The email settled it. I finally knew my destination for the next day. But there was one catch: I had no idea where in that country I’d spend the night!
“Thank You for this opportunity to trust You,” I prayed the prayer which had become a recurring refrain throughout my trip, “Please help.”
In only 10 days, I’d need to be in London to catch my flight bound for Canada. But until then, my itinerary (or lack thereof) remained entirely flexible– a blank canvas, ready to be painted.
…Or maybe, a blank military document suggesting no strategy for an imminent battle.
On the one hand, I knew I could stay in Holland. But on the other hand, I dreamed, wouldn’t it be amazing to find campus Christians in Belgium and maybe even France?
Not that I had personal contacts in either place. Still, I’d written to a few different organizations in Belgium, to see about visiting. When a campus ministry leader emailed me back, I booked a bus ticket to leave for Belgium the very next day.
“If you happen to know of somewhere that I could roll out a sleeping bag for a couple of nights,” I wrote back to the ministry leader, “I’d be most obliged. But otherwise, I can keep checking around or book a hostel no problem.”
That night, I made a deal with God.
I’d like to catch the 12:00 bus tomorrow to get to the next station with a little margin. So, if I don’t hear back about a place to stay by 11:30, I’ll book a hostel. Please guide.
I thought back to New Zealand, where a girl had handed me a seashell, saying, “I think God wants me to give this to you. You know how hermit crabs move from one home to the next, and it’s a growth process? I think God has all the next homes lined up for you. It’s a sure thing.”
And sure enough, God had provided places for me to stay all along, even on less than two weeks’—or two days’—notice. So, I could fall asleep that final night in Holland with a sense of peace that God would arrange the right accommodations.
Even if this time, He waits to provide an answer until the last minute.
When morning dawned, I checked my email.
I packed, bought groceries, and checked again.
Okay…random hostel, here we come.
I went ahead and booked a $35 bed in a female dorm. No cancellations. But after I viewed the confirmation email, I saw it: a letter inviting me to stay with the campus ministry leader just for the night, before she left her home the next day.
Her invitation had come exactly five minutes after I booked the hostel.
Seriously, God? Should I really have waited five more minutes before booking? Did I just fail some test of faith?
Heart pounding, I reviewed my booking details.
Why does it say I made two bookings, but paid only one deposit?
Ah, but the booking site had a live chat window. Pummeling the keyboard like my life depended on it, I typed in a query.
“Looks like there was some sort of website glitch when you booked,” a text bubble appeared on my screen in response, “so now you have a blank booking, with no specified room or date. I’ll just refund your deposit.”
“Wait,” I typed back, “so then I’ll have no booking, no lost money, and no cancellation fee?”
“That’s right! Have a nice day. :)”
I’d had a feeling that God might wait until the last minute to provide an answer this time, as the intensity of His “trust exercises” for me had been steadily amping up over the past few months. But this latest saga taught me that sometimes God works at the last minute—and sometimes, He works after the last minute. Either way, His faithfulness remains.
I might have learned that lesson without all the drama and suspense of a race-against-time hostel booking, if I’d looked a little closer into Scripture. The Bible abounds with examples of God intervening after what humans would deem to be “the last minute.”
Think of Abraham and Sarah. At 100 and 90, God’s promise to give them a child came long after what biology would call the “last minute.” Even Abraham and Sarah themselves eventually decided that post-last-minute miracles must need a little extra help from human hands, so they hijacked Hagar for the purpose. But did any of this stop God’s faithfulness?
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego learned the Last Minute Lesson too. Maybe they expected God to deliver them at the last minute, a dramatic rescue just before the soldiers opened the furnace door or pushed the men inside. But no–the door opened, the push came, and the three dissidents plunged into the treacherous flames. Did that stop God’s faithfulness?
And then there was Esther. She exposed a plot to cause a genocide—but only after plans for that genocide had already been sealed under the laws of the Medes and Persians, laws which could never be changed or revoked. The last minute had come and gone with one press of the king’s signet ring. Did that stop God’s faithfulness?
Or how about the New Testament? How about Lazarus? How about the cross? If ever a last minute moment happened in history, it happened at Golgotha. The disciples’ sword did not save Jesus from arrest. When the executioner’s hammer struck the nails, no angelic legions intervened. The mocking mob jeered for Jesus to save Himself if He were really God’s Son. But He didn’t. Bound in grave clothes, buried in a stone tomb, and barred behind a wax seal, His last minute couldn’t have been more final.
But as the resurrection so powerfully proved, not even the most final of last minutes is any match for God. Across every realm of reality, His word is the only real “final.”
The way I watched this truth play out firsthand through something so simple as a hostel hassle kept me grinning the whole way to the bus station. I boarded the Belgium-bound bus with my massive green backpack, excited to see what God had in store next. But little did I know, as I watched the roadside fields, forests and villages go by, the week’s lessons in trust were far from finished.
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