The Voice of God
I slammed on the brakes and involuntarily gripped the wheel as my body strained against the seat belt. A truck sped by within a inch of my car, going at least ninety.
Two weeks before, when John and Randy walked into my office, I could smell change in the air. Their well scrubbed faces seemed a bit grim, and a look of determination emanated from John’s stern eyes. Between them, they had known the LORD for more than forty years, and when I heard they wanted to talk with me about something important, I suspected my life was about to take a sudden turn.
I had been a communist and itinerant hippie for six years before coming to know the LORD, and was pretty sure that God had led me to spend my time ministering to inner city children. While frustrating at times, I enjoyed youth work immensely and had an opportunity to become involved in the lives of dozens of addicted and abused teenagers and their families.
Sitting down in front of my desk, John spoke first.
“Karl, Randy and I have been talking and, after a lot of prayer, we felt like we should get with you about your work in the inner city.”
I looked at John, and his eyes met mine straight on. I knew he was serious.
“It’s really great what you are doing with the kids, but we believe the Lord would have you get some experience in the real world.”
I wasn’t sure what exactly was unreal about kids on drugs, mothers who were prostitutes and high school seniors who couldn’t read. I did understand that two members of my church, accomplished businessmen, had just taken me aside and advised me that God had spoken directly to them concerning my future.
“We think it’s God’s will for you to make a radical change; get out of ministry and not-for-profit ventures altogether, and start a real business.”
I thought it would have been nice if God had spoken to me first about my career, but I knew that my years of drug abuse and involvement in the occult had made it difficult to hear the voice of God. I depended heavily on the direction of other, more mature, brothers.
I looked at John as he went on, telling me about how the scripture says God will lead His people “in a path they know not.” After pondering whether I was really open to doing something different, I decided that while I had no idea what God really wanted, he couldn’t “lead me by a path I knew not” unless I was willing to go someplace I had never been before. Within a week, I decided to seriously consider giving up counseling, witnessing and leading adventure-challenge groups, to take a genuine stab at starting my own business. I hoped I had heard the voice of God.
I wasn’t really sure what kind of business I could start, having been critical, for so long, of anyone who seemed even remotely motivated by making a profit. After a few weeks of imaginative thought, I fell upon the idea of constructing small, 12 by 24 foot log cabins for single parents with one child. I had a vision of quickly throwing up adorable cabins on empty farmland; cozy low-cost homes for the poor. A nice loft and a small room for the kid, with a fireplace and a snug but functional kitchen. Just like Little House On The Prairie.
My wife had a few other thoughts.
“Are you kidding? Anyone who has ever met you knows you can’t hammer a nail, or even measure a board. You don’t know how to use an electric screwdriver! You’re mechanically challenged.”
As I imagined myself in the log home business, however, such minor inconveniences didn’t seem that important.
I had a friend, Don Williams, in the flooring business. He was a straight shooter who stood for no foolishness. Despite my wife’s misgivings, I thought I would run the log cabin idea past him.
Don met me at the door. Every detail of his home spelled order and focus. No toys littered the yard, in which it seemed every blade of grass stood at attention in perfect unison. As I went inside, I noticed there wasn’t a single item out of place. Every pillow lay in perfect position on the couch, and as I sat down, I tried not to disturb their exacting symmetry. I realized, to my horror, that I was the only thing in Don’s house that was disheveled and out of order.
After rambling on about my vision for the future, and how important it was to provide my fantasy cabins to the poor, I rested my case, asked for his advice, and sat back. I thought I saw Don’s eyes twinkle and the corners of his mouth slightly rise as he began to speak.
“Well,” he began, “I’m not a general contractor. I pretty much stick to floors.”
Then Don looked down at the carpet and his brow wrinkled. There was a long pause, and it seemed as if he was listening intently to something that I couldn’t hear. Looking up, he energetically began…
“I do know a Christian man, Allen Smith, who builds homes as a part of his ministry. He’s building a small community on the east side of town, off Shadeland Avenue. He builds starter homes for young couples and, sometimes, the Lord will tell him to give a family their down payment for one of his homes. He’s a good brother. I think it would be wise for you to talk with him about your plan.”
More silence. After a few awkward moments, I thanked Don for his time, a bit discouraged. I wrote down Allen Smith’s contact information and stood up, trying not to disturb the carefully positioned cushions. I returned to my car, deep in thought, leaving Don’s house as picture perfect as I found it.
When I found Allen Smith’s subdivision, the small, bright white Leave-It-To-Beaver homes seemed flawless. Allen was quietly waiting for me in one of the model homes. Anchored in a ruby-red wing-backed chair, his neat sweater vest, crisp look and starched shirt made him appear to be one of the many furniture props that filled the showcase home.
“Brother Karl,” Allen began. His instant familiarity made me a bit uncomfortable. “Don told me a little bit about your vision and your desire to get into the construction business. I’ve known Don for a long time. He’s a good man. I’d be glad to help you any way that I can.”
As Allen smiled from ear to ear, he seemed even more like a stage prop than when I first walked in.
“Well,” I began, “I think the LORD’s telling me to start a business. I have no idea what I’m doing.” Stating the obvious, I offered, “I’ve never run a business in my life.”
I proceeded to tell Allen the whole story, and rambled on as he sat in the leather chair, smiling from ear to ear the entire time, never taking his eyes off me.
After I finished, we sat in silence for a full minute, his enormous smile never leaving his lips. I was beginning to think he was rather odd. Allen broke the silence with a number of inexplicable comments about “end times” and how we are all knit together into “one Body of Christ.” None of it had any application to what I had been talking about.
“He’s some kind of religious nut,” I told myself. “What a waste of time.”
For the first time, Allen shifted in his chair.
“Well, brother Karl, I don’t think this is the right business concept for you. The Lord certainly called you to start a business, but this one’s not it. It might be a while before you find the right one, but the Lord told me He called you to start a business, and its going to be very successful. You’re going to make a lot of money and help a lot of people.”
I could feel my hopes deflating like a leaking helium balloon. “A total waste, a total waste of time. This guy’s a religious nut. I’m gonna just do what I’m good at.” I felt foolish, awkward and stupid. In that instant, I saw how ridiculous the whole thing was. I had gone around making a fool of myself. I had never heard from the Lord, just two uptight businessmen who wanted everyone to do what they did for a living.
“But, so that you know that this whole thing is from the Lord, and that you are going to start a highly successful business…” Allen’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “When you leave here you are going to nearly get killed in a car accident.”
My mind snapped to attention. Before I could say a word, he continued.
“But an angel is going to warn you and you’ll avoid the accident. This is how you’ll know what I am telling you is from the Lord.”
I looked at Allen. I really didn’t know what to say. He was obviously crazy. Thanking him for his time, I gathered my notes, went to my car, and headed home.
When I approached the on-ramps for the interstate, I pulled into the wrong turn lane. Anxious to get home, I pulled back into traffic.
“STOP!!!” A voice screamed in my ear.
A panel truck whirled by, rocketing through traffic, an inch from my car, as I slammed on my brakes. I fell back in my seat, heart racing, and watched as the speeding truck disappeared into the busy Avenue traffic. I told myself, again and again, “This is exactly what Allen said was going to happen!”
I slowly crept back out into the thoroughfare and headed home. I knew that I had heard the voice of an angel. What I didn’t know was that four years later I would start an intellectual property firm and become hilariously wealthy. I had discovered that God speaks to those who are willing to listen.