Have you ever had a place serve as an ongoing reminder of God’s grace, mercy, love and goodness? I have such a place, that believe it or not, has become rather sacred to me. And it’s at an exit on Interstate 85 as soon as you get into South Carolina by way of North Carolina.
Celebrating our first Christmas together as husband and wife, Tracy and I went to visit family in Georgia a few days before this festive time of the year, and to announce the coming arrival of our first child in the summer of 1988. But instead of that first holiday being filled with great joy and jubilation, it served as one of the most difficult Christmases of our lives as we lost our first child to a miscarriage on December 21, 1987 while in Georgia. Due to the time-frame of this miscarriage, Tracy had to have a procedure done in the hospital that made an already difficult time even more challenging as we were scheduled to travel to see our family in Maryland later that week, and then return to work before the New Year began.
Traveling north on I-85 on Christmas Day of 1988 (Tracy on the backseat of our 74 Impala (she was to be on bed rest) and me driving all alone on the large, front bench seat of our car), I struggled to hold back the tears as I drove. Since the drive was 10+hours, I used that time to cry out to God again and again, asking the proverbial, “Why God?” questions. As we journeyed that long road between Hartwell, Georgia and Nanjemoy, Maryland, I found myself spiraling farther and farther into despair about what had just taken place in our lives. And then it happened. I turned off of the interstate at Exit 102 in South Carolina to use the restroom, get some gas, and something to eat from McDonald’s, (remember, it was Christmas Day and back then, there were not many things open). As I climbed back into the car to continue driving, I heard the whisper of God say to me, “I’m here, Gary. And you can trust Me.” Long story made short, that was a pivotal moment in my life (our lives) as the shattered pieces of my heart were comforted and a new journey of “walking by faith, and not sight” began for me and my bride.
Two weeks later, we moved to Dallas, Texas (something that I had been disobedient in for over a year) and experienced an incredible faith journey with God over the next five years in Texas that radically changed everything about our lives! While there, I received incredible training from some of the greatest people I’ve ever known at Criswell College, met, served beside and loved some of the greatest servants of God anywhere (Audelia Road Baptist Church was an incubator for Great Commission Christians), and were blessed to have our first two daughters become part of our family in 1989 and 1991. Although none of these years were easy, God increased our faith in Him exponentially because we knew (and experienced) “He was with us, and we could trust Him.”
Fast forward 30 years later to the summer of 2017, and I am now wrestling with God concerning the recent death of my father (not that he died and was now in heaven, but the way he died). And lo and behold, as Tracy and I are driving to Georgia on I-85 to once again visit family, as I am passing that same Exit 102 in South Carolina I hear the whisper of God in my heart say to me, “You can still trust Me, Gary. I am here and know exactly what I am doing.”
For those reading this blog, you may have never heard the whisper of God before (it’s not easy hearing it in the midst of all of the other noises of life), but I can assure you, when He spoke to me this time, it was the most comforting, healing, powerful words I have heard, and served as the catalyst to lead me six months later to know that God was calling me away from the Pastoral Ministry to spend the rest of my life on this earth making disciples of Christ around the world. Hearing God speak at Exit 102 again was a pivotal moment in my life.
But guess what? Last week, June 8, 2018 to be exact, Tracy and I were driving on I-85 again, this time heading back to West Virginia from a quick trip to visit family in Georgia and to do some planning work with a ministry partner outside of Atlanta (Global Year). As we approached this sacred ground where God has radically changed my life through His whisper (a highway exit, no doubt), I saw a billboard (the picture of it is at the top of this blog) that answered a question I had been asking God for the past 40 days. It said, “Obey Jesus’ Teachings, Luke 6:46.” Do you know what Luke 6:46 says? I quote, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?” No whisper, this time, but instead, a clear writing on the wall (billboard) that has given me the exact answer that I need for some crucial steps of faith to be taken with Him and our ministry called New Life Global Ministries.
I share all of this today for a simple reason: I know firsthand that you can trust God. He is here. He knows what He is doing. All we have to do is trust and follow Him. By faith, He will guide our every step. And when we walk with the Lord with the confidence that we can trust Him, amazing things takes place!
What is your Sacred Place? Where is your Exit 102? How will you trust and obey Him because of what He says to you there? Haven’t heard from Him in this way? Sometimes, it’s only in the brokenness of our dreams, hopes and wishes, when everything in life seems shattered, that we can hear His whisper. And when we do, it changes us – forever.