I was venturing out of Pinnacles National Park in a landscape that I still struggle to describe. There were trees, and there were plants, but everything was extremely weary and dry. Drought, and too many days like today, with 104 degrees, had taken a toll on the landscape. I was fortunate to get my hiking done very early in the morning, before the sun came out to scorch. Everything around me was so thirsty. Stream beds were dried up, bridges that once passed over water passed over rock and dust, and adorning all park structures were signs warning of extreme fire danger.
Despite its conditions, the park was fascinating with enormous volcanic boulders to crawl and climb under and around. Also, no one was there. The heat and threat of fire was probably enough to keep most visitors away and allow me to have the park to myself.
The plan now was to drive to Los Angeles, a seven hour journey to the great Pacific coast and the energy of the city. This was a change from my original plan. I had been set on visiting San Francisco, staying in a hostel, and visiting the Walt Disney Family Museum, but for the past four days I had been plagued with an uncanny feeling- a strange uncomfortableness with my plan. I would be out hiking, enjoying the wonders of nature, and then my mind would wander off to my San Francisco plan, and I would began to question if I should follow through. At night I would study my road atlas, trying to find good reason to change the course of my journey. I really found no legitimate reason to all my hesitancy, and that perhaps is what troubled me the most. I had done my research. I had made my plans and reservations. On the surface everything was in order, but this hesitation would not leave me. So after four days of wrestling with my decisions, I changed my plan. My reason for this was not a very logical one, but rather based seemingly on intuition. Later I would discover there was something much greater behind these feelings than my own intuition.
Thirty miles removed from Pinnacles National Park I still hadn’t seen anything noteworthy, just the peculiar desert-like landscape and an occasional tumbleweed, but then finally the first sign of life- a mother and what appeared to be her daughter waving on the side of the road next to their car. They obviously needed help, but I continued on driving. I had a new plan to follow, and I knew the trip to Los Angeles would be a long one. Then suddenly my mind was prompted to recall my canyons and my most sprawling canyon of all: selfishness. I knew in that moment I needed to let light into my canyon of selfishness. I needed to turn around and help these people. I felt convicted.
I turned around and drove back to these people. I rolled down my window, and they immediately started speaking in Spanish. Not a problem. I speak Spanish. They told me that they ran out of gas. “Have you called anyone for help?” I asked. They informed me there was no phone service in the area. We were in the middle of nowhere. I had never run into this sort of situation before. How does it work? Are they trying to trick me into something? How do I help them? Well, I guess I need to drive to the nearest town and bring them back some gas. “I’ll go and get you gas. Wait for me. I will return,” I told them.
I searched my gps for the nearest gas station and the screen displayed a forty mile distance to the nearest one. Forty miles there and back would certainly put me behind on my journey, but I knew that I needed to help these people. This moment was actually a pinnacle and pivotal moment in my summer.
On my way to the nearest gas station I was overcome with the most joyous and fulfilling emotions as I put the puzzles of the past few days together. There was a reason for everything. There was a reason I was plagued with uncanny feelings about going to San Francisco. There was a reason why I changed my plan. There was a reason why I decided to head to Los Angeles instead San Francisco. If I didn’t have those feelings, if I didn’t change my plans, if I wasn’t on my way to Los Angeles, these people would be stranded and at the mercy of the desert in the 104 degrees. But random events and purposeless intuition were not the reasons for all of this coming together. I knew this was orchestrated and that’s what filled me with this joy. We could say this all started weeks before in Canyonlands National Park, when God made me aware of the canyons in my own life and the profoundness of my selfishness. Being aware of my selfishness made me more sensitive to my actions and the need for change. The hesitation about going to San Francisco was not solely my intuition, but rather the Holy Spirit alive and at work in me, prompting me and guiding me to this moment.
While I could have felt burdened by my own obligation to goodwill, rather I felt extremely blessed. Because this moment was verification for me that God has been and is working in me. I felt so humbled yet empowered to be a part of God’s plan. I felt so purposeful.
After my drive, which was more like a rocket ship ride of emotions, my gps led me to an abandoned factory, but there was a gas station in front. I pulled up to the pump, only to notice that this gas station too was part of the ghost town. I drove a little further and rolled into a small McFarland style town with a gas station and people selling tacos on the side of the road. I went inside to the convenient store of the gas station to explain my situation. They informed me that they didn’t have gas cans. I left and found an auto body shop. I filled up a gas can and bought some water to take back to these stranded acquaintances.
On the drive back, I was at first concerned that these people wouldn’t be there, and all of these feelings of purpose and pieces coming together would actually prove false, but I came to the conclusion that this would still be very meaningful and worth my time. I knew that what I was doing was actually an act of worship. I was getting gas for God, considering him in the least of these. I’m entertained with the thought that the high church could list fanciful things to bring before the altar of God, but I would bring my gas can to God, and it would be very meaningful.
Despite my speculation, they were still there and extremely thankful when I poured gas into their car. “Muchisimas gracias,” they told me. It wasn’t just convenient that I could communicate to these people in Spanish. I knew this was on purpose, and there was something important I needed to communicate to them. I told them, in all sincerity, “don’t thank me, thank God, because He put me in your path.” They agreed with me and said in Spanish, “thanks be to God.” I gave them the bottles of water. They insisted on paying me, and then they took off, and that was that. I stood alone in the desert next to my car with a feeling of fulfillment and a smile on my face. Life is beautiful, I thought.
I know these people may feel blessed to have received my help, but really I feel more blessed to have helped them, knowing that God was working through me and brought meaning and fulfillment to all my feelings and changed plans.
I share this story not to brag on anything I have done, but rather to bring glory to God. I just find it so awesome how God coordinates to provide. I also think this story serves as an example of how the Holy Spirit may work in one’s life. Next time you have hesitation about something without good reason, I say stop, pray, and be still. These feelings may not be plain intuition or a bothersome anxiety, maybe these feelings are not bad at all, but rather the Holy Spirit prompting you. Listen. Just listen. Don’t get caught up in your emotions, but listen for purpose. Maybe God is trying to put you on the path of someone to help. If you haven’t invited God into your life and are struggling to find purpose and meaning, it is in Him that you find it. Reach out to him. His spirit wills and acts in his people to fulfill His purpose and fill your life with meaning, even in the simplest of things.