As I walked past, my heels clicking briskly on the sidewalk, I saw her bent low on her hands and knees, peering under her car at the liquid dripping onto the pavement. She wore gray sweatpants, a rumpled gray sweatshirt and flip-flops, even though the morning was cold and damp, and she glanced up at me as I walked by, pulling my suitcase behind me. I could see she was crying. I looked the other way and kept walking.
I had to pass the woman again as I walked back to the hotel. I didn’t want to stop. She didn’t look like “my type.” I had to speak at the conference in a few minutes. I was wearing a nice dress. I was cold without my coat. I wouldn’t be able to help anyway. This is what I told myself, the excuses streaming like a fast-flowing current.
She was crouching now, elbows on her knees, head in her hands, her hair tangled and unwashed, a curtain around her face. Bending down next to her, I tucked my dress under my legs and touched a hand to her arm. “Are you okay?” I asked. When she looked at me, the skin beneath her eyes was smudged with old makeup. Black streaks of mascara etched her cheeks. She choked out her story, a jumble of words about her lousy car and a wedding to attend that afternoon, and two hours’ sleep and bills she couldn’t afford to pay and a bad mechanic. I listened. I peered under the car with her. I looked under the hood, nodding and murmuring as I listened to her story.
I remembered that moment when I read the lesson for this week – a story about a man who listened to God. A story of a man who didn’t walk in the opposite direction.
When the Holy Spirit prompted Philip to walk up to an Ethiopian eunuch, Philip didn’t hesitate. He didn’t think about inconvenience or awkwardness. He didn’t regard the man so unlike himself with suspicion or disdain. He didn’t think about how different the man was from him. He simply heeded the Holy Spirit and engaged the stranger in conversation, a conversation that resulted in the man’s conversion and baptism.
My story isn’t nearly as dramatic. In fact, in retrospect, I know I could have done a lot more for that woman in the parking lot. I could have asked to pray for her. I could have offered her money. I really didn’t do anything at all but listen and nod my head in empathy. And when we stood, brushing the grit from our palms, I looked her in the eyes and told her everything would be okay. I wasn’t sure this was true, or even if I believed it, but I said it anyway, mainly because I didn’t know what else to say.
I admire Philip’s willingness to heed the Holy Spirit, the ease with which he obeyed the command. Obedience doesn’t come that naturally to me. I fight it. Sometimes I ignore God’s voice altogether. Or I give myself ten reasons why I don’t need to listen.
I should have prayed with the woman in the parking lot. I should have offered her money. Or a ride. All I did was stop to listen. But when it comes to obedience, maybe stopping is where we start.
Have you ever stopped in your tracks to respond when you felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit? Have you ever ignored the prompt and kept walking? How did you feel in either situation?
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