It was sometime before 5 a.m. and my wife and I were asleep in our camper. Technically, I should have been awake and aware of my surroundings because on that early morning shift I was the Senior High School camp director. We had a full group of campers that year so I elected to bring my truck and camper to the site. My wife was the camp nurse, so we had that wonderful opportunity of sleeping in the same bed with each other, even while roughing it. After 25 years of marriage, we find it hard to sleep without one another occupying that space to our respective sides.
The noise that woke me was the one my ears were tuned to hear. It sounded like muffled voices, snickers and coughs, shuffling feet and abrupt halts and starts to the movements. In short, it sounded like someone was playing a practical joke somewhere on the main part of the campus. My wife, who sleeps lighter than I, was already awake and trying to peer out the window to see if it was our truck having layers of toilet paper applied to it. Quickly I dressed to see if I could ambush the forest felons. What stopped me was a voice. It was the familiar sound of one of our pastoral staff who seemed to be taking charge of the situation.
I just as quickly took off my pants and snuggled back into the blankets. “He’ll take care of it” was all I told my wife, and back to sleep I went. She wasn’t so sure. Something in her spirit told her to go out and check anyway. She started to get dressed to leave, but I stopped her. I didn’t want her to take away my primary source of body heat for something that didn’t need doing. After all, if our assistant pastor couldn’t handle it, who could? I convinced her to go back to bed and leave it to the staff. A good pastor has to learn not to micro-manage.
When I did get up at 6 a.m. I was met with a sight that I cannot describe to you. There are two reasons I cannot do this. One, I want to protect the innocent and two, I don’t want the guilty parties to think I’m telling on them (even though about 10,000 people have probably heard the story around the world by now). I will just say that it was one of the vilest and mean-spirited practical jokes I had ever witnessed against a person. It had all the justification for a lawsuit (which fortunately, due to the grace of the people involved, did not happen). And it was perpetrated not by campers but by some of the people in charge. As a result, the last day of camp was spent explaining why our counselors and leaders had chosen this camp to play one of the worst pranks ever recorded at that location.
In one of the many retrospectives that we went through, my wife and I realized that there were two things we needed to learn. She needed to heed that voice that told her to go out. And I needed to learn to hear that voice at all. She was much more tuned in, which only showed me that she is always much more tuned in. And I needed to be.
This is what we all mess around with. You can’t hear God when making crucial life-decisions if you have not tuned your spirit to hear His voice on a moment-by-moment basis. We are told in the Scriptures to “Pray without ceasing”. I don’t think Paul is saying we need to recite rote prayers all day and night. I conceive of prayer as a running conversation with God. Most people view prayer as making a phone call to God. I see it more as opening up a Nextel connection that can be beeped at any time. God has things to say just as we do. His things are divine and ours are not. Big difference. He knows how to hear our voice…we need to learn to hear His voice all day long.
The best way to do this is to have this running conversation going about all things pertaining to your day. I am not saying that we need God to give us permission for every little thing. But just get into the habit of bringing God into the flow of what we’re doing. That can prevent so many “little” mistakes that actually end up being huge.
For instance, in Joshua chapter 9, a group of people met Joshua and the army of Israel as they were on their campaign to conquer Canaan. These people told Joshua that they were refugees fleeing a foreign war and wanted to take refuge with the Jews. They had ripped clothing and smelled of sweat borne of a long march. Every indication says that they were indeed what they said they were.
But that is far from the truth. They were Gibeonites, residents of the next town scheduled for demolition. They were playing a ruse, hoping to save their lives. When Joshua realized that he had been tricked, he wanted to order them destroyed. But he had promised they could live with the Jews as servants, and God would not allow him to break that promise. God’s warning to Joshua was clear: “You should have checked with me before making that decision.”
Joshua had seen such clear guidance from God up to this point, he was sure he knew how to make a good decision on his own. But in the dangerous playing fields of life, there really aren’t too many decisions we can make that don’t have a number of implications we can’t see. This is why we need to heed that still, small voice that seeks to warn us. You can only do that if you make it a habit to do it many times a day.
So, what I conclude as I look back on the camp situation is that it was more my wife’s fault than mine. Well, not really, but it certainly makes me feel better to conclude it.