I started using a new gas station recently. My forty-five-minute commute to work offers many choices, so yesterday morning as I leaned against my car I wondered, why do I stop at this one so often? If the tank is less than half full and the price is less than $3 a gallon, I stop. That’s my system.
The air smelled fresh for a gas station. For the first time I noticed a stand of trees bending in the wind at the edge of the lot. Trees are one of the signals God uses to remind me to practice another task I systematize—found moments. A found moment is an unplanned time to stop and notice where God has me, what he is doing here, and how I can more fully enter in with him.
A few years ago, I was learning how to manage anxiety by meditating. Developing self-awareness helped me shift the focus in my day when hurry, worry, and the pressure to multi-task or over-schedule were likely to set in. A few challenging moments for me were stop lights, lines at the grocery store, and the time it takes to gas up the car.
Through practice, I’ve learned to use those very moments as markers to look for God’s presence. I’ve added “found moments” to the spiritual practices I pursue, and they have become as important to my spiritual health and connection with God as planned times of prayer, silence, or reading Scripture. The difference is that I don’t put them on my schedule—I let the Holy Spirit remind me to find the time throughout my day.
Now found moments come when I am stopped at a red light or standing in line somewhere. I used to be tempted to grab my phone and check my to-do list or scroll through Facebook. Instead, I stop and notice where God is present around me. I often see trees I never realized were there or notice the haphazard beauty of the terrazzo floor at the post office. I am nudged into worship by the pervasiveness of life and beauty, evidence of God’s creativity whether in nature or shared through human hands.
Sometimes I find brokenness, such as a man walking between waiting cars at an intersection asking for money. And then I turn my mind to all that is yet to be done to fulfill God’s promised kingdom of justice, peace, and fellowship with him.
Today I meditated on a weed-choked island surrounding a traffic light. Half-dead grasses were bent by the back-draft from speeding trucks. In my own life storms have blown over me and left me dry, so this moment led me to a lament—God, how can I thrive where I’m planted when I feel squeezed from all sides? I cried out for mercy.
I’ve learned to leave extra time in my commute so I can live into these found moments. I’m no longer tempted to speed through yellow lights or answer a quick text while I wait. Instead, I breathe. I pray. I listen. It’s often during these moments that God reminds me of his care for me.
On days when I struggle to catch a breath, practicing found moments on the elevator or in line at the store helps me capture a few seconds with the God of the universe. What task could be too big? What sorrow too deep? What disappointment too real? God is always enough, even when I am not.
That’s how it was yesterday when I paused to fill my tank. It occurred to me that the station didn’t have any loudspeakers or TV monitors babbling about the day’s weather, the latest celebrity breakup, or political fiasco. Suddenly I saw it: that’s why I choose that gas station. I know I won’t be disturbed there, and that in the quiet space of filling my car I will be found by God.