Throwing a fleece
I’ve been taking this month to recall my spiritual journey, which I began roughly 30 years ago. Looking back, one of the definitive markers on my quest was a unique experience that I first wrote about last January. It bears on my spiritual formation, so it bears repeating today.
Hey…know what? I used to be famous. Well.…sort of….locally, anyway….within a narrow population…..of mostly prison inmates…..and preadolescent night owls. Maybe famous isn’t quite the right word.
I was a late-night disc jockey.
It was a pretty cool job that I kind of stumbled into after beginning at the radio station in sales. It didn’t pay a whole lot, but it afforded me a number of perks like being interviewed for the local paper, guest spotting on the local TV stations, meeting KISS frontman Paul Stanley who invited me to his hotel room. And being called a b*&#h when I declined. That’s my real claim to fame.
Yesterday I relayed my story of how I came to be a follower of Jesus Christ. This addendum to my testimony is the story of how my loving heavenly Father very specifically affirmed my submissive response of faith, and his very specific love for his child. Me.
It concerns a certain other disc jockey I worked with. He was a Christian, and a pretty outspoken, evangelistic one at that. I was not a true believer at the time we worked together, and his attempts to convert me were unsuccessful. We lost touch after I quit the station to raise a family and he moved out of state. So after I “got saved” (an expression I don’t care for but is largely accurate) I occasionally would think of him and that he would be pleased to know of my newfound faith.
New believers are likened to babies…both in Scripture1 and in Christian culture. And one afternoon while I was still a newbie, I was whining and crying just like a baby and feeling somewhat abandoned and unloved. So I did something I was too new to know you weren’t supposed to do. I threw out a fleece.
For those unfamiliar with the expression, it comes from the book of Judges and refers to a visible proof that God condescended to give to an Israelite named Gideon (hey…I think I’ve seen his Bible) whom he had chosen to lead a small army of men in defeating the Midianites.2 Gideon, like most of us, was a little unsure about what he was hearing from God as well as his capabilities in service to him. So he asked for a specific sign involving a woolen fleece, and God gave it to him. Twice.
My “fleece” was a request for a sign that would either confirm that God heard my prayers or that he loved me. I didn’t happen to write it down so I’ve never been sure which it was. (You would think if you’re making a very specific request of the great God of the universe you would remember what you were requesting.) Anyway…since this deejay was not in the area any longer (or so I thought at the time – more on that later), my proposed sign was this: have him call me. Just out of the blue ring me up and say Hey. I figured since I hadn’t seen nor talked to him in years and that he was living out of state, his calling me was highly unlikely outside of divine intervention.
Well I waited a week or so and didn’t hear from him so I figured I had erred in thinking God might do this for me. I mean, it had been at least seven whole days, and nothing. So I chalked it up to a learning experience and forgot about it.
Never put a timetable on God.
About six months later I’m driving home and I get a phone call from my father. And he says, “Some guy named (and he names this deejay) just called here asking for you.” Well, I think I screamed. But I don’t really remember. (You would think…oh, never mind).
My dad told me how to reach him and the next day I called him up. Turns out he was back in town working as the program director for another radio station, and had been for at least a few months. Some time after I threw my fleece I happened to see his name in the local paper reporting that he had returned. I considered calling him but thought, no…I did remember asking God to have him call me, and I figured there was still a chance he would, and I didn’t want to forfeit that chance.
So he tells me he called to ask if I would be interested in doing a weekend shift on the air. I remember thinking that he sounded like he didn’t really know why he was calling me. And when I told him about my prayer…my fleece…my sign, and that he was it…he was silent for a few seconds. And then, do you know what he told me? And this is the kicker…he said the thought to call me came to him while he was in prayer.
Now, you may think all this just a coincidence…that’s fine. I believe I received a very specific, very personal, very special gift from God. Though asking for a sign is largely discouraged in the Church – I think it’s probably seen as somewhat manipulative – sometimes God will give it if it’s what his child needs. Other times he won’t because what his child needs is to learn to trust him. New out of the box Christians, just like new out of the womb babies, are generally more needy of reassurance and security. But God does not coddle and is unlikely to indulge a mature believer who should know him well enough not to need a sign.
I’ve been a believer for quite a few years now and only put down a fleece that one time. But God’s willingness to give me a very personal sign of his love continues to be a great encouragement as I remember it. And though he loves all his children equally, we mustn’t expect that what he does for one he will definitely do for another. He will not be constrained that way. But if your heart is humble and submissive and you feel you need a personal touch from him, he invites you to ask.3