God speaks through a parking lot

Some say that God’s voice always results on us falling on our faces with the force of His glory; that if we doubt it is His voice, we haven’t heard Him. And they have a point–the awesome presence of God is capable of melting us in an instance. I have felt that force.

But I also see examples in the Bible of God coming to people in quieter ways: simple instructions to the prophets, an angel waiting under a tree with a hot meal, a dream at night, a drink at a well.

When I’m feeling shadowed from the sunshine of God’s voice, it does my heart good to remember some of the unusual ways He has spoken to me in the past.

Last week, carefully pulling my SUV into a row of parked vehicles reminded me of a time when God answered my heart-cry with a crowded parking lot.

A few years ago, I was desperately lonely after our move to a new town. I loved the town, but I longed for our old friends and familiar places. I grieved over lost opportunities–saying yes to God had meant dealing death-blows to some very precious and personal dreams. I began daydreaming of going back, of returning to what looked like an easier life.

One Sunday we decided to go back to our former church for the Sunday morning service. We never wanted to burn our bridges with our long-time friends, and tried to keep in touch when we could. Going to church was a good way to meet up with a lot of friends at once.

That misty Sunday morning as we pulled into the church parking lot, I was struck with the sheer quantity of vehicles waiting in rows on the gravel. I had seen it hundreds of times before, but God opened my eyes to it in a new way.

Look at all those vehicles! Rows and rows of them!

This church doesn’t need me, I realized.

The church was bulging with faithful Christians, and they had plenty of people to do what needed to be done in their community. They did not need me.

When I say the church didn’t need me, I don’t mean this in a self-denigrating way. They would welcome me back anytime with open arms and put me to work. They would make me feel valued and wanted. And I would show them the same respect and inclusiveness in return.

But God made it clear to me on that misty morning that He had a different work for me to do. I knew, as we parked in a long sequence of mini-vans, that a tiny church in a tiny town needed me.

And just as much, I needed the people in my new town. I needed them to push me out of my Mennonite mold. I needed them to be friends who would love me and stretch me in ways I hadn’t been loved and stretched before. I needed to freefall out of my solid, predictable support system into a system more diverse and mysterious than before. I needed them and they needed me for a new and glorious display of God’s grace.

When my vision is clouded with perplexities, and my heart is heavy with longing, sometimes God brings clarity in the simplest of ways. The gentlest of teachers, God humbles Himself to speak in terms I can understand. That morning, He opened my eyes to the overflowing parking lot and brought me peace.

The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.

Psalm 29:11 (NIV)

How has God spoken to you in times of turmoil or trouble? How does remembering give you strength for the present?

This week I’m doing something different–I will be posting three articles written by other authors. All three have an important message, and I think you will enjoy their writing.

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