(An excerpt from Hope for Misfits)
I was thankful for every day of sobriety, which had built one day at a time into almost two years, and I was thankful for my ongoing spiritual rebirth. I was getting to know myself better and learning about the person that had been hidden under a facade of alcoholism. But I was depressed and extremely frustrated over my inability to find meaningful employment. I’d had only menial jobs for several years, and we desperately needed a steady second income.
After learning one afternoon that I had been turned down for yet another job, I was overcome with despair, and felt crushed, destitute, and hopeless. I was thankful for good things in my life: I had a wonderful family, was sober, and was active in church and in volunteer ministries. But nobody would give me a job, not in department store sales, not as a runner for the purchasing department of a hospital, not in an entry-level job with a state agency, not at the Post Office, not as an agent with an insurance company, not as a cop, not selling appliances, not as a night supervisor in a half-way house for former convicts, not in a barnyard shoveling manure.
I received the latest rejection by phone, and I dejectedly walked outside and began pacing in our chain-link-fenced backyard. Tears flowed down my cheeks as I walked back and forth between the rear of the house and the girls’ white and pink playhouse on the back of the lot.
I walked and cried and prayed. “Why, God, why can’t I find a job? What’s wrong that nobody will hire me? What will I do? Where else can I apply? Will I ever work again? Please help me, O God, please. I don’t know which way to turn or what else to do.
“ Please, please….”
I was wretched with anguish and despair and hardly conscious of my frantic pleas to God. They were raw, wordless utterances emanating from my soul, prayers so deep that only God could comprehend. I was in such a state of desolation that I was not praying as much as opening myself to the Holy Spirit.
And then, while practically out-of-my-mind with worry and depression, one of the several supernatural events of my life occurred.
God Almighty spoke to me personally and gave me a sign.
His message was not audible, but it was simple and clear, as clear a message as I have ever heard in my life. I didn’t question or doubt for a moment that God was addressing me personally.
It happened as I glanced skyward and froze in place when I witnessed a formation of clouds in the distinct, unmistakable form of a cross. As I stared awe-struck, God spoke to me in a divine whisper. He said that I was to serve him and humanity for the rest of my life.
I can’t explain this in factual terms, but I believe that I will learn about God’s signs and messages on the Other Side. But I have no doubt, positively none, that the Creator God spoke to me in assembling those clouds in the clear shape of a cross.
I understand that psychologists and others might attribute this extraordinary experience to my emotional state at the time, the workings of brain chemistry in some way. I don’t expect to convince some people otherwise, but I know in my heart what happened. And even if it could be attributed to a physiological process in my brain, I credit God with making that happen. And I say this as a skeptic who tends to ask “why” about things, to want a logical explanation, a seeker who has for years questioned basic tenets of the Christian faith. I have now learned that spiritual experiences do not conform to earthly standards of logic and reasoning.
This communiqué from God took place about four decades from the last time he took this kind of special notice of me, that occasion being his visit to me as a boy in bed in the dark of night.
Now I rushed into the house and called Cynthia at work. My voice was choked with tears of elation as I gushed out the experience to my wife. “God spoke to me,” I said, crying with joy, “and he told me that I was to serve him and humanity for the rest of my life.”
Cynthia didn’t say much, but she didn’t seem surprised. She was happy.
As I gradually descended from this spiritual peak, the thought occurred to me that God had not told me how I was to fulfill his commandment to serve him and people. I still didn’t have a job or any leads on one. But I wasn’t worried, not at all, for I knew in my heart that somehow God would provide a way, and that I was to simply trust and obey. Tremendous relief washed over me because, although my future was unknown to me, it was known to God and I trusted him completely.