“What was that like?” I asked.
“It was like being Jonah, it was an overwhelming experience.”

A friend was telling me about hearing God. The difference is when most people say that they are speaking metaphorically. We usually refer to a “hearing” of God when we are having somewhat of a leading not an actual physical experience. Mike had had a very in body experience, not ethereal, but physical. A very clear and powerful directive from God Himself telling him to move to Sacramento. Hearing Mike talk about it some thirty years later I could see it still freaked him out a little, it freaked me out too. Not because I didn’t believe him and thought it strange, but precisely the opposite, because I did believe him and that requires a completely different set of rules to govern your life by.

I have often thought that if God would simply tell me exactly what to do and where to go, I would quite happily walk along content in the knowledge that I was right where I was supposed to be, and perhaps somehow life would be easier. Honestly though, after my conversation with Mike I wasn’t so sure I wanted that anymore. Knowledge comes with a responsibility to take action. Knowing exactly what is expected of you can be frightening, especially when there seems to be no common sense to it.

Mike Roe is an incredible guitar player and songwriter who knew from the time he was a teenager that he wanted to use his music to bring people to God, and now God was telling him to move to Sacramento. Sacramento in the 70’s wasn’t exactly a magnet for great musicians. No one in his right mind would move from San Francisco to Sacramento to jumpstart their musical career. So Mike, using logic and rational, and tinged with a bit of fear, did not move to Sacramento, at least not immediately. Instead he found himself not too much later in the belly of his own whale – a psychiatric hospital in Southern California. God will get us where He wants us to be, by any means necessary.

By the time Mike finally arrived in Sacramento, Warehouse Ministries had been growing for nearly five years. Patterned after Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, “the Warehouse” as it was known, was not only home to legendary Saturday night concerts but soon their studio was pumping out some of the best music on the cutting edge, Christian or otherwise. One of the first albums they released was “Ping Pong Over The Abyss” by the 77’s, a band fronted by Michael Roe.

I honestly don’t know if Mike has fully realized yet how his listening to God has affected so many individuals, I personally know quite a few of them. One of my dearest friends, Van has told me on more than one occasion that the album “Ping Pong over the Abyss” helped him “get through” high school. He listened to it so much he wore out two copies. Last summer I left him a voicemail at midnight while standing at the side of a stage at the Cornerstone Music Festival in Illinois. I couldn’t wait to tell him that I was there watching the 77’s play again. Van called me the next week and said when he listened to that message he almost cried. Like so many of us Mike ended up right where God wanted him, though not before first running away, just as Jonah had.

Which brings me back to Jonah, or rather God brought me back to Jonah a week later. I’ll admit after talking to Mike I thought I should go back and read Jonah again, it’s only four chapters after all, but I’ve seen the Veggie Tales version several times, I know the story, I grew up with it. What else could I possibly learn by reading it again? So I didn’t.

I hadn’t been to my little church for a few weeks, and so I was pleased to see the place overflowing once again on this Sunday night. After worship Tommy invited a young man to come up to give his testimony, something that happens on occasion in our church. He was in his early thirties, and his name was Jonah.

Jonah had one of those stories that I cannot relate to at all but am still awed by. The wounds of his life had left him at a point where he was addicted to drugs and doing everything he could do to get the money to buy them. He had been to church, had felt the need for a change in his life, but drug addiction is a beast and it wouldn’t let him go. Jonah was so broken he felt that he wasn’t worthy of salvation or love.

Fortunately about 10 months ago he was caught with drugs and stolen property and was hauled off to jail. The arresting officer told him she saw something, sensed something in him that was different. He was a good person she thought, he just needed a chance to get past his drug problems. She asked him if there was anything else she needed to know, anything else he needed to come clean on. “No” he told her bluntly. She told him to clean up his life and that she believed he could do it. The next morning waking up in jail, facing five felony charges, God worked a miracle in Jonah’s heart. He knew now, beyond a cerebral knowledge, but a true knowing, that God loved and forgave him. “He put in my heart that He loved me,” Jonah said. “That I didn’t have to hurt myself anymore. And I was able to quit drugs, quit smoking, quit drinking.” He was released on bail five days later.

