Recently my youngest son and I were in the grocery store checkout line with one last item I needed to complete a meal for our daughter’s and granddaughter’s homecoming from the hospital. My husband and dog waited in the car. This was supposed to be a quick visit. After all, I needed just one item. Achieve and leave: That’s my motto.
We were only second in line, and we were well on our way to meeting our goal – until I saw a familiar face two people behind us in the checkout line. That’s when my son began to pretend he wasn’t really with me.
Before I tell the rest of the story, please grant me some immunity here. I can’t be the only person in the world who gets thrown off by seeing someone out of context. I just can’t. And I can’t be the only one who can’t rest until I’ve resolved the connection.
It was driving me absolutely crazy, the sight of this very familiar yet unfamiliar man. I knew his face, but more important, I could hear his voice in my head. In fact, I knew we had talked extensively. Where? Under what circumstances? A former reporter, I had to know.
“Sir, I know you,” I said, pressing my way down the line for a moment. “Do you work at the university?” I asked, referring to a nearby university where I once was on staff as a writer. My son practically crawled under the adjacent cash register.
He looked at me curiously. You can only imagine. “No,” he said. “Do you work there?” The voice was exactly as I had heard it in my head. I knew that I knew him, but the lack of knowing was driving me mad.
“I did,” I said as I pushed my way back to the PIN pad so the cashier could complete my transaction. But I couldn’t let it rest. I entered my PIN, and I went back to the man. Everyone was looking at me, or so my cringing son said. I was oblivious. I was on a mission.
Did he ever attend this church, or maybe it was that church? I wondered. He remained polite, though I don’t doubt I was testing his patience. “No,” he said. Then it hit me. “You’re a doctor!” I exclaimed rather loudly. (Insert awkward pause here.) “You’re Dr. Wheatley!”
Obviously relieved, he smiled, hoping then I would finally leave him alone. “Yes, that’s right. Are you a patient?”
I then remembered, with much embarrassment, that he had treated me multiple times: severe allergic reactions, the flu, bronchitis, an ear infection, sinus infections, even pneumonia. I had taken my sons to see him multiple times. He had even recently sent my husband to the hospital after treating him multiple times. The list went on and on. In a flood, all those encounters came back to mind.
Perhaps I struggled with placing his face because, in those critical junctures, I had been more focused on what he said than what he looked like. The face was vaguely familiar; the voice was telltale. The voice had conveyed important information to us: diagnoses, prognoses, treatment plans. Many times had I heeded his voice.
So it is with the Lord. We come to recognize God’s voice through knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord and through continued exposure to Him. That happens through a regular – daily is preferable – time of Bible reading and prayer. That happens through setting aside all else to spend time contemplating God’s word and seeking His face.
Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Then in the next verse, we find the value of following Him: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” Most of us would be wise enough to follow someone who could not only make but could fulfill that kind of promise.
But many times that voice falls on deaf ears. God gently, sweetly calls you to surrender your life to Him, but you resist. To you, surrendering to Christ may imply weakness. It may mean abandoning a well-worn way of life. It may mean being spurned by people we love. But eventually the voice fades away as we pull farther and farther out of its range until we no longer hear it. That’s a scary day.
I listened to Dr. Wheatley – whose face, by the way, I never again will forget – because his words meant life, whether sustained or improved. But someday this life will fade regardless of medical intervention, and I will begin my journey into eternity, where there are only two forwarding addresses. Fortunately, Jesus has given me directions. I won’t need a Google map because He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).
Can I recommend something? “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7). If you don’t know Jesus, today may be your last opportunity to trust Him. If you know Jesus, today is a good time to start getting to know Him better. Take Him at His word.