“Does this feel like the belly of the whale?” the voice said in my head.
I knew what the voice meant. In the book of the Bible that bears his name, the prophet Jonah is told by God to go tell the people at Nineveh that God knows what bad things they’re doing, and ain’t cool with it. Jonah knows this news will go over about as well as I respond to another price hike at the gas pump, with the added bonus that the people of Nineveh will most likely kill the messenger. So Jonah gets on a boat headed in the opposite direction from where God told him to go. Big storms follow him, the sailors kick him off the boat, and Jonah gets swallowed by a big ol’ fish.
I was in my own version of the big ol’ fish.
At that moment, I knew I had to head to my own version of Nineveh. I didn’t know what that was, or what it would look like, but I knew I had to go. I had to leave my job and set out for parts unknown. So I told the voice that. I hoped that, like Jonah when he confessed that he’d been ignoring the voice of God and promised to do what God instructed, I’d be vomited out of the bathroom and could get to go home.
No such luck. My fish would keep me in its chilly white-tiled belly for the rest of the night.
And I was strangely calm about it. After all, I had water, I had plumbing, and my boss would be back at 7 a.m. So I settled in for the night. I braided my hair, I did sit-ups, I sang songs, and at 10 p.m. I pulled the bag of paper towels out of the garbage can and fashioned a pillow for myself. I turned the lights out and tried to sleep.
I must have slept, because in less time than I thought had passed I heard the sounds of the front door unlocking. Freedom was mine, in the form of my boss.
“But how,” I thought as I started to pound on the door again, “am I ever going to explain THIS?”
Pastor and author and mega-church rock star Bill Hybels writes in his book The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond of the experience I had:
I’ve come to believe that hearing the quiet whisper of the transcendent God is one of the most extraordinary privileges in all of life – and potentially the most transforming dynamic in the Christian faith. When people hear from heaven, they are rarely the same again. When the sovereign God chooses to communicate with someone – whether eight, eighteen, or eighty years old – that person’s world is rocked. Without a hint of exaggeration, I can boldly declare that God’s low-volume whispers have saved me from a life of sure boredom and self-destruction. They have redirected my path, rescued me from temptation and re-energized me during some of my deepest moments of despair. They inspire me to live my life at what boaters call “wide-open throttle” – full on.
Or, to quite the Hallmark coffee mug I unearthed from storage last week – “Live boldly. Take risks. Make somebody say, ‘What the hell was THAT all about?!'”
Those words pretty much match the words of the office building’s owner, who freed me from the bathroom by removing the door handle and latch. As I walked by him later that day (after I’d gone home for a shower and a HUGE breakfast) he was repairing the handle. Apparently, the cord that connected the handle to the latch had disconnected, so the handle no longer had any power to pull the latch out of the door frame. I heard him looking at the inner workings of the handle and saying, “I’ve never seen this before – I don’t know how this happened…”
I do, sir – I certainly do.
Since that day on the cold bathroom tile floor, my life hasn’t ever been the same. I did hear the whisper of God, and followed it. With varying degrees of success, I’ve been living boldly, taking risks, making people ask what the hell THAT was all about. 🙂 It’s been an incredible adventure, fraught with fear and uncertainty but under it all – there’s the unshakable belief that God really does have it all in His hands. If He can disconnect the cable in a bathroom doorknob to get my attention, then there’s nothing He can’t do. And if He will go to that level of detail to get the attention of one 20-something woman, He’ll do even more to accomplish His purposes through her in His world. He’s been doing it ever since that day, and I’ve been trying (some times harder than others, I admit) to tune my ear to His whispers so bathroom lock-ups are no longer necessary.
He’s done incredible things with me and through me, and they’re not over yet. With that one night, He rocked my world, shook me up, and forever changed the way I relate to Him and His world around me.
Up next – how I bought my first house for a dollar. ‘Cause only God can do something like that… 🙂