In my January 2012 class at Payne Theological Seminary I rented a car to drive from Monroe to the Dayton area. It was a black Ford Fusion - I loved driving this car!
When I pulled into the seminary I was pleased to see all the cars in he parking lot. There were 27 M.Div. students in my Spiritual Formation class. I was looking forward to meeting and being with them for four days.
It was hard to find a parking space. I saw a slot between a car and the building wall. I did not see a metal grate covering a 5-foot hole. As the left wheel of the Fusion drove over the grate I felt something shift beneath me. When I got out of the car I saw that the grate had moved. Things now looked like this:
See the upper right corner of the grate? It's hanging by an inch or less. Had it moved just an inch more a bad thing would have happened. I breathed relief. I felt I had been rescued!
I've been rescued many times by God. I am certain more rescues have occurred than I know of. Here's one I am aware of.
This is my 24th year at Redeemer. I am so thankful to be here! But my first year was a challenge. I was a newcomer-pastor, and there were people who were not immediately accepting of me. One Sunday morning, in my first month, a man came up to me at the service's end. He was openly crying as he embraced me. With heartfelt sincerity he said, "I don't care what other people are saying about you; I think you are a great pastor!" With eyes wide open I thanked him for this.
Then I had THE DREAM.
I dreamt I was driving a bus filled with people in the Smoky Mountains. The roads were twisty and turning. I was having trouble steering. Finally, the bus came to a cliff that dropped off into nothing. I woke up. This felt like a nightmare!
I didn't tell Linda my dream. She knew I was struggling with some things, and bought a card for me. This card now sits in my office where I see it often. On the cover of the card there are mountains that look like the Smoky Mountains, with a road that twists and turns and finally comes to a cliff that drops off into nothing. Inside the caption reads: "Sometimes the road of life looks like this."
I was stunned. God is trying to tell me something! What was it?
During my prayer times I had been reading Francis Frangipane's The Three Battlegrounds. That afternoon I read Frangipane citing James 4:6 - God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. I stopped reading at that point. It was like God took a highlighter and emphasized it. Surely, I thought, this verse has something to do with my dream.
Later that day I arrived at my sons' school early and went into the empty gym. I circled round and round the gym repeating James 4:6 over and over - God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble; God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble; God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. The thought came to me that I should fast from food until God revealed the meaning of the dream to me.
My fast lasted four days. I was driving to an Elder's meeting at our church building, still fasting, still inquiring of God. Then, from heaven, came Proverbs 16:18 - Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
Then I knew. God was telling me, "John, if you don't get rid of this pride in your heart you will take this church for a fall."
I was glad when the Lord said this to me. I felt joy. I hurried into the Elder's meeting and said, "I need to tell you something." I told them of the dream, the card from Linda, the quote from Frangipane, James 4:6, the call to fast, and the revelation. I told them my conclusion: "God has told me that if I don't get rid of pride in my heart I will take our church for a fall." None of the Elders disagreed with me about this.
This was a great rescue! By an inch, I think. Not only for me, but for the people I have since come to deeply love.