“I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” (Ezekiel 22:30 NIV)
The last thing I ever wanted was for my new bride to watch me go up in flames, a split-second before the massive fireball would consume her, too.
We were at a gas station near our home. I was fueling up our car when I began to hear a trickling sound, like that from one of those cute little water fountains you see next to a moss-encrusted garden gnome and a faded pink plastic flamingo propped up against a warped trellis.
I turned to see a car fueling up at the next service aisle. The gas nozzle was propped into the tank with the trigger locked in pump mode, and the tank was full: gasoline was gushing out onto the pavement, sending the most frightening puddle ever creeping in our direction.
The car’s driver was nowhere to be seen. There were no other cars at the station save for ours. None of the gas station employees were outside.
There was no one else around.
Meanwhile, this flammable liquid was coating the distance between that car and the one my wife was sitting inside.
I knew what I had to do.
I hustled over to the other car as quickly but cautiously as I could, tiptoeing across the puddle of gasoline, worried that any friction or static could trigger a Michael Bay (no relation) scale explosion.
I made it to the gushing gas pump and released the trigger, stopping the flow. As I made a hasty but careful retreat, the car’s driver stepped out of the vehicle.
It was a young woman, who apparently had been tending to her baby inside the car. After a quick glance about, she thanked me for what I had done.
What might have happened if I wasn’t there? Or, what might have happened if I were there, but was too afraid to step up and do something about it?
God spoke to me through this experience: there may be times when we’re called to stand in the gap, to act or pray on behalf of someone else, because there’s no one else around to do so. Maybe God places us in situations because there’s no one else around– or no one else willing to act.
Sometimes, I wonder if my calling as a servant of Jesus is to stand in the gap, to go wherever God sends me and do whatever needs to be done. I saw this when my family was called to Japan but not given a vision for what to do there, other than to make ourselves available to a community recovering from the devastation of a natural disaster. And I see it today as I live and work in Santa Ana, a city that God placed on our hearts to go to after our time in Japan.
Sometimes, standing in the gap could mean placing yourself in uncomfortable, or even unpleasant, circumstances. To follow Jesus is to follow the way of the cross, a step-by-step journey towards death and resurrection. This death isn’t always literal– we are supposed to die to ourselves daily, stripping away our old bad habits to become more like Jesus– but sometimes, it can be: there might be times when we face the actual possibility of death, and our best choice is to trust God and surrender ourselves fully to Him.
I honestly thought I could die at the gas station that day. I didn’t want to, but if I hadn’t taken any action, I could have died anyway, along with my wife, the driver of the other car, and the infant she had inside. “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33).
(Okay, so maybe I’m over-dramatizing the situation, as I have no real clue as to what could spark an explosion at a gas station. But my fear at the time was real and I had to overcome it to do what needed to be done.)
Standing in the gap could mean advocating for someone else, being a voice for the voiceless, or praying for those who need prayer, even if they don’t realize it. I didn’t decide to follow Jesus until I was in my thirties, and looking back, I’m convinced that some people had been praying for my salvation throughout my first three decades, even if I didn’t want any part of the Christian life. I’m grateful that they stood in the gap for me.
Whom is God placing on your heart to stand in the gap for?
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)
Stephen Bay is Newsong Children’s Pastor. You can check out more of his writing at www.ransomedlife.com.