ My heart went out to her. She was so shaken. What could I do to help? She needed peace. The best thing I could do was pray. But would she let me?

At that exact moment, I noticed the necklace she was wearing—a fine, gold chain bearing a beautiful, delicate cross. My heart lifted. Of course I should offer! ‘Would it be okay if I pray for you?’

A look of surprise flashed across her face. ‘What?’

I gave a lopsided smile. ‘Can I pray with you before you go?’ 

‘Oh. Okay.’

She asked about our church and explained wistfully that she used to be involved with a small, local church group but had lost touch.

‘ Let me pray for you.’ I reached towards her. ‘Can I hold your hand?’

With one swift nod, she grabbed my hand with both of hers and gripped it firmly. 

I tightened my grasp in response.  ‘What’s your name?’

‘Meryl.’ (name changed for privacy)

I closed my eyes, ready to pray. Instantly, all our struggles about where to eat shifted into perspective, like the fragments of a kaleidoscope coming together to form a beautiful picture. Suddenly I understood. I held my breath, in awe of God’s kindness. It wasn’t a coincidence that we were driving down the highway when Meryl needed help. If the evening had gone according to our plan, we would have passed through earlier or even headed in the opposite direction. But God had set our course according to His timing and His plan. Amazing!

I squeezed Meryl’s hands and looked directly at her, speaking with conviction. ‘God loves you, Meryl, and He watches over you wherever you go. He loves you so much, He even arranged for us to be coming through tonight at just the right time to pick you up. And He’ll keep taking care of you as you look to Him. He’ll never let you go.’     

I prayed for her then—with Mark adding his amens from the driver’s seat—that God would fill her with peace, help her feel His presence and give her the courage she needed to tell the police what happened that afternoon. We prayed for her friend too, that God would surround him with His angels, help him get the support he needed and bring his mind back to a more stable, peaceful place. When I finished, we all opened our eyes.

‘Well, I better go now.’ Meryl unfastened her seatbelt and reached for the door handle.

‘Would you like me to come with you?’ By this point, I was happy to join her at the police station if it would help.

She shook her head. ‘No, that’s okay. I can do it.’ She directed her words at both of us before climbing out. ‘Thank you for helping me.’

‘It was our pleasure.’

‘No worries. Bless you, Meryl.’

We watched her head across the road, still cautious but perhaps a little steadier on her feet.

Our prayers continued as we drove the short distance to the restaurant. We arrived only ten minutes late. Our table was waiting, the venue was peaceful and our meal was delicious. But those details paled in comparison to our wonder at the lavish love of God—and the joy it was to play our small part in His work in Meryl’s life.   

Most of the time, we view our days according to our plans, our desires, what we think is best. But—much as we might like to think otherwise—the world doesn’t revolve around us. It revolves around God. And sometimes He wants to interrupt our plans for the sake of someone else, so they can be blessed.

I wonder how many opportunities we miss because we’re so focused on satisfying our own cravings or getting through our list of tasks. God wants to lead us by His Holy Spirit, to help us see the opportunities He gives and take our place in His purposes. If we choose to resist His interruptions and reject the opportunities He gives, I have a feeling we’ll miss out on some of life’s most awe-inspiring moments.

‘If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.’ John 15:5b

4 thoughts on “Blessed Interruptions

  1. Oh Sue how beautiful and how much I needed to hear this right now . My journey has taken a bit of an unpleasant detour. Love reading your blog it is always so encouraging.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How good is our God! A wonderful testimony of listening to that still small voice Sue of His leading to do His will. Praying much fruit will come from your encounter.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s