All things are helpful

In our CCC class for teachers last Thursday, we talked about trust as the first and foremost characteristic of the teachers of God. That night, I had an opportunity (read: crisis) to apply this trust to my own life when I really needed it. I felt the Holy Spirit at work in me and around me. Since this month’s blog topic is to tell of a time when you truly felt you received the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I’d like to tell you about what happened that night.

First, though, let me talk a little about what we discussed in class. Every Course student is familiar with the “trust” section from the Manual, but what exactly are we supposed to trust? The surprising answer: We are to trust the world – all those events that happen to us and around us – because they come in some sense from the Holy Spirit and are therefore always helpful:

“The teachers of God have trust in the world, because they have learned it is not governed by the laws the world made up. It is governed by a power that is in them but not of them. It is this power that keeps all things safe. It is through this power that the teachers of God look on a forgiven world.” (M-4.I.1:4-7)

In a nutshell, we are to trust that because the Holy Spirit is governing the world, “all things, events, encounters and circumstances are helpful” (M-4.I.A.4:5).

Sounds great, but can we really have such trust when the chips are down? I found out that very night. I currently have a job parking cars at a baseball stadium. After I got off work a little after 10 PM, I went out to my car, which was in the employee parking lot far from the stadium. When I dug into my pockets for my keys, I discovered to my horror that they were missing. I peered through the car windows, and they were not inside. I looked around the vicinity, but they weren’t lying on the ground. If they had fallen out of my pocket, they could be just about anywhere, and I would never find them in the dark.

I grew more and more distressed as the reality of my situation sank in. The ballpark was locked up. All of my parking co-workers had left. I was fifty miles from home. I had no one who could come and pick me up. I have a AAA Plus membership, which gives you a free 100 mile tow, but my AAA card was in my wallet in the trunk and I didn’t know their roadside assistance telephone number. Even if I managed to get towed back to my apartment, I couldn’t get into it without my apartment key, which was with my car key. What on earth was I going to do?

At that moment, I remembered the class earlier in the day, and almost laughed out loud. Here was one of those dang life events I was supposed to trust. So, I started to talk myself through the situation. I said to myself, “Okay, teachers of God are supposed to have trust in the world, because the Holy Spirit is in charge and therefore everything is helpful. Well, that means I have to trust this unfortunate event of losing my keys. Holy Spirit, this must be helpful in some way. Show me what to do here.”

To my surprise, I felt a real internal shift when I said this. I can’t say that I was absolutely free of worry, but I felt a strength surge into me – perhaps the “power” that M-4 talks about. It was a remarkable transformation. Before, I felt really stuck, but now I felt like I had what I needed within me to handle the situation. I was ready to move forward.

With this new-found strength, I decided to assess the situation. What resources did I have that could help me? Well, I could still get back into the ballpark because the late night maintenance crew was there. And in my pocket I had my cell phone and the telephone number of my supervisor. So, I had someone let me back into the ballpark, found a pen and paper there, and gave my supervisor a call to see if he could help. He was already far away, but I asked him if he could look up the AAA roadside assistance phone number for me. He did, and I wrote it down. He also told me to keep in touch with him and let him know if I needed anything else. He would make sure, one way or another, that I wasn’t stranded out there all night.

So, I called AAA, and found a very kind and helpful dispatcher. I didn’t have my card, of course, but I told him my name and he looked it up. He told me that with my Plus membership, I not only got free towing, but could also get a locksmith who would come to my car and make a new ignition key for me on the spot. Wow! I didn’t even know that came with the membership. So, I asked the dispatcher to send out a locksmith. He told me to wait by my car and that he would call my cell phone if anything changed or he needed anything else from me. I called my supervisor to let him know I would be fine. I was home free.

Well, not quite. Another kind dispatcher called me up and said that unfortunately, they couldn’t get a locksmith to me at that time of night. He was very sorry about it. My heart sank at first, but then I remembered again that I needed to trust. While I was waiting, it had occurred to me that perhaps my key was in the trunk, because I had opened my trunk right before going to work. So, the dispatcher and I came up with a plan: He would send a tow truck out with equipment to get into my car. Once in my car, I could use the trunk release to open the trunk and see if my key was in there. If it was, I would drive home. If it wasn’t, the tow truck would tow me home.

So, I sat down and waited for the tow truck to come. It was getting colder and the tow truck was taking forever to show up, but by this time I was fully into the trust thing. I thought that good would come of this no matter what. I even thought to myself that if I had to get towed home, I would at least save money on all the gas I wouldn’t be using for the fifty-mile trip. I was ready for anything.

Finally – it was about 1:30 AM by now – the tow truck driver showed up. Like everyone else I encountered that night, he was so polite and helpful. He got into my car in no time (why do I even bother locking it up?), I popped the trunk, and – D’oh! – there was the key sitting right there, along with my wallet and everything else I needed. I thanked the tow truck driver, and he asked me how to get tickets to a baseball game at the stadium. I gave him the information, and he said he’d like to take his kids to a game. So, I was even able to help him with something he needed.

At last, I was on my way home. And though it was 2:50 AM when I finally arrived, at the end of the day (or is that the beginning of the next day?), I was home. Everything worked out fine. Thank you, Holy Spirit!

As I reflect on this, I’m struck by two things. One is that surge of strength I felt when I decided to trust. Though I didn’t hear any words saying “Do this” or “Do that,” I truly felt like a power was moving through me, and my distress was replaced with calm and clarity. The “guidance” I received took the form of my own thoughts, but those thoughts definitely felt like they were coming from a higher, clearer place.

The other is that combined with that inner shift was outer help in the form of other human beings. I reached out for help, and four different people – my supervisor, two AAA dispatchers, and the tow truck driver – came and gave me service with a smile. I felt truly taken care of. I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit sent those people to me, not only to help with my outer situation but to give everyone involved the opportunity to have a holy encounter. And I’m reminded that being truly helpful is what the Holy Spirit wants all of us to do every day. Will we answer the call when He sends us to help someone else?

I’ve emerged from this experience with a deeper trust in the world, rooted in the conviction that the Holy Spirit really does govern all things and is always there to help us in ways large and small. The experience itself was therefore helpful in my journey to God, for in this crazy world we need every reminder we can get that He is ultimately in charge. Perhaps Jesus isn’t kidding when he says that “all things, events, encounters and circumstances are helpful.”