Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Disembodied Voice in the Car

Last week.
My living room.
Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

I am watching the live Internet broadcast of “Celebration,” the Wednesday night service at Quest Community Church. We have a neat little gadget that allows Web users to chat. You can choose any name and type in your thoughts as the service progresses.

And that’s when “Wondering” shows up.

“What is this?” he asks.

“Hi Wondering,” I type. “What are you wondering? Ha ha!”

“I am wondering what this is,” he answers.

Wondering explains that he was passing through town and overheard some people talking about Quest. So he logged in to see the service for himself. Others in the chat room begin to ask him questions – Where is he from? Has he been to church before? What would he like to know?

I click on his name and pull him into a private chat room. “Hi!” I type. “Would you like to talk and ask me questions here?”

He answers yes. For the next hour or so, Wondering and I chat. We start out by talking about what he’s cooking for supper, and I offer him a recipe for baked Parmesan chicken. Then we exchange thoughts on the existence of God, the story of Jesus and Wondering’s doubts. Two others also are chatting with Wondering in private chat rooms. He clicks back and forth between us, firing one question after another.

I ask Wondering if he’d like to pray to get to know Jesus. He says he doesn’t know. He doesn’t even know if he believes any of this. So I ask, “Would you like me to type in a prayer for you, just to ask God to make Himself known to you?”

“Sure,” Wondering replies.

And so, right there on the Internet, from my isolated cabin in the woods of Kentucky, I pray with Wondering via the World Wide Web. Afterwards, Wondering tells me that he is leaving for Maine. He is on a cross-country trip and will not be staying locally much longer. He might log in again, though. He takes down my email address and also receives some links to sermons from our lead pastor Pete Hise via another chatterer named Amy.

Then we bid goodbye.

Every day during the next week, I say a prayer for Wondering. I ask God to come alongside him and to make Himself known to Wondering. I ask other people to pray, too.

But I wonder if I’ll ever hear from Wondering again.

Last night.
My living room.
Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

It’s time again for Quest’s weekly Celebration service. I hop online to watch and chat. I’ve had a difficult week, first nursing Neil through a stomach virus, then catching the virus myself. On top of that, I’m battling a separate infection that requires an antibiotic.

I feel like a useless individual. I have been relegated to my home due to sheer weakness and illness. Throughout the week, I have kicked myself, telling myself things like, “God can’t use you. You’re always sick. You live too far away to help anybody. You can only be a mom. You’re not even well enough to drive into Lexington and volunteer. You’re pathetic.”

Things like that. I’m really good at beating myself up, can you tell?

As I begin to chatter in the Quest online forum, suddenly an anonymous user clicks my name and pulls me into a chat room.

“Hi,” he says. “I am Wondering.”

My heart leaps. I ask Wondering where he is and find out that he has arrived in Maine and is chatting with me from a hotel room.

And then I ask how he’s doing with all of his questions.

Here is his story … told from the chat room (most of my comments excluded – I kept interrupting him!):

“As I was driving on Thursday, I started thinking about all the conversations that I had on here. Things just didn’t seem right to me. So, I just said out loud that if God was real, I needed to see Him and left it at that.”

“And did anything happen?” I asked.

“LOL! (laugh out loud) Yeah, sorry. I am still in awe myself. Well, that night, I don’t even know where I was, somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania, I think. It was dark, and I was driving along. I started to see a light ahead of me. I couldn’t explain what it was at first. Then I heard this voice, more audible than the guy talking right now. I pulled over and started to cry.”

“What did the voice say?” I asked.

“I asked who it was. I didn’t see anyone. But I knew there was someone there. I heard the words I had been longing to hear for a long time. All I heard was someone next to me say … ‘I love you my son. Come to Me, and I will give you life.’ I honestly started looking around the car for someone. I didn’t know what to do. So I asked who it was. And there was that same voice saying the same thing. Through my tears, I drove to a gas station. I got out and went in to clean up. People were staring at me, but I didn’t care. As I was coming out, this guy started coming towards me. I was a bit freaked out. He asked me if I was OK, and I told him I was. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a Bible. (He was a Gideon.) He said that I needed to read that. So I found a hotel. I took it out and started reading it. After about 3 hours, I was sitting there amazed at all that had happened. I turned on my computer. So, I didn’t know where to go. I had left all the email addresses I received in the hotel in Lexington. … Then I remembered that Amy, I think her name was, had told me about a message (by Pete Hise at Quest). So I found the message from Easter. I listened. And by the end of that message, I knew that I needed Jesus and that I had just been in a car and Jesus had been there with me. So, that night, I asked Jesus to save me.”

Can I get an Amen?

No, really.

Can I get an Amen?

Isn’t God completely astounding?

I have to tell you something … this little story isn’t just about Wondering. God knew that I needed Wondering in my life. I was at such a point of discouragement about reaching other people about Jesus. And God showed me … none of this is about my own efforts.

It’s all about His power, His grace.

All He asks is that we take a step of faith and say to Him, “Please use me.” After that, if you believe and ask for the opportunities … He will lead people right to you who need to hear about Him.

He’ll even speak to someone in their car in the dead of night on an isolated stretch of highway.

And He’ll bring them into His arms.

He just needs you to be willing to plant the seed.

He’ll do the rest.

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