Ever since I was a child, the Holy Spirit has been working on me – mostly to get me to learn to hear the voice of revelation, and to respond with faith. I would like to tell you three stories lifted from the pages of my past which illustrate a few of the many times our merciful Savior attempted to teach me.
The first event occurred when I was in my teens on a Boy Scout camp. We were in the Uinta Mountains, and had hiked a long ways up a crumbling shale mountainside. It was hard climbing because for every three steps forward, you slid backward two. When we finally reached the top we found that it was as flat as a tabletop. I suppose the area was several acres in size, and was interspersed with rows of willow bushes. It looked like a randomly planted maze, with big grassy areas cut into sections by these rows of willows. We began running and playing tag. You couldn’t see through the willow rows, but you could run around the end of a row, and disappear from sight. We also found that you could jump through the rows, and land in the next meadow. The effect was almost magical. One instant you were there, the next, you were gone.
At some point I became the person being chased. I ran around a corner and found myself in a dead end. I decided to jump through the willow row, and ran toward it with another scout closing on me. As I approached I had a bad feeling. Somehow I “knew” I shouldn’t do it. I slowed down, then noticed the scout behind me just about to catch me. I ran full speed at the hedge and jumped.
I felt something very solid hit my chest, and fell backwards into the meadow. My pursuer was a few feet away, so I jumped up and ran at the hedge again. This time, I felt a hand on my chest, which caught me halfway through the row and pushed me back into the meadow. I fell hard enough to knock the wind out of me.
My friend waited for me to catch my breath. I opened my shirt to see if there was a welt on my chest the shape of a hand. There was nothing. Together we parted the willows and to my utter amazement, we found a 200 foot vertical drop on the other side of the hedge.
Things like this happened many times – I’m sorry to say. I should have been a quicker learner.
Some years later I was tasked by my dad to disk up a corn field. The field had been harvested, and running the disk through it in the fall made it a lot easier to plant in the spring. I started the big Farmall Model M tractor and filled it with gas, hooked on the disk and climbed into the seat. The Farmall M was a tricycle design, with two wheels close together in the nose, and two big exposed traction wheels.
I started across the field in 4th gear, which is the fastest “slow” gear on the machine. I grew impatient and pushed in the clutch to shift to 5th gear, which is a road gear, and is too fast for a field. I had the distinct impression that I should not use that gear.
Of course, I did it anyway. The field was only a hundred yards away, and I was on a dirt road worn hard by harvesting. The tractor took off. In front of me was an irrigation ditch which we had plowed closed for harvesting. This let us drive trucks and tractors across it without spilling the load. As I approached, bouncing up and down on this barely-controlled tractor, I saw that my Dad had plowed the ditch back open.
I slammed on the brakes as the front pair of tricycle wheels hit the ditch. The rear end bounded into the air and nearly flipped over forward. My foot came off of the clutch. The engine was roaring full speed, and the wheels dug in, flipping the nose of the tractor up into the air. The steering wheel spun to the left, almost breaking my wrists. The rear wheels dropped into the ditch with the nose in the air. The only reason I had not flipped over backwards was because the disk was still attached to the backend. When those big wheels dropped into the ditch I came off of the seat and flew onto the big traction wheels. As you can see from the photo above, there were no wheel guards. The big wheel bit into my arm and side, rolled me around in the air, and plopped me back into the driver’s seat. If I had fallen forward I would have gone under the big wheels, then the disk. If I had fallen backward, I would have been cut to ribbons by the disk.
The big wheels clawed up the opposite side of the bank, and I fell off again, this time to the right. The big wheels slapped me back into the seat. I grabbed the steering wheel as it was spinning to the right as the front wheels fell back to earth. I slammed my foot on the clutch, and hit the brakes. The tractor was turning hard to the right, and trying to roll forward onto its side, like a race car that is turned too suddenly. Once again, it was only the disk attached to the back that stopped from rolling. It skidded to a stop and all of the wheels dropped to earth. I shut off the tractor and climbed to the ground. My knees buckled and I fell to the ground. As I knelt there I remembered the strong impression that I should not use 5th gear in the field.
Fast forward to the year 2000, nearly 35 years later. It was after midnight in late October. I was just about late to catch an airplane in Anchorage, a full hour’s drive away. The roads were snow packed, with a heavy fall of snow drifting out of the sky. I could just see about two car lengths ahead of me, and should have slowed down, but I didn’t want to miss my plane. There were no other cars on the road, and it was not slick, just very cold and very hard to see.
As I was driving the Spirit distinctly said, “Change lanes”. It was only an impression, no louder than “don’t use 5th gear.” This time, however, I instantly changed lanes, which caused the car to fishtail and slide sideways. As I fought to get the car back under control, a large moose flashed by on my right. He had been standing in my lane, and most probably would have killed me.
I have since pondered the spiritual training of my youth, and have remembered some of the thousands of times the Lord tried to speak to me. Each of them was a chance to avoid pain, to not leave something behind, or even to save my life. Most of them, the Lord spared me in spite of my disobedience, which warms my soul with gratitude, and makes me feel very loved and protected. It also seems very parental, to instruct, warn, guide, and let me feel a little fear, and a little pain. But, when I was a child, I acted as a child, and now that I am a spiritual adult, I listen very carefully, because the time of lessons is past.
Now, it is time to swerve, and then find out why later.