Early in the evening the other day, I headed over to our town’s area recycling center. The back of our Subaru Outback was filled with three overflowing bins. One held plastic, a second held paper, and the third held a combination of steel, glass, and aluminum. I’d made the trip many times before and it was always pretty straightforward. Therefore, I fully expected to unload and sort the recyclables and be back home before dark.
Well, remember that verse in Proverbs, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps”? (16:9) In a nutshell, that’s what happened!
I lifted the tailgate and starting unloading, leaving the tailgate up, the engine off. In no hurry, I took one basket at a time to its designated container and emptied it. Plastic containers and bottles pinged against each other. Paper flopped and slapped against older newspapers and cereal boxes. And like looking through a number of tomatoes for just the right one, I sifted through the steel, glass, and aluminum items, choosing the right ones and dropping them with a deafening clang or crash into the appropriate containers.
I soon finished and was ready to head home. I held the last basket on my hip like a toddler and turned to head back to the car.
While I was unloading everything, another women had pulled in. She had also just now just finished her sorting and walked back toward her car, all the while facing me. We greeted each other with a smile and a warm hello. She asked how I liked our Subaru, and I gave her a good report, also mentioning that our 21-year old daughter also had a Subaru, an older Forester.
And lo and behold, this lady also had a 20-some year old daughter in college! And that’s where her story began. Over the next 40 minutes, I listened empathetically to the concerns, trials, and reactions of a mother who loved her daughter. Here and there, I tried to interject some hope, some long-term vision, some laughter. I shared that we pray our children would look to God for guidance and for wisdom (for all of us!) in the process, and I offered to pray with her. But mostly, I listened.
She left smiling and, I hope, a little encouraged. Her demeanor was calmer and a sense of relief seemed to permeate her thank you’s and final good-bye.
As she drove away, I walked over to our car, put in the last bin, and closed the tailgate. By now it was dark. I slid into the driver’s seat, closed the door, and turned the key.
I took it out, put it in again, and tried it once more. (That was my translation of fixing the television or computer by turning it off and then back on, which usually worked).
Still nothing. (Apparently, automobile batteries don’t understand that translation!)
I looked out the front window. The gray of the parking lot pavement began to meld into the line of dark containers, the line of trees and vegetation beyond them, and the sky beyond that. Stars were beginning to shine. I thought how vast the world was, and yet how close God was. It was peaceful.
But it was also cold! I looked in my purse and, thankfully, my cell phone was with me and charged. My husband was out of town for the weekend, but my cousin lived nearby, so I called him. In a few minutes, he kindly arrived, sweet labrador and jumper cables in tow. A quick clamp here and there and a revving engine immediately brought life back into my tired battery.
And isn’t that what we all have from time to time? Tired batteries?
We all need a boost. We all need someone to listen to us. We all need someone to care about us, to help us, and to love us. How wonderful it is to know that God is always there–Jesus is always there–no matter what the situation or what the time of day or night.
Yes, I may plan my day down to the minute, but “…The LORD establishes [my] steps.” I may think I’m just doing the recycling, but the Lord may have decided it’s time for some soul therapy. I may think I’ll head home quickly, but the Lord may have decided it’s time to slow down, and He sends a kind cousin, a lab, and jumper cables my way.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
Wishing you joy in the journey!