The last half of the three hour drive from Memphis to home would be picturesque as I skirted the Ozark National Forest. The pines, the oaks and a dotting of birch here and there as I passed 60 foot cliffs just feet away from the highway. I had just one more town to pass through before I would cross the bridge of the Buffalo River. I had visited the river before and I felt the anticipation of this visit because in the flow of the river I felt a peace that brought me closer to God.
I began picking up speed as I moved pass the third and last stop light in town. Ahead of me and on the right side of the road was a young man carrying a paper grocery bag with his right thumb out as he walked backwards hoping for a ride. “This is great”, I thought. I would have a captive audience as I witnessed for Christ. I pulled over to the side of the road, just in front of the young man, and stopped. I could see in the rear view mirror a smile as he trotted toward my car. He opened the door of the front passenger side and I could see a small bag of charcoal briquettes peeking over the top of the grocery bag.
We started with the usual small talk and I mentioned I was returning home after visiting some Christian friends in Memphis. I wanted to open the door to talk about the Lord but not be brash about it. I had some Christian tracks and booklets in the back seat that could do most of the witnessing for me after we parted ways. He told me he was living on the Buffalo River under a bridge since he was without work at present. I knew where this conversation was going and sure enough just before we reached the Buffalo he said, “Mitch, I hate to do this, but could you spare some money so I can buy some food tomorrow.” I had already steeled my heart because I knew the question was coming. “No, I can’t right now” I said, feeling that this guy was just lazy and didn’t want to work. We continued on with the small talk for only a couple of minutes before we arrived at the bridge that crossed the Buffalo.
The young man exited the car after I stopped just before the bridge. My heartbeat sped up as I knew this was my opportunity to witness for the Lord. I reached in the back seat and picked up a small book called Steps to Christ handing it to him and saying I would like to share this book. “No”, he said, “what I need is food for the belly, not food for thought”.
Conviction pierced my heart so deeply I could only shake my head affirming he was correct. He closed the door and walked down the embankment to the river. I had money I could have given but I made the assumption he was lazy. His words, “What I need is food for the belly, not food for thought” continued to ring in my ears as I drove over the bridge.
I learned a valuable life-lesson that day. I drew closer to the Lord while next to that beautiful river; however, it was not from the physical flow of the Buffalo. The lesson I learned was from the flow of divinely appointed spiritual words, spoken to me by a nameless hitchhiker. Those words, “What I need is food for the belly, not food for thought”, challenged my heart to strive from that day forth, to minister to the whole man. In addition, somewhere in that life-lesson the Father taught me that I must always walk by faith and never by sight. Who knows, I may have been entertaining an angel unaware.
Happy (blessed, fortunate, enviable) is the man who finds skillful and godly Wisdom, and the man who gets understanding drawing it forth from God’s Word and life’s experiences.” Proverbs 3:13 Amplified Bible