The unusually congested freeway ramps, we reassured ourselves, were merely a sign of heavy weekend traffic. But when,15 minutes after getting onto the No. 1, we were still inching along, we began to speculate about what could be holding us up. Construction? An accident? Finally, 45 minutes into our trip and still well east of the Port Mann Bridge we did what we should have done before we set out – tuned into the traffic radio station. There was indeed an accident just west of the bridge. It was bad. Someone had been killed. The highway was closed and people were being detoured.
As we inched along the highway towards the nearest exit, then zigzagged to our destination, we stewed, murmured, complained and castigated ourselves for not turning on the radio sooner. The entire trip took three hours, no swim at the end of it, but luckily we weren't late for dinner. (That night we returned home in under 45 minutes.)
It wasn’t until the next day in church as I was mulling over our unpleasant experience that it hit me. While we were fussing over an inconvenience, some family’s world was shattering. We could have spent some of that whining and complaining time praying about the accident and the people involved.
Just such an inclination inspired the eight hostages of the Taliban imprisoned in Kabul and seemingly abandoned by all other westerners after the 9-11 attack in 2001. These six women and two men, all involved with Shelter Now International had been arrested in August (2001). Things between them and their captors were tense from the beginning. But the diplomatic evacuations and anti-western feeling after the attacks escalated when Afghanistan’s chief justice announced that he would seek the death penalty for the eight if the court found them guilty. A new despair could have set in. But despite how desperate the situation, these brave missionaries chose to believe that God was in it.
“Perhaps there was a purpose in all of this. Perhaps this was not desertion. Perhaps God had designed this exact place and time for them, that no one else could see His mystifying purpose through to the end but these eight. Being unable to depart the city meant they would be in the center of the storm and could pray for a country they loved, pray for a people they loved, pray for a work they performed that had brought so much good to so many people. No one else was better qualified to utter such passionate prayers on behalf of a nation and her people. To be present in a 'fiery furnace' when there seemed to be little hope of survival might just be ground zero of God’s infinite purpose for these eight people.” (Henry O. Arnold and Ben Pearson - Kabul24 – p. 113).
How often don’t we find ourselves in circumstances that feel all wrong? Whether we’re trapped in a freeway parking lot, or in a small town backwater looking after elderly parents, or on a bed of sickness ourselves, we too can choose to view our situation through the eyes of faith and with a sense of destiny. Like the Kabul eight, we can choose to act on the conviction that where we are is indeed the center of God’s will for us right now. Then we can spend the time praying into, over and through whatever has trapped us.
I just hope I remember to do this myself the next time traffic grinds to a crawl. Where I live, that opportunity will probably come sooner rather than later.
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