A few days ago I did something that most people would classify as incredibly stupid. In fact, my logical mind screams, “were you trying to get yourself killed?!” (My logical mind sounds a lot like my mom.) I’m going to go ahead and tell you what I did at the beginning of this blog, because most people just scan for the juicy details anyways. So here it goes: I picked up two male hitchhikers sitting on the exit by my house in Tennessee, and drove them all the way to Montgomery. Yes, I really did. Try to pick your jaw up off the floor.
Now, let’s start at the beginning of my day. I woke up at my parent’s house, packed up my things, and sent last minute emails to possible future employers. I did all of this faster than I had expected, so I picked up a book I’ve been reading. Its called Love Does, by Bob Goff. My small group has been studying what it means to live intentionally, and to treat love as a verb. Bob Goff has a way of taking the seemingly insignificant stories of life, and finding the lesson that Jesus intended. If you have some free time, pick it up. You wont regret it. Anyways, on this particular day I read a chapter about hitchhiking. Ironic, right? The lesson in the story wasn’t related to hitchhiking at all, but it was in there. Bob Goff used to hitchhike. In a MUCH safer time, I understand and agree. None the less, I enjoyed his story. Not long after that, I got in my car to travel back to Auburn.
A couple of miles down the road, at the exit where I turn right to go back to school, I slammed on the breaks. My foot reacted before my brain even understood what was happening, I kid you not. It wasn’t until I was at a stop, facing two dirty, sweaty young men that I realized what I had done. They stared at me with hope. I rolled down my window and asked, like most people who are about to pick up hitchhikers do, “Where ya headed?” One answered me, “Anywhere in Alabama. We’re trying to get to my family in Montgomery, but anywhere will do.” In hindsight, the next question out of my mouth was a bit useless. “You aren’t going to kill me are you?” As if a hitchhiking murderer would confess his plan and bring out his concealed weapons. The boys laughed and promised that they would definitely not kill me. They would even give me their IDs. (I’m not sure what good that would of done, but appreciated the effort.) It was in this moment that I made a decision. And I am NOT saying that you have to pick up hitchhikers to be living an intentional life. AT ALL. In fact, don’t do that. It’s dangerous and your parents will be very angry. But I truly felt a pull at my heart that these were God’s people, and they were down on their luck. In their opinion, they had failed. They were out. But I didn’t see it that way. I had been placed on that exact exit, at the right time, right after reading a specific chapter in a book. No coincidences. So I said what I knew needed to be said, “Get in.”
Hitchhikers smell just about the way you would expect them to. Like dirt, sweat, and the road. I kept finding myself unconsciously holding my breath. I hope they didn’t notice. We instantly began talking about why I had chosen to stop. They pointed out the obvious: I was a little white girl that could be overtaken by a killer very easily. Hadn’t my parents taught me any better? This gave me the perfect opportunity to invest in their lives. You see, the way I see it, you have to invest in someone and provide for their needs before you beat them over the head with Jesus. I have found that they are way more receptive that way. I reassured them that I didn’t need money. I offered them the few snacks and water I had with me in the car, and that was it. Other than that I was just a stranger with a car. Providing for their physical needs opened a door into their emotional needs very quickly. We began talking about Jesus. Who He is, what that means, and how they felt about a relationship with Him. I will never know if I brought those two young men to Christ. Or if I even made a dent in the walls they have built to keep “religious” people out. But I planted a seed. The idea that Christianity isn’t simply rules and punishment and beating people with bibles. Jesus didn’t do any of that, so why should we? I was just one stranger that helped without needing anything in return. I understand that this one act didn’t change the world back to a nicer place. I am aware that hitchhikers don’t all have the best intentions, and people don’t stop for them most of the time as a means of protecting themselves. But I reached out in a moment that I felt was meant for me. And although I won’t make a habit of picking up strangers, I am just a little bit more hopeful that the world is not a dark and scary place. There is light. And just when those boys thought they were down and out, Jesus sent them a break. In the form of a little blonde new graduate.
Jesus has a funny way of sending you a lifeline in the very moment that you could have sworn was the end. Like a little whisper that he’s not done with you. Whether it’s a car on a scorching day, or an outstretched hand when you feel desperately alone. Everyone needs a reminder that there is someone still in their corner. That person just happens to not be a person at all, but a Heavenly Father.