I pulled up to the gas pump at a popular convenience store, so thankful that I didn’t have to wait long for a free pump. It was chilly and a little windy. I hate windy days at the gas pump. I’m not at all happy that the wind is going to mess up a perfectly good hair day. Wearing my hair short means I have to worry about things like cowlicks. I call them my “Dennis-the-Menace’s”. They’re not very pretty when they’re out of control. The wind can leave me looking like a jungle bird with fancy head feathers. So, on this particularly windy day I turned my head in the opposite direction of the wind. And that’s when I saw her….
She was standing beside an older model van with a cardboard sign. There were just two words written there: NEED GAS. My first thought was, “She probably just wants cash for who-knows-what.” I had determined I wouldn’t stare, but I was wearing sunglasses and couldn’t help myself. I figured she wouldn’t be able to tell if I was looking at her or the car wash nearby. I could see she was getting tired of holding her sign. As people in their cars and on the sidewalk continued to pass her by without notice, she looked ready to give up.
As I waited patiently for my pump nozzle to click telling me I had a full tank, this young woman leaned her head against the side of her van and lowered her sign enough for me to see she was pregnant. There was an older woman sitting in the driver’s seat. I began to get that familiar feeling as my heart beat to the sound of a different drummer. My pulse began to quicken and my eyes began to pool with tears. It’s a feeling I can’t ignore.
“Really, Lord? You want me to help her?”
Do I help every person I see on street corners? No.
Do I give to every needy person who crosses my path? No.
Do I approach every person I see holding a sign for help? No.
Only the ones God tells me to.
Honestly, I was really nervous. I wanted to get in my car and drive away. I mean, the place was crawling with people. Why me? I learned a long time ago, though, that when the spirit moves in me I can’t turn my back and feel good about myself. The truth is, I can’t help everyone. I wish I could, but I can’t. I don’t always have the means, but I’ve learned to trust God to tell me when I do. If He says I have what someone needs then how can I not meet that need?
When I’d completed my sale at the pump I got in my car and pulled into a parking space. I approached the young woman and asked her a few questions like, “Where are you from? Where are you going?” I told her I couldn’t fill her up, but I could put twenty dollars worth of gas in her van. She was very grateful. The older woman pulled up to a pump, I swiped my debit card and proceeded to fill her tank with the little gas I could give her. I figured an old van like hers had a pretty large gas tank, but a little is better than nothing, right?
A little is all she got because as she told me a little bit about the difficulties in her life the gas nozzle clicked and I looked down to see that gas had spilled over onto the pavement. It hadn’t even needed the twenty dollars worth I wanted to give her! What?! Are you kidding me? I asked her if her gas gauge was broken. (I know this is a possibility because I have two vehicles with broken gas gauges. We fill up every so many miles. Not exactly a great way to maintain, but it is what it is.) She seemed embarrassed. So was I!!
We both got in our cars and drove out of the parking lot, but I have to tell you….I started beating myself up almost immediately and I began to question God.
“Did I hear You right? Do I have a mark on my forehead that says, ‘Fool?’ ”
As sad as it is, there really are people out there who ask for help, yet they have the means to help themselves. There really are people who trample all over the kindness of others. There really are people who take advantage of a heart that feels pity. There really are people who buck the system, prey on the innocent, and take advantage of those who have a hard time saying “No.” But in these difficult days on the kingdom calendar there really are a lot of people in financial distress, too, and we can’t harden our hearts to those who truly need our help. We need the kind of wisdom and discernment only God can give.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17
So, why did God want me to help this young woman who may or may not have needed gas in her tank?
I may never really know the answer to that question on this earth, but what God showed me is this:
God is most concerned with my willingness to obey Him.
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22
When helping someone doesn’t make sense, I may look like a pushover or even a fool, but I would rather err on the side of heaven than earth. After all, God knows my heart. He knows when I’ve acted out of a heart that seeks to do what’s right in His eyes. In God’s economy, true riches are measured through the eyes of the One who never passes me by. I can only hope that if I ever become so desperate that I stand in a convenience store parking lot holding a cardboard sign, God will touch someone’s heart to stop and take a look at me. I can only hope there will be someone who doesn’t mind the wind-blown look in her hair or marching to the beat of a different drummer.
I can only hope there will be someone with a willingness to obey….