The Old Disappearing Hitchhiker Trick

Patrick Mead has a story on his blog that relates to our study of "Angels and Demons" on Wednesday nights. An abbreviated version goes like this—

A woman is driving down the highway and sees someone on the side of the road. She has the strong feeling God wants her to pick him up, and she does. She and her rider get into a spiritual conversation, and he finally tells her that God sent him to tell people that the Lord is getting ready to come back. The woman didn’t realize that she was speeding until a cop pulled her. She apologized, telling the cop that she wasn’t paying attention because she was talking to the man, but her rider was gone. She started to insist that there was a man riding with her, but the cop stopped her and said, “You are the 16th person I have pulled over with the exact same story.”

Could God have sent an angel in this way to announce that He is coming back? Well, angels have already announced that, right? (See Acts 1:11). This particular story is a pretty common urban legend that dates back into the 40’s (see Snopes.com for more details). Actually, it is a good idea to check out any story you get in an email at Snopes.com to see if it is a documented urban legend. Let me quote part of what Patrick says in response--

It is WAY to easy to get into a one-up battle with people when it comes to healing stories, stories of miracles, numbers of baptisms, success of missions, etc. I repeat — God doesn’t need the help and it makes outsiders laugh at us. I was in a discussion once where a pastor insisted that he defeated a demon and cast him out of a parishioner while the doctor (who actually treated the person) said that medicine brought the man around to his senses. Minirith and Meier (Christian psychiatrists who run a well known clinic) are famous for saying that demons seem to be allergic to Thorazine; their way of saying that many things pastors say are caused by demons are really caused by biology and can be treated by pharmacology).

I believe in demons, angels, healings, and miracles. I also believe that the curtain between our reality and Reality in the spiritual realm usually stays closed. Consider this as an example: I don’t think Daniel saw God every day even though he prayed to Him three times a day for over 70 years. We have records indicating that God showed up in Daniel’s life — pulled that curtain aside — a handful of times. Stephen, the great martyr, saw the curtain pulled back at the point of his death. Forgive me, but I am suspicious when I hear people speak as if God not only twitches the curtain far more often in their lives than He ever did for Daniel or Paul or Stephen, but has pulled it down and snuggled next to them on the couch.

C.S. Lewis in his book Miracles suggests that a world in which miracles happened regularly would be a world of chaos and magic. God doesn’t send angels to everyone or work miracles in everyone. That didn’t happen in the lives of Bible characters, and we shouldn’t expect it to happen today. On the other hand, God just may be a bit annoyed when we start talking about the things that He can no longer do today. As far as I’m concerned, God can do anything He decides to do. I’m sure He is relieved that I have given Him my permission!