What Jonah did next is what so amazed me. He went home, stood in his house and looked at an additional four thousand dollars worth of stolen merchandise. He knew what he had to do, God was telling him what he had to do. “Take it to her” God said.

What would you do?

Jonah listened to that voice. “God put it in my heart that I had to take it to the police department and take it all to this woman that I had lied to, who was giving me a chance. I packed up four thousand dollars worth of stolen electronic equipment in my mom’s car. My mind was just screaming, ‘Don’t do this, sell this on the street, get rid of it.’ (But) God was telling me ‘You have to turn this in, face the music for what you have done,’ only then could I move on and get healed.” So Jonah walked back into the police station that night, found the Sergeant who had arrested him, believed in him, trusted him and this time came completely clean. Miraculously, when he left the station, he was facing only the original five felonies. He had done the right thing, finally, and a weight had been lifted.

“Jonah believed he had no character of his own, so God was going to make him do things His way to prove to him he does have character.”
Tommy Green. October 8, 2006

A few weeks later, while driving to a one-day temp job at Home Depot, Jonah asked God to “Let me be a light, an example of what You want a Christian to be.” Several hours later while stacking cinder blocks a woman approached him.

“You’re a Christian aren’t you?” she asked out of the blue.
“Yeah, I am,” he answered – a little stunned at the proclamation.
“You’re just like a light,” she said “Your kindness and everything that your doing; you’re just like a light, I could tell you were a Christian”
Jonah started to cry, “It was like my Holy Father reached out and gave me a hug and encouragement in everything I was trying to do.”

Because Jonah had courageously done the right thing, the sergeant who had sensed in him a depth of character recommended leniency. Five felony counts were reduced to one, and instead of jail time he was given three years probation. I don’t know what the next few years of Jonah’s life will look like, but I know what he will look like, he apparently will look like a man of God.

Tommy returned to the microphone and said that because he’d been talking to Jonah earlier that week he had be inspired to go back and read the book of Jonah and was going to teach about it that night. Apparently God was going to tell me what I needed to hear – one way or another.

When Jonah (the one from the Bible) heard quite clearly the voice of God telling him to go to Nineveh and tell them they were to repent or be destroyed, there were many reasons he didn’t want to go. The main reason however seems to be that Jonah, simply put, hated the Ninevites and did not want them to have the opportunity to be saved. He knew God was merciful and would hear their pleading. At the end of the book he actually is screaming at God, angry as can be, that God had allowed them to repent.

“But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, ‘Oh Lord is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ “ Jonah 4:1-3

I never saw myself as having any similarities with Jonah, until Tommy began to talk that night. He spoke as he often does, of the big picture and our inability as human beings to see it. The fact is God sees things in His eternal light and we are temporal creatures and extremely shortsighted. Tommy went on to say:

“Nineveh centuries later became the capitol of Assyria, the same country that God ordained to come and judge the Israelites. It’s interesting because Jonah didn’t realize his place in history, God sends a dude in there years before we see them become who they are, and who they were was bad. So even in the roots of the nation of Assyria, at one point God had sent someone in there to tell them who God was.

“This is the best part. Jonah doesn’t realize that the things that God does in him over the next forty years could result in impacting lives generations later. Just like Jonah didn’t realize that preaching to the Ninevites and having them switch, he didn’t see that as having anything to do with (Israel) later on. It’s all a part of the plan. Jonah you have no idea who you’re going to effect. But the reality is, because of the message that God puts in our hearts you share that with what God has given you and you let God deal it out. You don’t know, but you could flip the whole destiny of families, and people, and scenes and cultures. If you don’t understand that God has set us here for just a short period of time for a specific reason, you’re going to feel like you don’t have a place.

