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Chapter 2: The Voice
“My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?”
It was unmistakable. Someone had said those words with him. Walker knew they were Christ’s words from the cross. Was it Jesus? He felt love in them. But it didn’t change anything.
“Do you even care?” said walker into the air, not expecting an answer.
“Yes, my child.” said a Voice. “More than you can possibly know.”
“I know you died on the cross for my sins.”
“I also died to be here for you in this suffering.”
Walker shook himself. Who was he talking to? There was nothing audible. How was he hearing? “I’m losing it,” he thought. “I’ve started talking to myself.”
“You’re talking to yourself?” said the Voice.
“You’re not real.”
“Why do you say that?”
Because I can’t see you. I can’t hear you.
“You can’t hear Me? Why are you talking to Me?”
“Because I’m losing it! How do I know you’re not just my mind playing tricks on me?
“I am in your mind. I am in your heart, and your soul, and above you, and beside you, and beneath you. And I’m not playing tricks.”
Walker furrowed his brow. He was losing his mind anyway. He decided to humor the Voice.
“I don’t trust you, he said. “I’m gonna test everything you tell me against the Scripture.”
That would be fine. Where do you think the Scriptures came from?”
“From the prophets and apostles.”
“They didn’t trust me at first either, but they learned. Where do you think they got their inspiration?
“And can you hear God?”
“Well, not directly. Not like them. That’s why there’s a Bible. So I can know for sure what God says. It’s his living Word.
“The Bible is a written word. I am living Word. You study the Bible because you think you will find life in it. Its purpose is to guide you to Me.
“But the Bible is how we know what God really says. This voice-inside-my-head stuff is dangerous.”
“Because people are crazy. You can’t trust ‘em. If we start following voices in our heads it will be chaos. Mass murderers always say a Voice told them to do it.
“That was not my Voice and you know it. And they know it too.”
“But it’s totally subjective. You’re talking about letting people define truth for themselves!
“Man does not define Truth. Truth defines man. Truth is Subject. Man is object. Why are you afraid? I am Truth. The writings you call the Bible reveal me; they do not contain me. No book serves as my substitute. Billions of people claim to follow the Bible but do not follow Me. Each group thinks it has the only right interpretation. They fight each other and even kill each other over their ideas. That is their doing, not Mine.
“But that’s because of false teachers. The Bible has to be interpreted correctly.”
“And who interprets the Bible correctly?”
“Well not me, that’s for sure. I’m not qualified. I have to rely on experts. People like my Pastor and others he tells me are safe. People who have gone to seminary and have degrees.”
“If you knew the experts as I do you would not trust them as you do. Your pastor is one of my special ones but he is just a man. His job is not to tell you what is true but to teach you to follow the Truth. Do not follow a book. Do not follow a man. Follow Me.”
“So it’s a free-for-all? I’m supposed to just make it all up?”
“No. You’re supposed to follow Me.”
“What does that even mean?”
“Follow Me and you will know.”
“What will keep me from wandering off the path?”
“How can you wander off the path if I am the path. I am the good Shepherd. My sheep hear my voice and they follow me. Saints are not revered because they followed a human path but because they left one. They heard my voice and they followed, just as you will.”
But that will be total chaos. Everyone will do their own thing. It will be anarchy.
You have a very low opinion of my ability to shepherd. But since you have such a high regard for your books, listen to the words of Jeremiah:
“I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:33-34)
“But what does this have to do with Lizzie?”
I am here because of Lizzie. I am here because of Connie. I am here because of you. Do you trust Me?
“We will meet again.”
Suddenly Walker was aware of his surroundings. Rain splattered on the windshield. He backed out of the parking lot and headed home. Streetlights glistened off the wet pavement. It was dark and the town had not yet come to life. Walker began to think about Lizzie. The voice, or whatever it was, had made him feel for a moment that everything was okay. But everything was not okay. If God cared, this would not have happened. It didn’t make sense.
The Voice had filled his heart with peace. None of this changed the fact that Lizzie was fighting for her life because some idiot couldn’t keep his eyes on the road. And God had done nothing to stop him. Maybe God had wanted to help but evidently he couldn’t. Walker gulped. Maybe God was just as our-of-control as he was.
“I am in control,” said the Voice.
“Don’t you ever sleep?” said Walker.
“I am always at rest, but I never sleep. I love you. I am in control.”
