After an afternoon of ultimate Frisbee and football, we were on our way to our friends’ house a short drive away. With a van full of friends, we maneuvered around frost-heaves and potholes, trading stories and laughter.
Suddenly, we became aware of a strange sound—a dull fwap, fwap, fwap followed by an ominous grinding. The friend in the front passenger seat leaned out the open window.
“Your wheel is flat,” she announced.
We pulled over into a gravel driveway and recalled the other van that we had been following. The oldest young adults and teens buzzed around the car searching for a jack and the spare tire, cracking jokes all the while to relieve the natural tension. We called our parents, who were driving separately, to let them know of our misadventure.
After some minutes, we realized that we had a visitor: the owner of the farm. He approached with a relaxed tread, his eyes shaded by the wide brim of his straw hat. His long-furred dog waved his tail lazily in greeting.
“Hey, what’s the trouble?”
We explained our dilemma and the farmer pointed up the hill. “Drive the car up to that flat patch by my barn. I’ve got some hay wagons coming that will need to get through, plus it’ll be best to get you out of the roadway. People whip through this road real fast.”
So we drove our van slowly up the gravel to the flat patch, where we and the stranger turned the car upside-down in our search for the spare tire, which one of the teen boys eventually discovered was secured firmly to the underside of the van. Our fathers arrived and, together with the stranger, began the unexpectedly laborious process of detaching the spare tire from the van.
As the three men bathed in the dust and battled with the spare tire, my father noticed something unusual.
“The stranger wasn’t cussing. He was just helpful and polite. He worked side-by-side with us until we got that wheel on.”
When the operation had been completed successfully, the stranger turned to the two fathers and asked, “So, you all Christians?”
Our stranger was a Christian too.
We all declared later that we had known something was different about him. Anyone can be polite, but there is a certain sense when you are in the presence of someone who likewise loves your Lord, a sense as though you have known each other all your lives, even when you have just met.
It reminded me of another time, when we attended an event at which we knew no one but the host family. Yet through that whole afternoon, as we played Capture the Flag and talked in the shade later, the atmosphere was pervaded by that same sense of closeness.
A non-Christian woman who was present caught the arm of one of the passing children. “Hey, do you know all these kids?”
The child glanced around and shrugged. “Nope.”
“Not any of them?”
“Nah. But we’re sure having a lot of fun!”
The woman later remarked to another woman, “I don’t understand. I feel something here. There's a connectedness--even a presence--that these people have with each other and that I’ve never felt before. Yet most of these people are strangers to each other! What is it?”
The other woman smiled a little.
“Well, some people would call it the Holy Spirit.”
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.