I had a bushel (or two) of tomatoes to can the day before a two-week trip. And a cash deposit to make. I had no idea how I ended up with $100 in small bills, but I had it, and I wanted it in the bank before I managed to dribble it away on easily forgotten stuff.
Considering my day full of tomato canning and the one hour drive to the nearest bank and back (have I mentioned how far out in the country we live?) I decided the deposit could wait until after I returned from the trip. I was on track for an early bed time. I love my early bed times. Just that one last task. Or what I thought was my one last task.
I got to work setting up. First the pans – a big one to scald the tomatoes, smaller ones for sterilizing jars and lids and the monster pressure canner. Then I laid out the bowls – one filled with ice water for dipping and peeling, others for the ready-to-be-canned tomatoes and another for the compost parts. Every stove burner and inch of counter top was covered.
Oh joy. I personally know women who love doing this stuff. I’m not one of them.
As I started on the first batch the thought came, “Go to town.”
I told myself that I didn’t need to go to town. I’d already decided that.
It was only when the thought came the third time that I brightened. “Oh. This is God.” (I’m never sure at first if it’s God or just my ADD speaking.)
“Do I have to go now?” I asked.
“No,” came the thought that is God, “Go at 5 o’clock tonight.”
That was hours away. I settled back into the mind-numbing, repetitious work of tomato canning; dipping, peeling, cutting in quarters, pushing into jars, covering with water and then popping the filled jars into the canner. As I worked I kept my eye on the clock, occasionally wondering why God felt this trip to town was necessary (would I waste the $100 if I didn’t deposit it? Did I need that $100 for an upcoming crisis?) I tried to time all the above chores so I could leave at 5 p.m.
Except of course it didn’t work out perfectly. It was closer to 5:15 when I left with tomatoes to be canned still sitting in one of the baskets. My early bed-time was looking less likely.
At least I’d have an hour in a car with air conditioning. Have I also mentioned that our old remodeled farmhouse doesn’t have air conditioning and it was a hot, humid day in July that was made even hotter and humid in the house by eight hours of boiling water and pressure canning? No one ever mentioned facts like that in those upbeat Mother Earth News or Organic Gardening magazine articles.
With the air conditioning on high I headed out to the freeway.
“Don’t know what you have in mind, God, but I’m enjoying the a/c break.” I thought as I whipped along our familiar curvy mountain road. I hit the freeway, and just short of a mile down the road I saw a woman walking, carrying a jug of water.
“Is this why I’m here? To give her a ride?”
“Yes,” came the response. Then I felt sad that I hadn’t left at exactly 5 P.M. If I had I’d have been entering the freeway just as she was walking by my entrance and I’d have saved her that extra fifteen minutes of walking in this heat. It must be nice to be God with all that omniscience.
I pulled over and waited for her to catch up to the car. Only she was a he. Usually I can tell the difference. Even from the back. Even if the person does have long blonde hair.
“Are you sure?” I asked God.
“It will be fine,” came the answer.
He got in. Looked to be about twenty years old.
“Where are you headed?”
“To catch up with my friends in Pennsylvania. We were at a Rainbow Gathering in the forest in North Carolina and I ended up in jail.”
I shot him a look.
“I shoplifted an energy drink and got ten days in the county jail.”
I gave him my ‘you were an idiot’ face, one of my worst mothering techniques honed from years of practice.
“I know. It was stupid. I called after I got out but my friends were gone. I’ll have to get myself home. I’ve been hitchhiking and walking for three days. I haven’t had a ride all day.”
He looked like he hadn’t had a ride all day. His face was bright red with sunburn and the water jug was giving off steam.
“I can take you as far as the next town. It’s twenty miles down the road and there’s a truck stop there. Will that work?”
As I pulled up to the truck stop the thought came, “Give him twenty dollars.”
“You have plenty,” came the thought. “Give him twenty.”
All right. Usually we gave hitchhikers the inexpensive set of scriptures we kept replacing in the door pocket – after asking if it was wanted, of course. Most people said yes and looked happy to have them. Hitchhikers for Jesus. But no, not this time. This time it was money.
I handed it to him as he got out.
It was only after I drove off that this thought came from God.
“See how much I love that young man.”
His love flooded my heart for a timeless moment as my soul resonated with that eternal truth.
He adores us. Even those of us who are idiots. I don’t know why He does but I know He adores us.
Of course later, the selfish me kicked in as I was finally finishing the tomatoes at 11:30 that night, thinking that without the side trip I’d have been in bed by 10.
“What about me?” I thought. “All I’ve ever wanted is plenty of sleep. How about that?”
“Was it worth the sacrifice?” came the question in response.
As I considered the question the love came back, the love God felt for the wandering, young man, the thrill that I got from being the messenger, being the angel to the soul in need. And I knew.
It was worth it.