The Drive

August 28, 2012

by Peter Amsterdam

Maria recently wrote about Len, the taxi driver who we gave a tract to while we were traveling. In her account, she mentioned that we were delayed on our journey that day. That day also proved to be a day of personal testing for me, during which I saw some interesting things about myself and about how the Lord works in my life.

We were taking some needed time away, and on that day we were checking out of a small guest apartment in one town and driving to a larger city about an hour and a half away in which we were going to spend some days sightseeing. Since we had to check out in the morning and couldn’t check in to the new accommodations until two in the afternoon, at which time we had an appointment with a woman to get the keys, we decided to take a leisurely drive through the beautiful countryside en route to the city. The plan was to drive a while on the highway and then get off on one of the country roads, pass through the smaller villages, and find a nice spot for a picnic. After lunch, we would continue on to the city. It was a beautiful morning when we started our trip, and we were looking forward to an unhurried drive and eating in the idyllic countryside.

Once we had gotten on the highway, Maria asked me if we could stop soon so she could use the bathroom. She said she could wait a while, but just wanted to let me know. We were going to need petrol soon anyway, so we planned to stop for both. Within minutes there was a sign saying the gas station was a few kilometers away. I didn’t really want to stop that soon, as I was sure there would be another one before we got off the highway in about half an hour. So we skipped this one.

Well, there wasn’t another gas station or rest stop. We headed off the highway thirty minutes after passing the earlier one, and we were by then very low on petrol and still needing the bathroom. We started on the country road, and I was sure there would be a gas station somewhere along there. After passing through a few villages, however, I was losing my confidence that we’d find one. We hadn’t seen anyone to ask, either. So we kept driving. Finally, in the middle of the woods there was a very small gas station, and our problems were solved.—Or so I thought. While I was filling the tank, Maria walked off to the bathroom. When she came back she let me know that there was no bathroom, that it was now a storage room, with no toilet. The gas station attendant said there were no other stations, restaurants, or shops anywhere nearby.

Poor Maria. Finding the bathroom was now hitting emergency levels. We decided to go back the way we came. The little villages we passed seemed deserted, with no people on the streets, no shops open, no restaurants, so on we drove. Soon we were back at the highway, driving back the way we came, away from our destination city. Now, I have to confess I didn’t handle this too well. I’m generally pretty easygoing, but I had my mind set on a nice picnic in the country, and I had been looking forward to it. Now we were backtracking, desperately looking for a bathroom. While Maria was pretty calm about it, I was tense and upset. In my mind I was blaming Maria for wrecking our grand plan for a picnic, and then I was mad at myself for being upset. At last we came upon a gas station, and our emergency was over. Since there was no longer time to have a picnic, as our appointment to get the keys was getting close, we decided we might as well just buy sandwiches at the rest-stop cafeteria. So there we were, standing at a counter eating unappealing store-bought sandwiches at a highway rest stop. Our well-planned morning had become a total mess, and I felt like a total mess, as I was still frustrated and unhappy.

Upon arrival at our destination city a short while later, it was clear that my mapping out of the route was completely inadequate. After getting lost, turning into oncoming traffic on a one-way street, and finding myself heading the wrong direction back out of town, tension had risen once again. I thought it best to just park the car in a parking lot and take a taxi to our lodgings. After sitting with Mr. Grumpy Frustration for the last few hours, Maria readily agreed.

We drove into the underground parking lot, took out our suitcases, and eventually made it to a taxi stand. After a few minutes, a taxi pulled up and within seconds Len, the English-speaking driver, was cheerfully helping us into his taxi. Maria was chatting away with him, and as she said in her post, when she gave him a tract he told us that he was searching to know more about Jesus.

After settling into our accommodations, I was thinking about the day’s events. I had our day all mapped out in my mind, but everything went awry. Once things began to fall apart, I was bothered and frustrated, and certainly not pleasant to be around. Then, hearing Len’s response to the To You with Love tract put the day into a completely different context. And I have to say I was ashamed of myself for getting so frustrated. Had everything gone as planned, our lives would not have intersected with Len’s. A hungry and searching soul wouldn’t have received the beautiful message that the Lord clearly wanted him to have. By that time I was thanking the Lord that the day hadn’t gone as I had planned, but had gone according to His plan. I was grateful that He saw fit to put us in Len’s path, even at the price of my frustration. I felt humbled for being so set on my wants and desires that I got upset when the Lord had something else in store for us that day.

In the weeks since this has happened, I’ve realized how that day was an accelerated illustration of how the Lord sometimes works in our lives. There are times when things don’t happen as we want or expect them to, when they take longer than expected, or when unexpected emergencies arise that affect us on either the short or long term. There are times of frustration, of feeling lost, when our well-laid plans fail. In these times, life can feel awful, as it’s difficult to understand why things are going wrong, why God doesn’t seem to be answering prayer, and why what you need right now isn’t available. When we’re in the midst of these times, it’s difficult to see that anything good can come out of the situation. But sometimes the difficulties are part of the road that must be traveled in order to put us in the right place at the right time for what God has planned—either for our sake or someone else’s.

Usually, results aren’t seen the same day, as in this case with Len, but the principle holds true. God intervenes in our lives, and yet often while He is in the process of doing so, we don’t realize that what’s happening is according to His plan. Often time has to pass before we understand why certain things have or haven’t happened. That seemingly negative event that changed your day or plans turns out to be just the thing that put you in the position to achieve something down the road. You can’t see it at the time, but it may end up being a game changer in your life or in the lives of others.

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.[1]

[1] Proverbs 3:6 NKJV.