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Testing your faith by hitchhiking

Living in America can be hard on your faith. Life is designed to be comfortable and risk-free here. But the life of faith is, of necessity, uncomfortable. Sometimes God will call us to do faith-stretching exercises that on their surface seem a little crazy. That's how my son, Seth, and his…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Living in America can be hard on your faith. Life is designed to be comfortable and risk-free here. But the life of faith is, of necessity, uncomfortable. Sometimes God will call us to do faith-stretching exercises that on their surface seem a little crazy.

That's how my son, Seth, and his friend Neil, felt when God challenged them to spend a weekend relying on him by hitchhiking. They left with nothing but the clothes on their back in the evening, the inspiration of Matthew 10 ringing in their ears. After getting picked up and dropped off a few times and decided to find a place to sleep.

They spent the night in the cab of a truck that had been left on the side of the road and woke up cold. Eventually, they were picked up by a physical therapist named Tom. Tom offered to take them the rest of the way to Ashville if they would come to his house in South Carolina and do some yardwork first.

Not having any better prospects, they said yes. Neil describes the experience as follows:

From neilbruinsma.theworldrace.orgArriving at his house on Lake Hartwell, we were relieved to find it quite beautiful, built like a rustic stone German house. Tom introduced his German wife, Margret, who seemed pleasant and warm.  It didn't seem to surprise her that Tom had picked up some strangers.

Tom said that he would get us a room at his favorite hotel in downtown Asheville.
It sounded almost too good to be true.  After all, we had only met Tom a little over an hour ago.  He seemed genuine enough so we thanked him and let the possibility of sleeping in a hotel take root in our mind. 

Then, it hit me. The moment.  Our story was forming. God was providing.  Joy was beginning to spill over in my spirit.
From neilbruinsma.theworldrace.orgBefore heading to Ashville we all swam in the lake with some extra suits from Tom.  The sun danced on the water as my spirit did a jig. What a nice way to spend a Saturday –a little bit of yard work, swimming, and staying in downtown Asheville.  Maybe I should do this more often. 
In the car ride up we exchanged conversation on all sorts of topics: economy, travel, politics, religion, and our stories.  I discovered that long ago Tom had been groomed to become a Lutheran minister.  He studied Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and many other religious manuscripts.  At some point, he became disenchanted with the church.  He experienced religion that took over relationship and bureaucracy that stepped over felt needs.
Tom was true to his word and got us a room at the Downtown Inn.  At the front desk with red dirt on my shirt and no luggage, I felt like a homeless impostor pretending to be in the right place.   
Tom expressed how much Seth and I were an inspiration and encouragement to him and how blessed he felt to meet us.  It was mutual.  Tom is a very genuine, caring person – like a grandfather.  We felt respected, cared for, and blessed by his life.

In the hotel room, praises of thanksgiving poured off our lips. A clean shower, air-conditioning and big soft bed rehabilitated my body and exhaustion.  

Eventually, after 14 separate rides, Neil and Seth made it to their destination and from there, returned home. They achieved their objective of trusting God in radical ways. They learned that sometimes all he needs is a weekend to re-establish a relationship where we depend fully on him.

When was the last time you really trusted God in a radical way? Consider the possibility that he may be wanting you to do something challenging like Neil and Seth did just to demonstrate that he is trustworthy. It's not as crazy as it seems.

Comments (6)

  • Since I did hitchkike from Florida to Seattle and many places in between seems fair for me to weigh in. 1978 just graduated high school a non believer but truly searching for meaning in life. Seems the young men here in Seth’s post wanted to a faith building experience and it worked.
    Even as a non believer at the time seeing the best and worst in people changed my life even to this day! Still on the road actually driving a 18 wheeler after the economy nosed dived and along with it my life long buisness in construction and real estate. So yes unsure travel plans are extremely dangerous and incredibly rewarding…. Holy Spirit is our helper for every decision along the journey.

  • Tommy,

    I remember that horrible story of yours. I must admit, I was not a big fan of this hitchhiking plan. And for all my efforts to encourage others to hear God’s voice, it’s not a sure thing every time. I wish it were easier. But we need to depend on God and need to take risks to do so.

  • Interesting. I have no idea how I feel about this post though. 🙂 Its fascinating … could really be awesome and it was…or it could maybe just not work out how everyone would hope. I think what I would have to determine before I attempted something like that is that I would first have to know that God was asking me to do it and then consider the cost and then I would need to determine that if I died a painful death on the way it would be okay. Like when you go out to an unreached tribe… you are hoping you will give them new life and knowledge of Christ but maybe you will become dinner but you do it because you want to live radically and not be afraid…put yourself in God’s hands.
    Well, glad it worked out and obviously if they felt called to do it then they were prepared for anything.

  • Seth, As you know, I enjoy reading your blog posts, and am usually inspired and sometimes personally challenged by them. But I feel I should be honest here, and say that this one troubled me just a bit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful story, and I am so glad they had this great experience and inspiring encounter. But you asked the question: “when was the last time you radically trusted God?” Although I have trusted him with big things, my last “radical” time was picking up a hitch hiker when I was 18 years old. I truly thought I was listening to the voice of God, and my intentions were to be a witness for Christ. Well, that didn’t turn out well, and I nearly lost my life. I guess I now have a knee-jerk reaction to any story involving cars and hitch hikers. As one who had a strong faith, and trusted God with radical things, I was not aware of the level of depravity of human beings out there, and of our (my) vulnerability. I often talk to young people about the reality of the dangers that exist. Although I came through that successfully by the grace of God, I have never really been able to answer the ultimate question of why my faith was tested like that. Definitely not a pleaseant experience. When you say: “It may not be that crazy… I guess I’m just a little more cautious in what I decide to do myself, and definitely with what I recommend to others. But I hope my experience didn’t limit or dull my faith dramatically.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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