Last week I wrote about finding the exact calm center in the middle of a hurricane—not just literally as my retired Air Force Major Jim Perkins knows well from his days on a weather reconnaissance team—but figuratively as we all face the storms of life.
And the verse I suggested we all need to hang on to is Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”
I don’t know about you, but I tend to be an organized, driven person who tries really hard to get things worked out and doesn’t do as well being still and “just” relaxing in God’s control.
So today I have a really incredible story to share of how God a few years ago drove home this point for me. Please hang in there with me as I share all the details because I believe the ending will amaze you, as it did me.
The story begins in March 2007 when I was teaching Bill Hybels’ book Just Walk Across the Room in one of our adult classes at church. Hybels suggested we contact and thank the person who “walked across the room” and first invited us to faith. I knew I needed to contact Dave Sheldon, a guy at THE Ohio State University who invited my roommate Jackie and me to a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting in January 1972. When he invited us, I wasn’t interested at all in the meeting or in spiritual matters, but said I’d go because I didn’t want my roommate to look “holier” than me (yes, I am a competitive person!).
That night I surrendered leadership of my life to Jesus and have never looked back since. Although Dave and I were friends for a while before I moved away, I’d never really thanked him for taking the small—but crucial—step of inviting me to a deeper faith. Besides, I thought he probably would be excited to hear all God had done in my life in the past three decades since he walked across my apartment room.
So, I came home that Sunday and prayed God would help me find Dave Sheldon and began searching on the Internet for him. The last I knew he was a pastor living in Columbus, Ohio. I searched the OSU alumni directory and on-line Columbus phone books, but no Dave Sheldons. I broadened my search to all of Ohio and called a couple of numbers, but couldn’t find him. I searched church websites, but to no avail. As an ex-reporter I pride myself on being able to locate hard-to-find people, but finally, after a couple of hours I gave up.
Okay, God, I thought you would want me to find Dave Sheldon. I asked You to help me find him. All I wanted to do was thank him and tell him all You’ve done for me. But if You want me to wait until Heaven to thank him, then I guess that’s what I’ll have to do.
End of praying, end of trying. I didn’t think about Psalm 46:10 right then, but I basically ceased striving and acknowledged that God was God and He didn’t have to help me find Dave Sheldon.
Fast-forward nine months to Christmas when my husband, our eldest daughter Danielle and I visited my parents in Ashland, Ohio (about 1¼ hours north of Columbus). There was a movie we wanted to see so we told Danielle to pick a day, pick a theater and pick a time for us to go. She researched our options online and chose an old theater right in town, only to later discover that the movie would be shown upstairs and there was no elevator for my Mom. So, Danielle chose a new time and a new theater in Mansfield, about 30 minutes away. We went out to lunch first that day and afterwards I wanted to go back to our motel to get my buttered popcorn jellybeans for the movie, but Ralph said he didn’t think we’d have time. (Yes, I know it’s “illegal” to sneak them in, but they have so many less calories than real buttered popcorn.)
Amazingly, I didn’t argue with him about going back for them (a small miracle in itself). So we drove to Mansfield, found the new theater—arriving about 40 minutes early! Thankfully, I didn’t whine about the fact we would have had time to get the jellybeans (another miracle). We bought our show tickets and discussed how to kill some time before the movie. My husband’s new GPS told us there was a Wal-mart nearby so we decided to go there and pick up some things my Mom needed. But after the GPS calculated our arrival time, I decided we probably didn’t have time to get everything done. I looked around and noticed a new Bed, Bath & Beyond store and suggested we take my Mom there so she could see the dishes in our youngest daughter’s wedding registry.
With my Mom on my arm, we walked very slowly up the store aisle and looked at Lindsey’s registry items. After about 25 minutes, I said we needed to get back to the theater. I started to take my Mom back down the same aisle because it was the fastest way out, but a little voice in my head said, “Why don’t you relax and take her down another aisle and let her enjoy looking at some different things on the way out?” So we walked to the far side of the store and down the last aisle. Near the end of that aisle, we stopped at a big display of Ohio State paraphernalia (Pennsylvania stores never have such wonderful displays of my alma mater!)
A man standing near the display looked up and said: “Lynn?”
I answered “Yes” and he looked quizzically at my face and said, “You are Lynn, aren’t you?”
Again I said, “Yes” while thinking: I’ve finally been recognized by a complete stranger who read one of my books—this is so cool! (Afterwards my Mother and Danielle both confessed they thought the same thing!)
Then the man said with a big smile: “Dave Sheldon.”
I was speechless as I hugged him for dear life. Finally, I managed to tell him that I had prayed to find him because I wanted to thank him for inviting me to the meeting that changed my life. We talked for a few moments before exchanging email addresses. I learned he is no longer a pastor in Columbus, but lives in Mansfield and was in Bed, Bath & Beyond killing time with his son-in-law while his wife and daughters were at a nearby Target store! I marvel that Dave had last seen me 34 years ago when I was 20 years old, yet still recognized me (I knew it would pay off someday not to change my hairstyle!)
If I initially had found Dave Sheldon on the Internet that day I prayed to find him, I would have been very happy. But God had a much better plan. He somehow, someway managed to put Dave Sheldon and me in the same state, the same city, the same store, the same aisle, at the same display at the exact same moment in time. When I put my head on my pillow that night, the smile refused to disappear from my face. As I said my prayers I was very still and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that He was God.
God hears your prayer, dear friend. I can’t promise how and when He will answer, but you can cease from striving and believe that just like God knew how to lead me to Dave Sheldon, He knows how to work out your circumstances to accomplish His will.
You can be still and know that He is God.
(If today’s music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy and paste this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrPPJCu22ZI )