Lessons at a Gas Pump

We were broke. We were sooooooo broke. It was the kind of broke that gave you courage to stand in line for dented canned food that was passed out each week at the seminary where my husband was a student. It was the kind of broke that made eating out at McDonald’s a luxury and coupon-cutting a necessity.

So, yes…we were broke.

Image Credit: futureatlas.com

One day, I was driving home from work and I had to stop to get some gas. I was trying to decide whether or not to fill up because the bank account was getting pretty low between paychecks. That’s when it happened–the “encounter.”

I saw him coming but I averted my eyes. “Please, please, please don’t come over here,” I repeated to myself. I was young, I was alone in a metroplex and I didn’t know anyone around me. I was also not naiive…I knew the kind of things that often happened to women who were young, alone and in the metroplex. I didn’t just naturally assume that the guy was a serial killer or a potential kidnapper–I mean, I was at a busy gas station–but I didn’t want to find out either way. I just wanted to fill up my gas tank and get home.

Ignoring him didn’t work. He walked up to me and told me his sob story. He was on his way to work. He was going to be late. He only had like 5 miles to go, but he had run out of gas.

Internally, my reaction was “yeah, right” with an eye-roll for emphasis. That is my natural reaction to all sob stories that I encounter on the streets. My chronic cynicism always kicks in and I immediately think people are out to con me.

But this particular “encounter” occurred during the mid-90s. You may recall that the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) movement was in full-swing during those years. I usually react to any kind of faith-based acronym in the same way I do sob stories (eye rolls), but for some reason, WWJD literally popped into my mind during that moment.

Simple question, not-so-simple answer. I had a whole list of why-I-shouldn’ts, the first being “You’re broke!” But, there was only one reason on the list of why-I-should: Jesus would. Even if the guy was a con, Jesus would do it.

I decided I would help the guy, but wasn’t sure how to do it. I don’t usually think quickly on my feet, especially in high-pressure situations, but on that day I was able to come up with a plan. I told the guy that I was low on funds myself. I had already begun to purchase fuel using my debit card, but I told him I would gladly pull forward after I finished putting gas in my tank and let him put in $5-10 of gas on top of what I had already pumped. (I felt so miserly offering so little, but then again, $5-10 of gasoline went a lot further back then.)

He was so grateful. He kept thanking me. Then he said, “Are you a Christian?” That took me by surprise. I told him, “yes” and he said, “I thought so. I could tell.” {Insert warm-fuzzy feeling here.} Then he asked, “Where do you go to church? I want to come visit your church this week.” I told him that as well, then he continued thanking me over and over again.

Of course, I never saw him visit our church.

I still don’t know if he was really in need, but the question is, “Does it matter?”

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 & 10-11 says, 

If anyone is poor among your fellow [brothers] in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need….Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow [brothers] who are poor and needy in your land.

The “encounter” was less about whether this guy was really poor/needy, and more about whether or not I had the right attitude. Was I going to choose to be tightfisted and hardhearted or was I going to be generous?

God taught me a lot at the gas pump that day. It was the first time that I truly just said, “Okay, I’m not going to try to figure out if it’s the smart thing to do…I’m just going to do it because You said it is the right thing to do.” It was a lesson that has stuck with me for many years, and it hasn’t failed me yet.

Where’s the strangest place God has ever taught you something?

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6 Responses to Lessons at a Gas Pump

  1. Natalie says:

    A great, thought-provoking post! I think you’re right- we don’t have to figure out whether the person is “need” is really in need, we have to respond to the prompting on the Holy Spirit.

  2. Natalie says:

    I’m sorry to leave this info here- feel free to delete once you’ve got the info. In response to your question about Mom’s Toolbox and the Bible in 90 Days. I would go to this page and leave a comment and subscribe to her blog so you can jump in when the group starts in January.

    http://www.momstoolbox.com/blog/2010/09/20/next-online-bible-in-90-days-blogging-through-the-bible-in-90-days-session-to-begin-january-3/

  3. JD says:

    God has been using the most unexpected places/situations/circumstances to teach and lead me to follow Him for so long, that if He ever used something the world would consider “normal”, I think THAT is what would stand out these days! 😀

    LOVE this post…. love it. Absolutely love it.

  4. Megan says:

    Thanks, ladies!!

    And thanks, Natalie for the info on Bible in 90 Days. I’m looking forward to the challenge!

  5. I love this! You are so right: even if the guy was a con, Jesus WOULD do it. Thank you for a beautiful reminder of what Christs love looks like 🙂

  6. Amy says:

    I had a sort of similar experience and thought the same thing as you. Jesus would give without hesitation.

    I wrote about it here: http://queenbeedixon.blogspot.com/2010/01/giving-without-judgement.html

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