By Larry Short
Most memories are enjoyable, but some still bring pain. This series will not comprise a comprehensive list of all the answers to prayer I have received. Some seem almost too mundane to write about (such as finding a lost contact lens, or being healed from an illness or injury). But there are several more such miraculous moments in my life which stand forth in my mind as a time when God really came through for me, in a way that He alone could do.
One such time didn't actually involve prayer, per se, but as you will see, it was miraculous nonetheless. Before we moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1996, I managed rental properties (on a part-time basis) for my father. He owned one home which we had rented to a large family, and it became even larger as extended relatives began to move in. At one point there were at least 10 people living in this three-bedroom house, so it was quite crowded. Most of the time they were what you would call "problem renters" ... paying late (or not at all), or trashing the property.
Eventually I had to have them evicted. Which took (thanks to the legal system in California) about six months. By the time they were evicted they owed more than $15,000 in back rent and damage to the property. (I secured a court award for the sum, but naturally I never saw a cent of the money.)
To make matters worse, the head of the household was the pastor of a church in the Pomona area. He and his wife (whom he referred to as the "First Lady") were a quite jovial and likeable pair, despite all the headaches of dealing with them as renters.
My "miracle" occurred on an otherwise ordinary weekday afternoon. I had driven my small, red Toyota pickup truck to the home to try and collect some rent, and parked face-in to the driveway. While at the door talking with the "First Lady," I was vaguely conscious that there was a new toddler in the household, a child probably only two or maybe three years old who was clinging to her legs. I guessed this was probably a grandchild. But, wading knee-deep in her excuses for not having the rent check, I wasn't paying thorough attention to him.
When it came time to leave, I was annoyed and distracted. I walked to the car, climbed in, slammed the door, started the engine, and threw the manual shift into reverse. I was just getting ready to stomp on the pedal and peel out of the driveway, when something happened which I will never be able to fully explain.
It was as if a voice exploded inside my head, commanding me: "NO!"
As I sat there, stunned and processing what I had just heard, I realized I hadn't actually heard anything at all. I knew that there had been no sound whatsoever. Yet the command reverberated on my nerves. My brain was reeling from the impression that Someone had just ordered me to stop.
And not just anyone ... the sense of imperative, the absolutely authority behind that command, was what really had me stunned and startled, as I sat there with the engine running and my foot poised just above the gas pedal.
So, moving my trembling foot carefully upon the brake, I took the car out of reverse and into neutral, and pulled the parking brake. I opened the door and got out, engine still running, and walked to the back of the car.
That toddler I had last seen in the doorway was now sitting on my rear bumper, smiling up at me mischievously.
I felt as if I might swoon and it took me a moment to recover my composure. How close had I come to doing what I had done a thousand times before ... simply throwing the truck into reverse and roaring back down the driveway?
Tears began to stream down my face and I plucked up that now-giggling child off my rear bumper. I carried him back to the front door and knocked. The First Lady reappeared, looking very surprised and somewhat annoyed, but not sufficiently concerned ... until she saw my face.
I handed him over to her, a cascade of emotions (relief, anger, wonder, and gratitude) flowing down over me as I did so. "I know you believe in God," I said.
"Of course," she replied.
"You should be thanking Him right now. I know I am." With that, I turned on my heel and left ... this time inspecting the space behind my truck very carefully before I pulled out.
I've often wondered, with a chill, how different life might be had I not heard (or not heeded) that Voice. Different not only for me, but for an entire family that probably never had any idea how close we all actually came to tragedy that day.
Have you ever heard God speak to you in what was (or was almost) an audible voice?