The Best Birthday Gift Ever
The sun was about to set as I stood on Highway 90 just outside Gillette WY. I knew that if I didn’t get a ride soon I’d have to find a place to camp for the night; for I had heard too many tragic stories of people hitchhiking at night. Whenever I set my sites on home, I felt an overwhelming need to get there as soon as possible. So I asked God, for a long ride, through the night if possible, if it be His Will.
As I stood there I thought of all the blessings I had received since my ‘Conversion in Helena’, a few days before. I thought too of all the interesting people I had met, including the guy who dropped me off at this juncture. We spent a good portion of the day together, driving down through Montana. He wasn’t one of the ‘hurting people’ I was sent to, to bolster their faith; he became one of my ‘teachers’ and bolstered mine with some of his own spiritual experiences. At one point in our journey we were so engrossed in our conversation, and forgetting everything else, that with a start, we both looked down at the gas gage at the same moment and saw that it was on empty. So we stopped at the first opportunity to buy some gas, and decided to get some dinner as well. He offered to buy my meal, and at first I refused, always wanting to give something back to the driver, instead of always being on the receiving end, but he was insistent. I was trying to think of a good reason to accept his generosity when I remembered that it was my birthday. It was the only time in my life that I remember making it all the way through to 5:30PM in the afternoon before realizing that that day was my birthday, so I said:
“I just remembered that today is my birthday. I’ll let you buy me a birthday meal.”
But that gift wasn’t the best gift I received that birthday. In my travels I started to receive and appreciate, more than anything else, those blessings from God; those seeming coincidences that in no way could I have orchestrated myself; those things that assured me beyond a doubt of His presence in the moment.
A short time after my prayer for a long ride, a car pulled over and stopped. As I opened the door the driver said:
“I’ve picked you up before” and smiled.
I hesitated for a second, not recognizing him, so he said:
“Throw your pack in the back and hop in, and I’ll explain.”
Two weeks before I was on the other side of Wyoming, camping up near the Tetons. I was hiking up a road looking for the entrance to the Black Canyon. I wasn’t sure how long of a hike I would have, and it was up hill, so I decided to hitch a ride when he stopped. As it turned out the road I was looking for was just a half mile ahead, so I no sooner got in to his car when I was getting out and thanking him for the ride.
Now, two weeks later, we meet again on our way east. I usually don’t forget a face, being a portrait artist, but he looked different from our first meeting. Back then he spoke of being stressed out, and so decided to spend some time in the mountains playing his banjo. He looked much more relaxed now. I talked him into driving through the night, and assured him that I’d be glad to help with the driving.
We felt comfortable in our conversation and I related to him some of the more spiritual experiences I had had since we last met.
“I’m not very spiritual myself,” he said.
“I don’t go to church. I fact all I know about God is: When I was 10 years old my mother died, and at her funeral I was told that if I was a good boy, when I died I’d see her again. That’s all I know about those things.”
Well it was enough of a coincidence that we should meet again after two weeks and were having this conversation to convince me of God’s hand in all this, but he continued to say:
“It was 20 years ago today that my mother died.”
I learned too, since that day, that when the Lord really wanted to let me know of His Presence in the moment, He would connect me somehow to my birth; whether it be through a reference to the date, the year, the town, or the hospital where I was born.
This was one of those times when the coincidences abounded, when He definitely wanted to make me aware of His Presence, it was my birthday, and this was truly the Best Birthday Present I had ever received.