“You don’t know what God has for you but every one of us has a destiny with God, He’s ordained the days of your life. He knows where you’re supposed to go and how you’re supposed tot get there.”

I knew God was trying to tell me something. It was clear, as it usually is, that something was going on. But I’m human and therefore pretty darn stupid sometimes when it comes to spiritual matters. So I waited, quite impatiently and started looking for Ninevites.

I looked for them everywhere. That is everywhere I would have felt comfortable finding them. I would find myself screaming out loud sometimes, “Just tell me already” when God would put little reminders in my path to go to the Ninevites. Frankly I was beginning to get a little worried; I just wanted to know where I was supposed to go, what I was supposed to do.

It didn’t take very long really, my Ninevites showed up a week later. But I didn’t want what was obvious and right in front of me to be the answer; it was too close, as close as my skin. Surely God wouldn’t put this on my plate, I didn’t have the strength for it and He must know that. It was my soon to be ex-husband. I sat still and prayed that there were Ninevites to be found elsewhere, and I kept looking.

I have never been one that adheres to the idea that God creates pain in our lives, but what I’ve learned over the past few years, the experiences that I’ve had, have shown me that what I want to believe, what I am comfortable with is irrelevant. The character of God is constant and He will do whatever it takes to put us on the right path.

I had been separated for nearly three years and my marriage was over, completely. I considered myself to be divorced; the paperwork simply hadn’t been signed. I had no hopes for any kind of reconciliation, my only hope was to somehow, someday land on soft ground. I longed for a relationship with Dave that would at the very least be civil both ways, for our sake and for the sake of our children. I never got it.

I knew how I should pray, I had known for years, but I was never been able to bring myself to it. I knew I should pray that God would do whatever it would take to get my husbands attention. To soften his heart and break the hold that anger and resentment had on him. Anger and resentment towards me for leaving, towards his mother for dying, towards his father for giving up on life and pouring himself into a bottle.

I was never able to pray that prayer, because I knew in my heart from what I know of the character of God, that He would answer, and the answer would very likely be something that would be a wound to my children. I had actually talked with my father about it two years ago and he said that he would pray it for me. I simply couldn’t do it, I didn’t have the strength, my instinct as a mother was to protect my children. But my mother, someone stronger than me, had been praying as well.

One day at her Wednesday Bible study she shared with her group that she saw Dave as Saul, and she prayed that God would do what He had done to Saul on the road to Damascus – bring him to his knees. The next day, December 14, while riding his motorcycle to work, a car pulled out in front of him. He hit it going thirty miles an hour, flew thirty feet through the air landing on the curb. He shattered his ankle, punctured a lung, broke several ribs, and collapsed both lungs; he nearly died. He was airlifted to USC Medical Center where the next day a CT scan was performed to check for internal injuries, what they found left everyone stunned, Stage IV lung cancer – terminal.

The moment I heard I knew what I had to do. I packed up my kids and when Dave was released from the hospital we moved back into the house I had left three years earlier in tears. I don’t pretend to imply that it was easy, it was in actuality the most difficult thing I had ever done up to that point, even harder than leaving my marriage. But it wasn’t a decision I made, I simply recognized where I had to go and I went.

God had led me to it, He had been preparing me for this moment for years. He had pushed me, shoved me, than cradled me in His arms. I had been allowed to fall, to fail, to suffer. And through it all God had taught me things in ways that gave me the strength to be a woman who could, with compassion, take care of a man who had shown her none for years. But even as strong as I had become, this was still beyond me. It had to be done with complete and utter faith, and the prayers of hundreds of people.

