(This post was written by Justin Petrowski, Worship Associate)
This past summer my friend and fellow FPC staffer Matt Grimes asked me to join him and a few friends on a whitewater rafting expedition down the Ocoee River.
Now, anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes in my presence knows that I am not the most coordinated creature that God ever put together. Nevertheless, I knew that we’d have a great time, and at the very least I’d have an awesome story to tell, right? So I agreed, and we rented a cabin and reserved a trip with one of the 6,527 guide teams that all simultaneously promise the ***BEST VIEWS OF THE SMOKY’S!!! and ***MOST EXCITING EXPERIENCES!!!! and other poor-use-of-apostrophe-and-exclamation-point-laden billboards that peppered the landscape.
The trip was spectacular. I’d been before, but it had been since high school or college. We paddled, we watched the trees and birds, we kept our eyes peeled for snakes, we paddled some more, we swam, it was wonderful. (Note: When I say “swim” there was a voluntary section where you can jump out of the boat and take a dip in the 34-degree mountain water. I have a suspicion this is about what the passengers on the Titanic experienced.)
I even fell out of the boat once. (Remember my previous annotation about my incredible skills of body control?) My guide said I was the first person he’d (insert finger quotes here) “lost” all season. I’m not sure if that says more about me or him, but it was fun regardless. My back got all cut up and bruised. I said to myself, “See, I was right, I do have a great story to tell!”
My foreknowledge in this matter turned out to be quite limited. Had I but known the extent of the story I would have to share…
Because we decided we didn’t want to spend a ton of money on food, we decided to go to Wal-Mart instead, and buy food to cook for ourselves at the cabin. So Matt and I, along with our friends JC* and Chip and our four wives, set out for the greatest of American traditions… visiting the one place in the world where you can buy everything from guns to beer to maternity pants to Scrabble to a dozen roses.**
I was put on breakfast duty. So I walked down the aisle where the cereal boxes were. About the time I had reached the childhood obesity section (Lucky Charms, Frosted Flakes, Cap’n Crunch…etc.) out of the very corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of my beautiful wife coming down the aisle to see me. Instinctively I reached out my hand to put it on the small of her back, but a brief romantic urge inspired me to place it a bit further south. It was at this moment I turned and gazed into her eyes…
…and realized it wasn’t my wife.
Turns out it was JC’s wife. I apologized profusely and everyone had a good laugh about it later. But it brought up something we all frequently struggle with… we need to pay attention!
In 1 Kings 19, we find the story of Elijah who had gone to hide in a cave in the mountains. Fearing for his life, he had run and hid. God came to him and told him to come stand in the mouth of the cave:
God said, “Go out and stand in front of the Lord on the mountain.”
As the Lord was passing by, a fierce wind tore mountains and shattered rocks ahead of the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. And after the fire there was a quiet, whispering voice. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat, went out, and stood at the entrance of the cave.
Elijah knew that the voice of God comes quietly, and that he’d been missing it. Instead of proclaiming God’s word, he’d run and hid, afraid of what the king and queen would do. Elijah needed to remember to pay attention to the right voice…the quiet, whispering voice. Once he did, God told him that he was not alone, that he need not fear, and what’s more, God gave him great tasks to do once he was listening. He even got to anoint the next king of Israel!
In our lives, it’s so easy to stop paying attention… to lose track of the quiet, whispering voice. So many things demand our attention! Jobs, friends, ministry, family, media…none of these things are evil, in fact, they are good – but we need to be careful that we always are listening to the quiet, whispering voice.
What’s God saying to you? Remember to pay attention, He might have something incredible to tell you!
*The name has been redacted to protect the innocent.
**Ah, the American dream. It was once to be born in a gutter and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and make all the money in the world and give everyone else the raspberry. We’ve scaled it down a bit these days…now I think it’s just about never being inconvenienced. Oh well. If you set your expectations low, you’re rarely disappointed…