It was a Monday. Mondays are vulnerable times for pastors, especially us introspective types. Years ago I was told, “Never resign on a Monday.” To add to the mood, it was raining. My wife and I were headed down I 95 to Philly. The day before our oldest son had driven himself to the hospital, suffering from severe chest pains. The doctors couldn’t figure out why. They admitted him and were running tests. My wife and I tried to encourage each other and corral our concerns behind the little that we knew for certain. We ebbed in and out of conversation. During the silent times, as the windshield wipers slid across the glare of oncoming traffic, I slid into my Monday morass. I was depleted from the labors of the previous day and my mind mulled a sorry landscape.
Our present political and cultural climate has oppressed my soul for some time now. Are we heading into a time of economic constriction, even social unrest? Will my countrymen rise to the challenge of deprivation as our grandparent’s generation did in the 1930’s? I have my doubts. If we’re sailing into stormy social seas, how will our little flock fare? Our little flock… a couple of the sheep came to mind and my heart twinged forebodingly. More pastoral pain loomed on the horizon. A glance over at my wife reminded me of our immediate concern: our son. Our son was hurting. We were hurting. Few pains are like the pain a parent feels for their suffering child. Perhaps the pain a pastor feels for wayward sheep is similar. As a parent and a pastor, I was hurting. I feebly prayed, trying to fortify the vulnerabilities of my soul with faith, wondering what was up ahead.
With the help of the GPS, and while contending with windshield wipers that needed to be replaced, we wormed our way through the cement caverns and found a parking lot on the hospital campus. After a few tries, we located the building which housed our son, and found the right floor and right room. We finally saw our son. He looked fatigued and uncomfortable. Tests were being done. We began our wait for the doctor’s diagnosis. We had some time. Our son had hurriedly parked his car in a lot that didn’t give hospital discounts. I decided to move his car to a designated discounted lot. He told me where he parked. I was pretty sure I could find his car. I made my way out of the building, trying to notice landmarks that would help on my return trip.
I emerged into the night rain and walked to the parking lot – the wrong parking lot. Two men with Spanish accents looked at my parking receipt and directed me to a lot two blocks north. On the way there, a car splashed water on my legs and I felt the cold moisture seep into my socks. At that lot, a man with an Eastern European accent told me that the car was in a lot located four blocks to the soggy south. As I crossed an intersection, I was almost hit by an SUV, but escaped like a matador avoiding a charging bull. I saw the face of the startled woman who nearly ran me over through her rain doused window. “I’m sorry,” she mouthed. I smiled to assure her that I was fine. I stood on the corner looking for the parking lot, replaying the near-miss scene in my mind as though I was watching myself in a movie. Had I been in a lighter mood, the scene would’ve been funny. I just sighed.
I found the right parking lot, paid the fee, and headed out in my boy’s car to a garage associated with the hospital with reduced rates for patients. I sat at a red light thinking, “He needs new windshield wipers too.” The city narrowed in on me as people blurred past in the rain under umbrellas, dark blobs against storefront lights that glistened off the rain dripping down the car window. I looked at the car in front of me, waiting for the light to change and then the encouragement came. The wiper opened up a clear view of the car in front of me. The word “Jesus” caught my eye and I focused to read the words “Jesus Loves You” written on the license plate frame.
Generally I don’t endorse such bumper-sticker sloganeering, but I yielded to welcome a kind providence. Jesus loves me. The night before, at the Lord’s Table, I had urged the brethren to eat and drink the covenant love of our Lord by faith. Do this in remembrance of Me. Jesus’ words and the passages we considered at the Supper filled my mind. As I navigated my way to a hospital parking lot, I remembered: Jesus does love me! I know He does. He lived for me, died for me, rose again for me, intercedes for me, and is coming again for me. I parked my boy’s car, noting the location on his receipt, and I remembered that my Lord knew my location. “Jesus Loves You.” Yes, that’s true. As I retraced my steps back to the hospital room, I prayed Jesus’ love into my heart. I didn’t know what was wrong with my son. I was concerned for a couple of the sheep and apprehensive of what loomed before us as a church in these challenging times. But in the midst of the dreary downpour, the dread of future battle, the fatigue, the fear, the Lord had given me a little providential encouragement on the license plate of a random car: “Jesus Loves You.”
My son has since been diagnosed, treated and is on his way to a full recovery. The work of the Kingdom continues on its way to its full consummation. I press ahead in reliance on His promised grace and Spirit. I’m thankful that sometimes in the midst of my bewildered fatigue, He wipes the windshield of my vision clear and reminds me of His love. “Jesus Loves You.” It’s true. And Jesus, I love You too.Alan Dunn, Pastor Grace Covenant Baptist Church Flemington, NJ