when time runs out.
There are so many times in my life when I doubt what God is telling me, not because I doubt who He is or what He can do, but more because of a lack of trust in my own understanding. I'd like to say that every time I hear Him, I immediately act on it, but I often don't. I hesitate. This is the story of one of those times.
We were in Indiana for reviveINDIANA and it had extended from 7 days to 52 days. It was in the heart of winter, cold and snowy, but God was doing something big by warming the hearts of thousands of believers. This is just one of the stories that happened two years ago, smack dab in the middle of those 52 days. It took place in a small, cozy little home, in a neighborhood in the town where I grew up, altering the life of one man in such a profound way. It still brings tears to my eyes when I recall it...
This is the story of Bill and how God allowed me to be a just a small part of it.
We had gone to Indiana with plans of staying only a week. God had different plans, however and on day 6, He asked us to stay...for 52 days. The book of Nehemiah was the inspiration God gave us and the specific scripture that God brought to Kyle's mind was what drove our following weeks. Nehemiah 6:15-16 says "The wall was completed in 52 days, on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul. When all our enemies heard this, all the surrounding nations were intimidated and lost their confidence, for they realized that this task had been accomplished by our God." We realized that the wall in Indiana was only partially rebuilt in the six days we had been there. It needed to be finished and in a story that parallels Nehemiah - we stayed and continued to build. I'll always be grateful for those extra days...52 total. Because in those extra days, God was able to rebuild the walls in the lives of countless more souls and Bill was one of them.
It was February 2, 2015, a day that started like most other days. It was cold and I was really tired. But I also knew God was moving and I knew I wasn't going to miss out - so I gathered myself and focused on what God had for me that day. The radio station was at the church doing live interviews and I was in charge of finding the people to be interviewed, so I was busy running around during most of our morning prayer time. When I had finally lined everyone up, I snuck into the back of the sanctuary to catch the last part of the morning prayer time and a little bit of my own quiet time with God. In just the few minutes I had, He showed me a strange, detailed picture. I quickly typed it into my notes in my phone, with intentions to pray through it later, and then jumped into the day.
A couple hours later, as teams were in their seats listening to the training for outreach, I remembered I hadn't yet prayed through the vision from earlier, so I took a minute to glance at my notes and what God had shown me: a wrist with the face of a large watch on it. That wasn't so weird, was my first thought. And then I read "The inside of the watch was full of water, dripping tear-like drops down onto a red flower bud that was suspended below it." Okay, kind of weird. I prayed through it and didn't hear anything. Not a single thing. Things started moving quickly around me, teams were heading out and I didn't have time to give it much more thought. As I headed toward the sanctuary to see if there was a team that needed an extra person, I wondered what God had for me that day. Did He want me to do anything with what He showed me?
At that moment, three young girls came running up to me and asked if I would go out on a team with them and my immediate answer was yes, knowing that God was likely setting something pretty fun in motion. As we were heading out the door, Kyle came up, asked us what our plan was and before we knew it, we had two new teammates - Kyle and Drew, video camera in tow. The assignment for the day was to tell five people that we loved them, so we had our mission and were out the door. As we were driving to find someone to pray with, Kyle got a FaceBook message that we read out loud in the van, that asked "Is there a team that can go today to pray for a man that is not a believer and is near death?" Immediately I knew God had set this up and that we were going to be the team to go...we were going to go visit with an elderly man named Bill who lived on Redbud Lane, whose time was running out. And God had already told me about it earlier that morning.
We pulled into Bill's driveway not sure what to expect when we walked in. What we found was a sweet man in his late seventy's confined to his chair, suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, nearing the end of his life. As we talked with Bill we soon learned that he had been hurt by the church when he and his wife divorced and had basically been shunned. He walked away and never looked back. Bill wasn't an atheist, but didn't really believe in God. He had not, however, completely shut down the idea of God. I shared with him the vision God had given me earlier that day and that I believed it was specifically for him...that God was calling him back before it was too late. The watch was representative of time, the water that was dripping out was indicative of the time running out and the red bud represented Bill. He listened. His time was indeed getting shorter. And then the three sweet girls shared the Gospel with Bill. Again he listened. He said he could embrace it, but couldn't say he would believe it. So that particular snowy day, we ended up simply loving Bill and leaving it at that. God sent three sweet little girls to redeem something the church had taken from him - love. Our prayer as we left that day was that Bill would accept the message of the Gospel before it was too late and that God would strengthen his body long enough for Bill to say yes to Jesus. Saying our goodbyes, my heart was heavy because I knew that his time was running out...the water was dripping out of the face of the watch and would soon be gone. As we closed the door to Bill's house and stepped out into the cold, I closed my eyes and began to plead on behalf of Bill, for God to step in.
We left saddened that Bill didn't take the step to accept Christ, but I knew without a doubt that God was rebuilding the walls in the background, stone by stone, filling the gaps that man couldn't see, that we couldn't see. And a couple weeks later, we got the call that we had been praying for, the call that confirmed it. I've debated whether or not to continue writing this story, the second part of what God did in Bill's life, but sometimes seeing it with your own eyes is more powerful. There was a reason God put the team together that he did that day and one key part of our team was that we had Drew with us, camera in-hand, to capture Bill's journey on video. So this time, I'm asking you to watch video 2 - Hide and Seek, so you can be a part of witnessing, first-hand, the rest of Bill's "rebuilding the walls" story. Make sure to watch it all the way to the end.
Bill was an example to me of what it looks like when the walls of someone's life need to be rebuilt. His life had walls, at some point, but the walls had come crumbling down when he was hurt by the church. Like in the book of Nehemiah, an account of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem - a symbol of the city of God, the rebuilding of Bill's walls needed to take place before he could trust God again. And God, in His ultimate grace, reached down and began to rebuild those walls that day in February, one stone at a time - a picture of the way the walls of life can be rebuilt with new purpose.
I've often thought it's odd that God placed the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther in what seems like a reverse order - considering Esther actually occurred first. But after our encounter with Bill, it become clearer to me - they are placed in an order that best teaches the story of the way out of captivity and back to the heart of God: Ezra begins with the building of the temple - the restoration of the house of God. Nehemiah tells of the rebuilding of the walls - the time when redemption occurs and life regains its purpose. And Esther, an instrument of God's grace, moved the heart of her husband, the king - allowing Nehemiah, his cupbearer, to return to Jerusalem. On February 2, Bill was loved, and whether or not he recognized it at the time, it began his "Ezra" journey of restoration. God then allowed us to be a part of the rebuilding of walls in Bill's life - to witness him regaining purpose, feeling love and forgiveness and hearing the Gospel, in his "Nehemiah" moment. And finally, Bill, as in the book of Esther, began his return to Jerusalem...and to the heart of Christ.
Video 1: Love is a Green Frog Video 2: Hide and Seek