Sometimes in the middle of the desert, a spring of hope bursts forth.
As I reflect on the past summer, one of my most memorable encounters happened in the Arizona desert. I was a passenger on a transport van making my way to the Mesa airport. In addition to driving through miles of parched land that afternoon, I was feeling a bit dehydrated in spirit, too.
It was in the midst of those feelings that Ed showed up. He was the middle-aged SuperShuttle driver I hired to take me back to the airport. Vacation was over, and it was time to return to reality.
It was a van meant to accommodate a crowd, but on that day, I was the only one signed up to make the afternoon trip.
We didn't actually talk all that much during the 50-minute drive. There was a bit of chitchat at the beginning of the trip. He was quite sarcastic, which endeared me to him immediately.
"You're a really good driver," I said, noticing the way he navigated through the heavy traffic.
"Yeah. Thanks. I just hold onto this wheel here … seems to work out pretty well," he said with a grin. Ed had a bushy mustache and thick gray hair. His face was that of a man who had spent the majority of his life smiling.
I looked out the window, trying to absorb the beauty of the landscape. Then I noticed Ed was singing along to the music. He knew every single word.
I noticed the stack of CDs he kept in the front passenger seat. The one on top was labeled with the artist's name: Matt West.
"Good song," I said.
"It's really good," he affirmed. Then he cranked the volume up. Way up. And sang along even more loudly. Like he believed he was right on stage with Matt West. Ed played air drums, too. He loved the music so much that his joyfulness filled up the whole van.
I wasn't familiar with the music of Matt West before that day. I noticed right away that every song seemed to have a good story and message. A lot of them were about God's love and finding purpose in life.
Suddenly gratitude tears were streaming down my cheeks. Was it the music? Or Ed's passionate singing? I'm not sure. Between a couple of songs, he paused to say, "You can check out his website and learn about all the songs. You can hear about how he writes them and where he finds his inspiration."
Sniffling, I said, "That sounds really nice. I'll do that."
There's a verse in the Bible (Hebrews 13:2), "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it."
I'm not sure if Ed was an angel. He may well have been Jesus. He was certainly something extraordinary, and it was an encounter I'll always hold close to my heart.
Sometimes in the dry, desert times of our lives, surprises happen. Rainstorms come and bring waters of renewal. Ed's singing provided a large and lasting dose of nourishment to my soul that afternoon.
God finds ways, large and small, to remind us that we are never alone. Hope flows ever onward, and every now and then, we get opportunities to drink straight from the stream.
The Lady Pastor is a weekly column by Emily Carson, a Lutheran pastor in Stewartville. Visit her blog at: theladypastor.com.