For two months I had been listening to Mike, Jonah and Tommy over and over again in my head. God was speaking to me through them. There was no audible voice as Mike had heard, but a quiet gentle knowing. On one hand going back was a very easy thing to do, because God was allowing me to see a glimpse of that big picture Tommy was talking about. The future generation I would be influencing, that I would be effecting for decades by my action or inaction was my own children. I could look directly into the faces of the boys I had given birth to, whose characters were being formed through this experience, who would soon become men – men of God I hoped. I knew that what God had laid before me, was the opportunity to minister to them, by ministering to their father. I was given the gift to do something that would affect their future, the rest of their lives.

It is remarkable to me how God gives us through grace exactly the tools we need before we ever know we need them. Because of His understanding of who I am, how He created me, He had whispered in my ear for weeks – “Something’s coming”. He placed little things in my path knowing that I would string them together, that I would look for a clear picture from seemingly insignificant, unrelated events. My personality is to find commonality in random moments of my life, then try and chase them down to a singularity, at which point I start looking for the purpose in it. That is the only reason that I had the strength for this. He had prepared the path for me, placed in front of me the tools I would need, led me to them, than let the decision be mine. I simply continued to do, what I have been striving to do for 32 years; hold onto to the hand of God and walk, reluctantly perhaps, where He was telling me to go. It was very much like being Jonah.

Dave died six weeks after being diagnosed. He had the opportunity to say goodbye to his children, to see how many people truly loved and admired him. He was given the gift of knowing that his time here was nearly over. He was able to make sure he made everything right, as right as you can make a life from your deathbed.

I don’t pretend to know why Dave got cancer and died at 48, leaving behind three young boys for me to raise alone, but I know God will use it for glory if we allow Him to. Dave and I were able to lay down most of the baggage we had picked up over 16 years. We were able to show our children that no matter what, they were of the ultimate importance to us both and that God is holding them through it all. I know that in the big picture, the one that I still cannot see clearly, God will use the wounds of my children’s lives. The wounds I was so desperate to protect them from will become scars, that may someday help heal the hearts of others.

I don’t think trapped in our humanity we can truly ever catch even a small glimpse of what is really happening to us. God our father does for us what may seem to be cruel sometimes, He allows us to experience the painful repercussions of a life lived by self-determination. But He also gives us direction along the way. Situations that may appear as roadblocks, which we may interpret as punishment or cruelty I think may be placed there to stop us, to cause us to make a turn sharper than we ever would have without a brick wall suddenly rising up in front of us.

God will use every loss, every hurt, all of our suffering to expose our purpose here. To rip away the veil of fear, the insecurity we cling to. He will draw us out, violently if necessary, to force us to use the gifts He has given us for eternal glory. To see ourselves as He does – worthy. We so often disregard as insignificant our abilities until we are cornered and required to use them as He walks us through the fire.

“A thousand roads, a thousand ways.
Why am I so afraid to move?
I crossed the line, I’m stepping out so come what may
I give it all, ‘cause I’m drawn to You.

As long as my heart is beating….

Where You lead me, I will follow.
Where You lead me, I give my life away.
Where You lead me, I will follow,
Forever and a day”

‘Where You Lead Me’ by Mercy Me.

I have never been able to reconcile the reality of what my marriage was, with the reality that God had, years ago quite clearly told my husband and I both that we would marry each other. He spoke to each of us years apart and in different ways, and we both listened; yet what we made of that marriage seemed to be nothing that was of any use to God. But I know there is purpose in it.

I have always scoffed when people say they have no regrets because every decision they made has brought them to where they are now. But with age and experience I can now understand the sentiment of it. There are things I have done, decisions I have made, that I hope if placed in front of me again would see me making wiser choices. But even through my mistakes, my selfishness, my humanness, God has delivered me right where He wants me to be, here.

Perhaps there was a smoother road I missed which could have gotten me here as well, but I doubt it. I don’t think I would be as useful to God, that I would be strong enough without having gone through that fire. ` As Tommy is fond of saying, “It’s the wounds that make us who we are.” I think he’s right, but I also think it is how we experience the healing of those wounds that reveals the true depth of our character.