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Appointments with God
A hair-raising ride to the optometrist's office changed this man's life.

In the winter of 1974, two events irrevocably changed my life. The first came about because I had an appointment with an optometrist, the second because I had an appointment with God.

I had extremely poor eyesight and I was in a hurry. I … made a snap decision to pass.

I was managing a small restaurant in the town of Hope, B.C. and had gotten into a heated debate with the "gas jockey" from the gas station next door. Words were exchanged, tempers flared, and then fisticuffs ensued. I broke my glasses.

I felt sheepish about my poor behaviour but poor behaviour had become all too common in my life. Having rejected the God of my childhood, I made every effort to reshape my life into the image of something that would give me purpose and direction for my life. I assumed that church had no answers for me, so I dabbled with new forms of spirituality, tried the party scene and also gave myself to learning business with the hope of making money. My language had become profane, and I frequently suffered from a short temper.

I wish I could say that I was seeking for the Lord, but I clearly was not. I had escaped the trappings of my church and decided I was never going back.

But there was still the matter of my appointment with the optometrist. I needed new glasses. I cursed the gas station jockey, made the appointment and drove to Chilliwack, B.C. In those days, the road between Chilliwack and Hope had only a single lane each way. I had extremely poor eyesight and I was in a hurry. I squinted, trying to see the road ahead, and passing cars as quickly as I could. Ahead of me was a large semi-trailer truck. I always hated large trucks on single lane roads and made a snap decision to pass.

As I took to passing, I realized that I was speeding towards a car in the other lane. It was moving too fast for me to pass the truck. On one side of the road was a steep embankment, on the other, a cliff. I was trapped. There was nowhere to go.

In a state of panic, I slammed on my brakes thinking to get behind the truck, only to realize that the truck was braking as well in an attempt to slow down and let me pass. We were both standing on our brakes in a seemingly vain attempt to avoid a deadly collision. When I was a fraction of a second away from a high-speed head-on collision, I turned my car into the truck and waited for the crash.

To my amazement, I missed the truck. Somehow—and I don't know how—I managed to get behind him, and the oncoming car zoomed by, missing me by inches.

I stopped my car beside the road and listened to the sound of my heart pounding in my ears. My hands were trembling and I felt weak. I gripped the steering wheel, but soon found myself hunched over it, unable to resume my journey. Somehow, I had cheated death, or at the least I had escaped major injuries. I was healthy. I was alive.

In the ensuing weeks I thought much about God. I wondered about life after death, about the possibility of judgment and how I might fare under such circumstances. I had not been looking for God, but now the thought of God was inescapable. For some reason, my appointment with the optometrist had become an appointment with my Creator. I wondered when and under what conditions the next such appointment would come. Would I be ready for it?

Within weeks I had the answer. A godly pastor spoke truth into my life, stripped away my defences and showed me the love of God in Christ. Because of his prompting and because of his prayers, I was ushered into the Kingdom of God.

It is now more than 29 years since I first experienced my redemption. I think of my wife and three children who have never know the hell-bound rebel who deserved only wrath and judgment. They have never encountered the foul-mouthed blasphemer of God, who hated all things connected to the church and was willing to worship idols rather than fall before the living God. Instead, they have only known a man who has received grace and mercy, for I have become God's reclamation project.

Once one is in Christ, life can never be mundane again.

I often marvel at the events that brought me to Christ. Ephesians 1:4–5 says: "For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will." None of the events of that winter were by chance; nothing was haphazard. There was an eternal, well-crafted and powerful plan bearing down upon my life. When I awoke that morning, I was not aware of it. I awoke cursing the gas station attendant, but God gave me life and breath that day so that I might live in accordance with the pleasure of His will.

But 29 years later, I am aware. And I wonder. What plans of God might I encounter today? What annoyances and disturbances in lives around me are orchestrated by God to the pleasure of His will? How might I enlarge the eyes of my heart to see the unstoppable eternal hand of God in action? Once one is in Christ, life can never be mundane again. Each one of us needs to be aware of appointments with God.

John Neufeld is senior pastor of Willingdon Church, Burnaby, B.C.

Originally published in the Mennonite Brethren Herald, October 24, 2003.





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