The Word Among Us

Lent 2020 Issue

The Hitchhiker’s Tale

God still seeks and finds the lost.

By: Joy McCuen

The Hitchhiker’s Tale: God still seeks and finds the lost. by Joy McCuen

It was a dark and stormy night. No, this is not the start of a cheesy horror story. It is, however, the start of a story that took place on a dark and stormy night. This particular night, a surprisingly violent and dangerous nor’easter was attacking the New Jersey coast. My husband and I were driving through the blinding rain, the road illuminated briefly by intense flashes of lightning accompanied by thunderous booms overhead. It was not a night to be out, and we were anxious to get home.

The Lonely Hitchhiker. Suddenly, along the side of the road in the thick darkness, we noticed a person hitchhiking. We were not in the habit of picking up hitchhikers, but in that moment, both my husband and I sensed the Holy Spirit tugging at our hearts to pull over and check on the drenched young woman. “Stop, honey!” I yelled. My husband was already braking.

Dripping wet, the girl got in the backseat of our car. She muttered a weak “thank you” and plopped down on the seat. We realized that the rain on her face was mingled with her own tears. “Are you okay?” I asked.“Yes.”

“Where are you headed?” my husband asked. She mumbled an address that was on our way. Her head hung down, and mangled, wet, dark blonde hair covered most of her face. Her hands were shaking and she was sniffling a little. I tried to make eye contact, but her gaze remained steadily on the floor.

“My name is Joy and my husband’s is Kent,” I said cheerily. “What is your name?” She gave no response. “May we tell you about why we stopped to pick you up on this miserable night?” I offered.

“Sure,” she whispered.

Someone to Pray For. My husband and I proceeded to tell her about Jesus’ love for her and about how he died for her, personally. We told her that he could help her through whatever troubles she was facing and that there is nothing too difficult for him. It was a short ride to her destination. She had remained silent as we shared our faith with her. She did not volunteer her name or her story, so we gave her our name and number and said that she could call us at any time, day or night. Arriving at her destination, she quickly opened the door and disappeared into the night. And that was it.

Why did we have this encounter? Was it a wasted effort? Why did we both feel so strongly that God wanted us to pick her up? These were questions we could not answer, but we trusted that this lonely hitchhiker was in God’s hands. As the weeks turned into months, we prayed for our nameless visitor as often as God brought her to our minds.

The Rest of the Story. Two years later, Kent and I were visiting friends who run a house for people recovering from addiction. As we chatted with our friends in the common room of the house, I noticed a young woman staring at me. When I looked at her, she looked away. Then I noticed her staring again.

“It’s you!” she suddenly blurted out. “You are the couple that picked me up two years ago.” Neither my husband nor I responded right away, as her exclamation sunk in.

“Do you remember me?” she asked. Kent was the first to recover from our shock.

“Of course we do,” he answered. “We didn’t recognize you—you look so different.”

“I am different. In every way possible,” she said. Jessica* went on to tell us her story. On the night of that terrible storm, she had a fight with her boyfriend. She walked out of his house in anger and headed home—via an island road flanked by two bodies of water. As she walked, the storm intensified, and she began to be afraid that one of the violent gusts of wind might blow her over. She cried out to God, “If you care about me, you will send someone to pick me up.” At that moment, our car came down the road.

Jessica continued to tell us her story. She had been dabbling with alcohol and drugs. When she arrived home that night, she knelt by her bed and surrendered her life to Jesus. She experienced an overwhelming peace and freedom in that moment. Wanting to contact us, she searched in her pocket for our phone number, but it was nowhere to be found.

Ever since that day, she had stayed clean and sober. Unbeknownst to us, she found our friends’ ministry house and lived there for a year before renting a place of her own. They had helped her earn her GED and acquire a full-time job. For two years, she had been asking God to bring us across her path again so that she could tell us about what the Lord had done for her. And here we were, visiting our mutual friend at the same time.

Never a Waste of Time. As Jessica talked, we laughed, cried, hugged, and rejoiced with her. All of our questions about that dark and stormy night had been answered. It was a lesson about interceding and never giving up hope, as well as a reminder that it is never a waste of time to share our faith.

Not all stories have this kind of satisfying closure. Many times we share our faith and simply have to believe God, whose word “shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me” (Isaiah 55:11). When we do get this kind of confirmation and encouragement, it is truly a blessing. It builds our faith in the Father who seeks after his children. It rouses us to keep going and keep sharing. So let us be ready to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and freely share our faith “whether it is convenient or inconvenient” (2 Timothy 4:2).

*Name has been changed.

Joy McCuen lives in Hatboro, Pennsylvania.