“I want to learn to recognize your voice, Father!” I cried out in my head in the early morning darkness. “Tell me to do something I would never think of… so I’ll know it’s you.”
Those may be dangerous words, but I was desperate. I was a shy and insecure guy. I grew up in a predictable church world. Now we had been in a charismatic church for five years, but I didn’t feel very charismatic. I was very much afraid of exposure. I was self-conscious. I was sure I could feel some dear folks anxiously watching to see when I would raise my hands or speak in tongues. I refused to satisfy them by playing the game.
Yet I longed to experience the Holy Spirit. I longed to hear the voice of God.
He answered my dangerous request instantly. “I want you to go to Virginia.” He didn’t shout. It was the still, small voice. Gentle and calm. But it was painfully clear. And it absolutely was not me.
I cried out again, more to the carpet than to God, “No! Not that! That’s not what I had in mind!” I wrestled with my doom on the living room floor. Waves of nausea swept over me.
“Go to Virginia” meant go to a men’s conference at Calvary Pentecostal Campground in Ashland, Virginia. Half a dozen men from church had planned to go. Two women had come back a month earlier, aglow from the camp’s women’s conference. There was gold dust there. Gold dust? Appearing from heaven at the laying on of hands. Oh brother…
Now I only knew Northern pentecostals. This camp would be full of Southern pentecostals. Probably glossolalizing at the lunch table and sprinkling gold dust on their mashed potatoes. All nuts. I could imagine no scenario more dreadful. Getting out of my comfort zone doesn’t begin to explain it. I feared being called out. I feared being noticed when I didn’t do what everyone else did. I dreaded just standing there awkwardly, while the crazy men danced around me.
It was Monday. I had to go to work. I was sick. All day I struggled with my panic. There was no way to deny His voice. It was so clear. And it was not me. There was no way out.
The other guys had all cancelled with good excuses. All except Gene. He still wanted to go, but wasn’t eager to make the ten hour drive alone. Gene is my best friend. A spiritual father to me, Gene had been patiently pointing me to God’s grace for the last few years. Time to talk with Gene was the only bright side to this cloud that hung over me.
Monday evening, weary from the struggle, I called and just said “I’m going.” Gene’s voice was soothing “Oh goooood.” It was settled. I only had three days to worry about the embarrassment and humiliation that lay ahead.