For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
—Isaiah 55:8-9 (NRSV)
I'm becoming less and less surprised when I ask people how their day or week has been, and the response is, "It's been busy!" We all seem to be busy people, often rushing from one task, appointment, meeting, practice, or responsibility to the next. There have certainly been times when I have answered the question in that same way.
One day this spring Ii was not busy. I had a day off, and my only time constraint was to bring home some groceries from Waterloo before supper time. It was a beautiful day for the short drive to town. I decided I would go to a few stores and simple browse the aisles for fun, because I truly felt like I had all the time in the world. As I took the exit from Hwy 218 to San Marnan Drive, I noticed a man standing at the intersection holding a sign that read, "Anything helps." I thought to myself, "Perfect! I'm not in any rush, so I will do the 'right thing' and buy this man lunch!" I started to get excited at the thought of going out of my way to a restaurant, handing him a sandwich, offering a compassionate smile, and adding another mile or two to my trip by driving around the blocks to get back to the grocery store for my own shopping. I was also starting to feel proud of what I was about to do.
So, I went through the drive-through lane of a restaurant nearby. In doing so I was feeling a little hungry as well, so I doubled the order — a sandwich and fries for him, and a sandwich and fries for me. The food smelled really, really good. Then, I got back on San Marnan and headed back to the intersection where he was standing. He was gone.
He was gone, and I had no idea where he might have went. I even started driving around a little just to see if I could find him. There was no sign of him. So, I drove to the grocery store parking lot, rolled down the window, and ate my sandwich and fries. Then I ate his sandwich and fries, too. At that moment I recognized how my pride had convinced me to try to do a good deed according to my own timing rather than God's timing. I recognized that the timing was convenient for me, and that was really the only reason why I went to the restaurant. It was my timing, not God's timing that day. You simply cannot force a good deed when it's convenient for you.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, or are your ways my ways, says the Lord." I was reminded of this verse that day. God's thoughts are ways are often inconvenient according to our human timing, but according to God's time they are spot on. Our challenge is to allow ourselves to recognize the true needs of others in the present moment, regardless of what we may or may not have on the schedule for the day.
Instead of planning how to help the man that day, I could have done what I was able to in the moment. After all, his sign did read, "Anything helps." At the very least I could have shared my compassionate smile with him in the moment, rather than plan to offer it at a later time. By following my timing that day, I missed God's timing of serving a fellow child of God while I was in his presence. That was an important reminder that we never know the impact we might make if we simply offer what we can in the moment rather than planning and waiting.