Installment five in this series on hearing our God speak.
Image: the author (bearded), the big yellow van in this story, and a few volunteers in the Sierra Nevada.
The Holy Spirit of God speaks to us often each day, in a variety of ways for a variety of purposes. Often, people will try to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit when there is a major issue or even a crisis before them. And yes, He is willing to help us in these situations, provide guidance, and lend comfort. Yet most people are not in the habit of listening to the Spirit of God. When they face a big decision or a crisis, it is hard to hear clearly. Hearing our God is a relational skill, just like it is in any intimate relationship. And the Spirit’s speaking is often quiet, designed to draw us nearer to Him.
There is an old Irish saying that captures this issue of learning to hear the Spirit. “Take time for the quiet moments as God whispers and the world is loud.” Listening to our God and having intimate conversations with Him is an area of relationship development that requires investment and practice. We deepen our intimacy with our God when we “lean in” to His Spirit regularly. This is also the pathway to growing a deep and abiding love relationship with Him.
Our God desires to speak truth, comfort, revelation and guidance to us according to the needs of the moment. An example of this stands out in my thinking, an event that happened in the early 2000s when I lived in the Sierra Nevada. It was a moment when our God spoke so clearly that lives were saved.
My life at that time revolved around doing evangelistic work among middle school and high school students in a sparsely-populated mountain area. As part of that work, I coached volleyball, volunteered in community events, and used my guiding skills in both climbing and wilderness exploration activities with students. At that time my work vehicle was a bright yellow 1-ton 4-wheel-drive van. This vehicle, with its 4-inch lift and extended body was perfect for my work. Some of my friends named the van “Saul,” saying that like the ancient Israeli king it stood “head and shoulders above the rest.”
Early one morning I left my cabin in the Sierra to head to the lowlands on business. As I drove the winding road toward the small community of Prather, my mind was on the various projects on my list for the day. I was also in and out of conversation with my God about people and circumstances.
Prather is situated at the “T” junction of two roads heading out of the mountains. Traffic from the county road has a stop sign while the traffic on the state highway does not. The speed limit is unrestricted, but the visibility is good for the stopped traffic as they wait to turn right or left onto the highway. I was traveling through Prather on the state highway and did not have to stop.
As I came over a hill at about 50 MPH about ¼ mile from the intersection, I could see four cars at the stop sign. One of them proceeded in my direction, and the line of stopped cars moved up. As I scanned the scene, a voice from the Spirit spoke so clearly that it startled me. “Slow down. That car will pull out in front of you.” The car in question was a compact vehicle with three high school students in it waiting at the limit line. Immediately I let off the gas and moved my foot over the brake pedal. I made eye contact with the driver of the small car as she looked directly at my vehicle approaching the “T.”
At the point of no recourse, she pulled out directly in front of my vehicle. My speed had dropped to about 40 MPH, but I had no hope of stopping and she was not accelerating fast enough to clear my lane. Fortunately, the vehicle behind her did not move up to the limit line, which gave me a path to steer behind the turning vehicle. With all wheels locked up on the dirty surface, I slid through the empty space behind the limit line and then off the road beyond the intersection. I missed the small vehicle by less than two feet, stopping about 100 feet beyond the intersection.
Had the Lord not warned me or had I not been listening, the accident would have been brutal. I likely would have hit her car directly in the middle at over 40 MPH. My bumper was high enough to be even with her door handles (I measured it when a found the car at the school later that day), and I would have driven partly through the passenger compartment. That warning message allowed me to take enough speed off to maneuver behind her vehicle. I have wondered if the person in the second car also heard a warning to not pull forward to the limit line. His holding back created the only path that would keep me from hitting the small car broadside.
This event is but one of many in which the Spirit of God has spoken to me in a forceful or urgent manner. It is not the only one in which lives were saved or disaster averted. The point for us is this: our God is deeply concerned about our daily events and is seeking to speak to us directly about issues of concern. Fortunately, it is usually not as dramatic as this event, but it is always important to us when He initiates conversation. The key issue for us is simple. Are we in the habit of listening?