In the Footsteps of the Samaritan
I was in a hurry and sighed at the price per gallon. The term highway robbery seemed to fit. My fuel app had been glitchy for weeks. I noticed a pre-paid amount on the screen and smiled at what I assumed was a discount.
A woman’s voice from the other side of the pump muttered profanities. Her hand yanked the handle back and forth between the pump and the tank of a giant red Chevy.
I checked my app; still certain of a fuel reward but confused that the pump had stopped. The woman kicked a tire and said something about her last five dollars. I explained my sudden realization that the clerk had misapplied her payment to my pump. She ran inside grumbling about incompetence.
She returned with the manager, who demanded I hand over five dollars. Before I could explain my lack of cash, their dialogue grew heated. It became background noise as I heard the voice in my head.
Pray with her.
Really? With her? Here?
Her strawberry blonde hair was pulled into a ponytail. A white mid-riff tank top exposed a bloated and bruised belly that sparked a vague familiarity of something I had seen once when moonlighting in an emergency room. Pancreatitis? Maybe. Liver disease? My memory failed.
Multiple insect bites cascaded from shoulder to wrist on both arms. A pair of ripped Daisy Dukes rested snugly below her navel. Her once white canvas shoes were dingy and worn.
Her eyes were full of rage but not bloodshot or dilated. Her teeth were white with no hint of tobacco stains. I detected no smell of alcohol on her breath. She was thin, but not wiry. I quickly ruled out addiction as the cause of her agitation.
The manager took a step in her direction. She backed away like a child threatened by a playground bully. Colorful words continued to bolt from her mouth.
I convinced the man to go inside. The woman returned to kicking her tires. I wanted to leave, but I owed her five dollars and a prayer.
I offered to fill her tank. She seemed stunned by the act of kindness. She thanked me for making her day while continuing to insult the manager. I sensed her disappointment that I failed to agree with her slurs.
Pray with her.
I mentioned aloud that perhaps something more than the price of gas and the heat of the day was on her mind. I asked if I could pray for her.
Her knees buckled. She sobbed and crumpled against her car.
As our vehicles guzzled gallons, I learned of her wrecked marriage and a decade of poverty. The sorrow was palpable as she described a decision earlier in the day to allow her sons to move several hours away to live with their father.
“I know he can provide a better life, but it just hurts. I mean, he just walked out, and I’ve done the best I can.”
Her sobs grew convulsive. I prayed for protection for her children and peace for her.
“Can I tell you something?” she asked the moment I ended my prayer.
“I don’t know how you knew I needed that. I was on the edge today. Like…this was gonna be my last day. I had pretty much decided, but you gave me hope. Thank you.”
I explained I knew nothing of her needs but had prayed to the One who does. I gently shared the love of Jesus. She seemed moved as I described how He wants only the best for His children, just as she did for hers. She promised she would not hurt herself and thanked me again for the gas before driving away.
“The gospel of Christ sets us in the footsteps of the Samaritan. It tears up our plans and schedules and demands that we stop by the roadside, give up our time and spend our money.”
— Pete Greig in Punk Monk (p.220)
Father, tear up my plans and schedule today. Give me courage to stop by the roadside. Amen.
For further reflection read Luke 10:25-37