This past weekend the Phillips family joined the Lopes family with Grandma and Grandpa for two days in Angels Camp, CA, for the purpose of “playing in the snow”.
After a restful first night and a healthy breakfast we all journeyed up into the Sierra’s on Highway 4 toward Bear Valley, where we knew the snow would be fullest. It was a warm and sunny day and I had visions of my family throwing snowballs, sliding down steady embankments and marching through thigh high drifts together. As we passed through the town of Murphys, however, the events of the day would change.
Suddenly the three vehicles in front of us came to a safe and quick stop, pulling off to the side of the road. For a few seconds I was wondering why we had pulled over and then noticed what appeared to be the under side of a car peering up at me from a ditch on the other side of the road. Immediately I and the other men who had stopped swarmed around the steaming vehicle trying to assess the damage and wondering what we were going to encounter. Someone, not me, tapped on the driver’s window and we then saw that the driver, Christa Mullen, a 65 year old lady, looking at us perplexed. My brother-in-law, Alex managed to pry the door open and get her unbuckled and then we began to talk with her. It was quickly apparent that she had broken her left leg completely just above the ankle, so we had to tell her repeatedly not to move it. Her hand was broken too.
It seemed so natural now that I think about it. While Alex focused on assessing the condition of the vehicle, i.e. checking to see if there was any danger from fire or some other potential issue, I stood myself next to her and talked. While others ran around calling 911, setting flares and directing traffic (well done Elia!) I entered a conversation with this woman that I had never met in my life. She was calm and alert, not what I would have expected or how I would have been if the tables were turned. Then she shared what she was truly concerned about. It wasn’t her leg, hand, other injuries or her car. No. She was truly concerned because she was supposed to be leaving on Monday (three days later) to go visit her dying mother in Germany. I don’t know if she remembers or not, but I prayed with her and for her and promised that my family would pray too. I continued to reassure her in any way I could until the emergency crew finally arrived.
Now, to be honest, and I am ashamed to admit it, but when we first pulled over and I saw the upturned car I initially and simultaneously had a selfish thought as well as a responsible one. The selfish thought was, “I’m supposed to be having an adventure in the snow with my family, so why are we stopping and why are we getting sidetracked?” Of course, that thought was replaced with an inner responsibility and compassion which drove me out of my vehicle and into helper mode, not really knowing exactly what I might be running into.
And friends, life is so fickle and unpredictable, isn’t it? We have our plans and God has His. We may be heading for some “fun in the snow” but God wants us to “comfort the needy or hurting.” He has a way of changing things up to get our attention and to keep us depending on Him.
I love the words of the famous hymn by William Cowper (pronounced Cooper), God Moves in Mysterious Ways His Wonders to Perform…Read the words in light the crisis or struggle you are facing…
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will..Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face..His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
Oh how easily our days can turn into times of difficulty and crisis. Our plans are shaken by what He decrees and allows to take place for our good and for His glory. We don’t always know why, and that’s O.K. because we serve a God who does! So, we don’t judge God by feeble sense, but we trust him for His grace. And we are encouraged that behind a frowning providence there is always a smiling face.
So after about twenty-five minutes we all got back into our vehicles, told our wives and children that we loved them and went to play in the snow, but now with a greater sense of God’s providence and purposes for our lives.
“God, May You continue to challenge my selfish heart. Teach me what matters most. Let me fight against unbelief and allow You to make all things plain…in Your time and in Your own way.”