When I heard the voice come out of that little speaker, it felt like an angel was calling my name from heaven. Prior to that moment, I’d never even noticed the little speaker located on the control panel in the elevator. But for the greater part of an hour it had become the most important thing in my life. I glanced at it every ten seconds.
Earlier that afternoon, I’d squeezed onto that elevator with fourteen of my pastor friends. (I know it sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it’s true.) Our destination was the sixth floor of the United States Capitol offices where we had an appointment to visit with the chief representative for Muslim relations in the United States government. We were running a few minutes behind, and so to save time all fifteen of us mashed ourselves into one little elevator car.
No problem. It would be a short ride. And surely if there’s one place in the world you can count on everything working properly, it’s Washington, DC.
The elevator had another idea. Between the third and fourth floors it came to a complete and sudden halt like a Republican Congress with a Democratic president. And there we hung, suspended between the third and fourth floors for over an hour. In August. With no air conditioning. Fifteen pastors wearing suits and ties. Sweating. Thirsty. And nothing makes you have to use the bathroom like knowing you can’t physically get to one!
We pressed the emergency call button repeatedly, but nothing happened.
That’s when I noticed another elevator feature I had never noticed before: the “maximum weight capacity” warning. Apparently, you were not supposed to load more than eight moderately sized fifth-grade girls on that elevator. According to a quick mental calculation, we had exceeded that limit by the weight of a minivan.
The Muslim imam we were going to meet—who had a great sense of humor—came to the other side of the fourth-floor door and started hollering, “Pray to Jesus! Maybe he will resurrect the elevator!”
Eventually we pried the elevator door open and got someone on the fourth-floor landing to do the same, creating a small, two-foot gap barely big enough to squeeze one of us through. Just as we were about to hoist the first one of us up and out, the speaker crackled to life. The voice on the other end of the line said, “I am with the elevator company. Please hang tight and don’t move. Someone will be there within five minutes to get you out.”
We told her we already had the situation well in hand and explained our ingenious exit strategy. “No!” she said. “Please do not do that. If the elevator drops even a few feet while you are crawling out, it could cut you in half. Hang on and we will help you.”
So we paused from our potentially “divisive” pursuit and waited. Eventually the fire department got us out. We each had sweat off about six pounds, but none of us had been cut in half. A win-win situation.
Somehow, we manage to go through life like I did on that elevator—oblivious to the fact there is a “speaker” right in front of us. That speaker bears the quiet voice of God, but we typically bound through life ignoring it. But then something happens—sometimes something traumatic—that turns our attention to it. In the chaos of life, we hear a voice whispering, or maybe shouting, at us. It may not answer all our questions, but it tells us that we are not alone and that help is coming for us. The voice lets us know, in the words of Francis Schaeffer, that God is there, and he is not silent.1
Whether or not you choose to listen to that voice is the most important decision of your life.
J. D. Greear and David Jeremiah, Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018).
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