My husband and I and another couple went to see the grand finale of fall foliage on Sunday afternoon and were heading back home at dusk, the time of day when deer are wont to dart in the path of traffic. We made a wrong turn onto a back road and soon came upon a fresh accident, a car in the woody bank lying the way no car should lie, perpendicular to the earth and full of humanity. My friend screamed and we pulled over about 30 yards beyond the scene, and her husband, a former nurse, got out of the car with my husband and went to help, just as the first police car arrived.
My friend confessed she had been annoyed with her husband much of the day, and now was shaken sober from her petty complaint. I confessed a similar experience. We were suddenly seized by fear of the Lord and we began to pray for the occupants of the up-ended vehicle, being mindful of Moses’ hands propped up in prayer while his men fought the Amalekites (Exodus 17:11). We had plenty of time to do it, too, our husbands being away for nearly an hour, hers directing the EMTs as he attended to the driver, a teenaged Salvadoran with his leg pinned under the steering wheel and bent the wrong way.
As it happens in God’s universe, in church that morning the pastor had cited a verse that arrested my attention:
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7).
“Self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers”?How I wished, at that moment in the car doing “prayer support” with my friend, that I had been more “self-controlled and sober-minded” earlier in the day. My friend wished it, too. For the sweet savor of petitions in God’s nostrils has much to do with how we live. God says to men about their marriages, for example:
“… live with your wives in an understanding way … so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
The “self-controlled” mind is the mind that does not allow itself to idly entertain petty grievances all day long, but exercises control to bring every meditation captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). The “sober-minded” person is constantly aware of how brief life is, and therefore is loath to get bogged down in trifles and fleeting complaints.
This was a wake-up call for me, one of many. The wise man responds but the fool forgets in a week. Blessed is the one who will be ready for the trying days in America farther down the road.