Found Moments: Presence at the Pump

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.

About the Author

Elizabeth Sargis is the project manager for Covenant Communications.

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  1. Indeed, such found moments are everywhere, but actually finding them is not as easy as just looking for them. No, it was ten years ago, in between jobs at the time, that the simple task of just walking around the block for exercise became a shocking enlightenment, seeing so many things that had always been there but seemingly noticing their existence and significance for the very first time. Everything was new and bright and interesting, everything from finally actually being able to really notice colors, details of properties, houses, nature, trees, leaves, animals, even the weather, made the simple walk a continually astounding experience, while it lasted.

    When after four months I got a new job, I tried to do the same thing after work, and much to my surprise, it no longer worked! It was just ‘walking around the block’ again. Time after time, I tried to figure it out, and one day, really just out of the blue as it were, I realized I had been talking with God, and what He showed me was the mystery and beauty around me that I had been ignoring in my busy life. Really!

    And then, I realized that what had happened was that once I actually started talking with God again for real, it put my life back in order, and then once I was back to work, what I thought was the right order for myself was wrong. I could no longer see what I had been able to see with God.

    So I changed how I work, and realized that work was where I was Christ’s ambassador, and my work was no longer separate from God, and it has made all the difference in my home life and work, and for the people I work with.

    And amazingly enough, I can now take those walks, and not always, but every now and again wonder again at God’s beauty in little old Jamestown, NY, and now I have to figure out how to bring the Spirit-filled life I lead at home and work to Church with me as well, a seemingly obvious task that I now believe not to be so obvious at all.

    It’s not a matter of works, or even a matter of somehow quietly being a good example, but I will need to find the way, and without support or acclamation thereby, which shows that God is with us and hears us, and Christ is with us… that Church building, and in our lives, that together with God, we all transcend our circumstances, and we can find, have, and see God reflected in ourselves.

    I’m not quite sure how to accomplish that, but when we do, our Church will be transformed. Until then, we struggle to find intentional unity in diversity and differences, and social, economic, physical hardships, when unity is really something that happens when you finally, like for me between jobs that last time, just let God work in your life instead, and the life of the Church. We intentionally make Church reflect what we people believe about God, when we really just need to let the Holy Spirit, Christ, God work through our Church, and we don’t find unity because its our unity we seek, not Christ’s.

    And yet, Christ is there, faithfully helping us limp along, waiting for us to catch that right Spirit, swirling around us, which we can’t get because we’re so busy, or believe we know what’s really right, as if.

  2. Thank you for this!

    I am adding “found moments” to my spiritual practices. It sounds like a fresh way to “pray continually” (I Thessalonians 5:17), and to practice the presence of God (a la Brother Lawrence).

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