It had been a stressful day at work, and all I wanted to do was relax and unwind. So I decided to go see the latest action movie that was playing at the theater down the street. A simple plot, heroic deeds, and thrilling car chases—that’s all I wanted. Little did I know as I got into my car that I would soon be involved in a real-life rescue adventure.
A Life-Saving Accident. I was only one stoplight away from the theater when a cream-colored car came speeding out of nowhere from my left side—a big cream blur. I reflexively swerved to the right and braced myself for a crash.
To my surprise, nothing happened. I didn’t hear the crunch of metal or feel the jolt of impact. As I looked out my window, I saw that the cream-colored car had come to a stop less than a quarter of an inch from my car. I motioned to the woman behind the wheel that we should pull into the parking lot of the gas station on the corner. Thanking God silently, I got out of my car, made a quick inspection, and walked over to the driver to see if she was okay.
She clearly wasn’t. She was shaking, and tears were streaming down her face. She was an attractive woman with long red hair. She looked to be in her midforties.
She opened her door and, between sobs, told me, “I think you just saved my life.” She looked as though she had just awoken from some kind of haze. “I don’t know what I was thinking—I actually think I was going to commit suicide.”
“What Do You Want Me to Do?” The word “suicide” rang in my ears. I knew this was more than an everyday car accident. I had to think fast on my feet. “Lord, what do you want me to do?” I prayed silently.
My first instinct was to keep listening. “Please forgive me. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m so sorry,” she stammered. “I’m just going through a lot right now.” I could tell she was thinking out loud, processing what had just happened.
As I listened to her pained words, I began to feel a deep sense of sadness and compassion for this woman. She had become so upset with her life, so discouraged, that the only answer she could come up with was to take the desperate action of ending her life. At that moment, I knew what I should do. This woman needed prayer. She needed to know how much God loves her. So I said, “I’m so sorry you’re going through all of this. Would it be okay if I prayed with you?” “I’d like that,” she replied. So right then and there, with me standing on the gas-station sidewalk and her sitting in her car, I put my hand on her shoulder and prayed.
“Lord, thank you for keeping us from harm right now. Please pour out your grace on my sister here. Let her know how much you love her and how much of a blessing she is. Thank you, God, for the gift of her life. Watch over her, meet her needs, and give her your peace. Be near to her, and help her to know that she is not alone. Amen.”
“Thank you,” she said, wiping her eyes. “I’m feeling better now. I think I need to go see my family; they’ll take care of me.” We said our good-byes, and she drove off.
A Moment of Mercy. Stunned and surprised by her reaction, I returned to my car. I wasn’t sure what to do next, so I decided to stick with my original plan to go to the theater. As the movie started, it hit me: God had allowed me to save someone’s life. It felt more exciting than the thriller on the screen.
For the next two hours, I pushed the incident to the back of my mind. But afterward, as I drove back down the street where it had happened, I realized how beautiful my encounter with the woman had been. I realized also that this is the kind of thing that the Year of Mercy is all about.
God wants us to be available to him at all times, to be open to opportunities to share his presence and his love. I may have been put on the spot just then, but God knew what was going to happen. He also knew that something good could come out of this situation if I was alert to that possibility. It was a “moment of mercy” that touched both the woman and myself.
Side by Side with God. In that short drive home, I realized three things. First, God wants us to join him on the front line, and the front line can be anywhere. As Pope Francis often says, God asks us to be like nurses and doctors, ministers of mercy serving a field hospital-like Church. Even in a sleepy suburban neighborhood, five minutes from my home, he had a mission for me.
Second, God is in control. As I was driving home, everything that had preoccupied me during the day faded into the background. God had taken what could have been a tragedy and turned it into an opportunity. He knew that I wanted to get out of the house and see a movie, even though I go to the theater only about three times a year. He also knew that this woman desperately needed someone to pray with her and show her the mercy of God. So he protected both of us and brought us together so that we could encounter him.
Finally, I became convinced that God had trusted me to reach this woman. Through this near accident, he showed me in a fresh way how precious I am to him and how much he treasures our relationship. I believe that he put this woman in my path—literally—because he knew that I could handle the situation, even though I was tired and had a stressful day. He wanted to give this woman the gift of his love, but he also wanted to give me the gift of being instrumental in her life. He gave each of us exactly what we needed.
An Agent of Mercy. It encourages me to think of the lengths to which God went for this woman—and for me. So now I’m wondering: What other missions of mercy does he have for me? Which friends, distant acquaintances, and people in my life will he ask me to reach out to in his name? And how will he help me experience his love and mercy? I pray that I will stay alert, ready both to give and receive whatever gifts God has in store.
Lynne May is an editor for The Word Among Us.