After our four enjoyable days with our friends Sherry and Greg in Minnesota, Rich and I loaded up the Harley and set off on the next leg of our adventure. We headed west from Brainerd toward North Dakota. The scenery started changing as we approached the border between the two states, becoming flatter and less green.
As was our norm, we stopped for a break and a tank up after about an hour and a half of riding. Then we continued for about the same amount of time until our tummies told us it was time to get some lunch. We had noticed that the exits had grown further apart and offered very few food options, so as soon as we saw an Arby’s we decided to pull off. We are not big “fast-food” eaters, but Arby’s passes muster for a quick lunch.
Once inside, I made my food choices and left Rich to pick up the order while I went to choose a table from which we could keep an eye on the bike. There was only one other couple in the restaurant, and they were seated about three tables away from our window table. They were an older couple and the husband was in a wheelchair, and I could hear them talking quietly from time to time.
Rich bought our order to the table and we quickly got organized and ready to eat. Then, as always, we held hands and thanked God for a safe trip so far, asked him to continue to bless and protect us, to bless the food and continue to feed us spiritually. Then it was time to dig in and eat up.
I guess we were about half way through our meal when I became aware that the woman from the other couple was clearing away their things. Suddenly she was standing beside us and, leaning in toward us, she apologized for interrupting us. We said, no problem, and she carried on talking to let us know why she had come over.
She explained that she was “one of us” and that it had really warmed her heart to see us praying over our food before we began eating. She said that sometimes it was very hard to be a Christian because she felt we were in a minority. She also said that not many people were willing to be public about their belief in God and that as we prayed we had allowed her to feel as though she were “not alone”. It was a very warm moment of fellowship and my heart went out to her.
Rich agreed with her and told her that just a week or so ago we had done the same thing as she had. We had been having a meal at one of our favorite salad bars, “Sweet Tomatoes”, when a woman and her two daughters came and sat at the table across the aisle to us. Once they had settled into the booth, they all bowed their heads and said a prayer of blessing over their food. I remember how heart-warming it felt for us to see that, and as we left the restaurant Rich had paused briefly at their table to let them know how great it had been to witness that.
We exchanged farewells with the woman, and as she pushed her husband out of Arby’s I wondered what their story was. We feel very blessed to have met certain people, complete strangers, on our ride who have uplifted us and shared a God-moment with us. And I remembered that other couple in the rest stop parking lot in Tennessee who had cared enough about us to pray for our safety as we began our long trip.
Many years ago, during a period that I was living in England, I attended a very special retreat at Aylesford Priory which is located in the heart of Kent. The Priory is an ancient religious house belonging to the Order of Carmelites and dates back to the 13th century. The setting there was extremely peaceful and welcoming and I returned several times to attend other retreats.
The reason that the particular retreat I mentioned above was so special was because I received an incredible gift, the first of many messages that God has given me through others. One of the participants on the retreat was a woman who suffered some physical disabilities. She was confined to a wheelchair and had a companion who helped her with everything.
On the second day of the retreat our group had broken up into small groups for discussion. I do not remember the specific topic that we were discussing but I do remember that I struggled badly with the word “faith”. I was, of course, trying to be very “intellectual” in my participation – probably trying to impress someone as I did frequently in those days. And because I was not being “real” I was totally missing the point.
In my egotistical attempt to appear sophisticated and clever I became very frustrated and irritated. I remember making a comment along the lines of, “so what the heck is this “faith” thing anyway; I’m not a theologian. How am I supposed to understand the notion of faith?”
At that moment the woman in the wheelchair (I regret I do not remember her name), leaned across the table, took my hands in hers and spoke very quietly and gently. I will remember her words for ever, and for ever I will be indebted to her. She said, “Margo, use the word trust.” I sat there, unable to say a word, and my heart filled up and my eyes filled up and my soul filled up.
She continued to explain that she implicitly trusted her companion to take the best care of her physically and in the same manner she implicitly trusted God to take care of her spiritually. I was very humbled and I think that was the moment that I experienced my first real feelings of gratitude. Today the whole of my belief in God rests in trust and this trust in Him has grown over the years as I see all that He has done for me, a wretched imperfect human being.
God continues to send me messages, sometimes through others, sometimes through readings or events that take place in my life. The most recent message is an old and beloved one. It comes from the gospel of Matthew, 11:28.
"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying
heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
This was the featured scripture verse in one of my meditation books on 27th July. It appeared again in another meditation book on 29th July. And one more time Max Lucado offered it to me in “Grace For The Moment” on 30th July. When He wants to get my attention I usually hear it three times in quick succession. So I am hearing that I need to rest more in the quiet of God. I need to quit struggling and let God do it for me. I need to stop trying to fix situations and people outside of myself. There’s already one Savior and it’s not me!!