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Saturday, June 11, 2016
Obey the Nudge
Tail lights in the long line of vehicles ahead turned bright red as traffic slowed to a crawl just after we transitioned to the Gardner Expressway. Sitting on a superhighway on a hot summer’s day with three children in the car was not our first choice in family activity. It was an anticipated outing to visit my sister in Hamilton back in the mid-sixties and it looked as though it was going to take a lot longer that we expected.
Just before the slow-down, a bright orange-red VW bug had passed and pulled in front of us. For some reason, I noticed the driver, a blond-braided young woman gripped the steering wheel. The driver’s window was open and the breeze blew tendrils of her hair across her cheeks. In the brief moment I saw her face, I noted a determined look in her eyes.
Did you ever have a time when a brief happening had a lasting impression on your life? Right then and there, that young woman’s determined look tugged at my heart—I sensed there was turmoil and doubt struggling with her determination.
Had the traffic moved on quickly, the moment may have passed without further thought. But it didn’t. We came to a stop. Even sitting in the car behind her, I could see her hands drumming on the steering wheel. She brushed back the strands of her hair and looked at herself in the rear-view mirror. I noticed a University sticker on her back window, and suitcases and boxes visibly taking up the back seat of her car.
Imagine my surprise when I found myself praying, “Dear Lord, please don’t let her run away from your plan for her life.”
Come on now, Ruth! What makes you think she’s running away? It seemed rather audacious to be uttering such a prayer for a complete stranger that I had never met and had no reason to believe such things.
For the entire length of the expressway, that little VW stayed in front of us in the stop and go traffic—for most of an hour. The urgency never left my heart, and I prayed quietly, letting the Holy Spirit direct my words. I prayed the same Spirit who heard my prayer, would surround that young woman with a real sense of the presence of God. I asked that the folly of going her own way may be made clear, and that she would feel assurance that if she followed the path that God had chosen, he would walk every step of the way with her.
As we approached the Queen Elizabeth on the west side of Toronto, the traffic picked up and the little VW dashed ahead and was soon lost in the stream of traffic.
The VW had disappeared from my sight, but the picture of her face and the urge to continue to pray stayed with me. Her face is still vivid in my memory. The same kind of prayer passed my lips often that summer. In the fall my prayer changed to thankfulness and an appeal for God’s continuing presence in her life. For the next year or two, I’d occasionally think of her, wonder what she was doing and ask God to bless her.
I have no idea who she was, nor what she has done in the fifty + years since that brief cameo when we travelled close to each other for an hour. I can’t give a report on the effectiveness of my prayers. I know not if her life was saved from greater or lesser calamity, or what God has been able to do through her. I only know that for a reason God only understands, he asked me to pray.
That experience has had a big influence on the rest of my life: and perhaps especially on my writing. Often I feel my heart tugged to write a note or card to someone in need or at a tough spot in their life. Sometimes I feel nudged, to write a letter to the editor, my member of parliament, even the Prime Minister or some other public figure. Sometimes I awake in the middle of the night with an idea (as I did for my children’s book) or with an article or story already formed in my mind. I try to follow those nudges for sometimes I do find out that it was the right thing at the right time. The rest of the time, I know that I’ve done what was asked of me and I leave the rest up to God.
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