“If you are in control, why did you let this happen? If you had the power to stop it, why didn’t you?” If you loved Lizzie, she wouldn’t be in the hospital. You’re saying I’m supposed to be okay with this? That you’re okay with this?”
“I most emphatically am not saying that.”
“Then what are you saying?”
“I’m saying I am with you. I’m saying I am in control. I’m saying I am working for good in ways you cannot see. Not just for you. For Lizzie. For Connie.
“Maiming my daughter is your idea of working for good? You have a twisted sense of good.”
I would give anything to show you what I see right now. In fact I have given everything. But today, you’ll have to trust.
“Not what. Who. Me. Trust Me.”
“Will you to bring Lizzie home unharmed? Will you straighten out my insurance? Will you put the idiot who smashed into Lizzie behind bars?”
“I did not ask you to trust me to do what you want. I’m inviting you to trust that in everything—and I mean everything—I am present, working for good. There are many chapters to this story. Some are bright. Some are very dark. In the end, all will be woven into a rich tapestry. Through much suffering we must enter the Kingdom of God.
“I hate suffering. Especially when it happens to my daughter.”
“I hate it too. I am better acquainted with it than you know.”
“You’re talking about the cross.” said Walker. “I thought the cross was how you made it so I could go to heaven when I died.”
“The cross is how I bring heaven to you while you live. It’s not an escape to the afterlife. It’s my Presence with you in this life. In your suffering. Pain is one of the few things I can guarantee—along with joy.
“Pain with joy?”
“I don’t get it.”
You don’t have to get it. You have to get Me. Trust Me. Follow Me. I promise that everything will be alright in the end.
But you just said you can’t promise that Lizzie will come home!
I promise that everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not yet alright, it’s not yet the end.
In the meantime I just have to suffer?
Suffer and trust. With joy.
The Adams lived on a five acre parcel in the Sierra foothills. Walker always loved the drive home. This morning he saw it in a fresh light. Normally it was evening and the sun was behind him in the West. Today, the sun rose before him. Pulsating orange clouds silhouetted the Sierras. A mist hung in the air from the rain, giving substance to the first beams of light that shot over the mountains, reaching out like arms. Walker stared.
He swerved just before the car went off the road. Pulling to the side, he got out of the stale car into the cool morning air. The morning sun went straight through his skin to his soul. An old hymn filled his heart.
What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Walker bathed in the morning sun. He felt a deep peace he had never experienced before.
“Do you trust me?” said the Voice.
“Yes,” Walker said slowly. But I don’t trust you.”
The Voice laughed. “Go in peace. Your faith has made you whole.”
“I don’t see how,” said Walker.
“You don’t have to,” said the Voice.
The house was cold and empty. Across the kitchen, the answering machine was flashing. Four messages. Walker pushed the button.
The first message was from a deacon at church.
“Hey Connie and Walker. This is deacon Sanders. You’re on my list so I thought I should give you a call. I heard what happened. I just want to remind you that God is good all the time, and all the time, God is—
Walker pushed the delete button so hard it nearly broke. The second message was from his insurance company.
“Hi. I’m calling for Walker Adams. We’ve been contacted by Sunrise Hospital about a claim and there are some irregularities with your insurance. Please call us at 1-800-395-2959. Or for faster service you can go online to www.fidelitytrustinsurance.com.
Walkers stomach turned.
The third message was from Angela, a coworker at the Lumber Depot who his friends had warned him about. She was an outspoken feminist who sat on the board of Planned Parenthood. And she was a lesbian.
“Hi Walker. This is Angela. I know you must be going crazy right now. I realize we don’t know each other very well but I want you to know that two years ago my brother was killed in a car crash. Drunk driver. It nearly killed me too. I know there’s nothing I can say. I just want you to know I’m here. And I’m praying for you. And, well… that’s all. See you at work.”
The fourth message was from his store manager.
“Hi Walker, this is Susan. James called in sick today and I need you to come in early. Be here by 7:30. Sorry for the late notice but I have to have someone today. Since you’re low man on the totem pole, you’re it.”
Walker cursed. The glow of the sunset was gone. The everlasting arms seemed like a distant memory.
“Walker,” said the Voice, “Do you trust me?”
No! He said, kicking the garbage can across the room. Trash scattered across the floor and the noise echoed off the kitchen walls until all that remained was the ticking of the kitchen clock. Walker crumpled into a chair and brooded in silence. Finally, he spoke again.