I have often said that no one will ever convince me God does not exist, mainly because I have had so many unmistakable interactions with him. I have hungrily sought after his presence, and have not been disappointed.
Just over a week ago God began the process of reminding me of his presence one more time. I have prayed diligently since I was a very little boy. And yet, after 40 or more years of praying, God began moving my heart to pray a prayer I had never prayed before, and truthfully one that scared me just a little bit.
As I was in my prayer time in the evening, I felt a nudge to pray, "Lord, please don't let our home burn down. Please keep my wife, my kids, myself, and our house safe. Please don't let our home burn down."
As I said, it has never even remotely occurred to me to pray that prayer before. And yet, the next night the urging was there again. For seven straight nights there was the urging for me to pray that prayer.
I went to bed on the seventh night and quickly fell into a deep sleep. It had been a long and exhausting day, and it was utterly unnecessary for me to wind down in order to sleep. At 4:45 in the morning I was jarred out of that sound sleep by the alarm in our house going off. As I jumped out of bed, my immediate thought was "false alarm." In the 20 plus years that I have had alarm systems, most every alarm I have ever had has been a false alarm.
But as I raced for the keypad to shut it off two thoughts quickly struck me. One, this was a different tone of an alarm than I was familiar with. Two, I smelled smoke. When I got into the kitchen, I ran into a wall of smoke. I shut off the alarm, cut off all of the electrical breakers and screamed for everyone to get up and out.
The alarm company called, and we told them to send help. I could not see fire anywhere, just smoke, so I raced around through the smoke coughing and hacking and trying to find the source of it before the house could burn down.
I could not find it. By the time the fire department got there, the smoke was beginning to dissipate as we had had the doors open. After a while, we found it. A part of the heating and air handler had caught on fire, and when I shut off the breakers it went out. It was burning three inches from a part of the wall that, had it caught on fire, would have quickly spread into the attic and engulfed the entire house in flames.
But that isn't the end of the story. My mother had also been awakened in the night with an urging to pray that my house would not burn down. She prayed, and then went back to sleep.
Could God not simply have not allowed that fire to begin with? Absolutely. And if he had, I would never have known about it until I got to heaven. I am certain God does that a great many times. Wrecks that He keeps us out of that we never know about, people that intend to harm us and He steers us out of their path and we never know about it. Those are what I call "presents" from God.
What God gave me in all of this, though, was something far more valuable than his "presents." Instead, he gave me his presence. By the prayers that he moved me to pray and my mother to pray he reminded me one more time that he is in my life, and aware of my life, and concerned about my life.
He reminded me that while I do not know what will happen in my life 30 seconds from right now, he knows what will happen a week from now in my life at 4:45 in the morning. If God tarries his coming, all of us will someday and somehow have to die.
One day my prayer to be allowed to live safely another day will be answered by God saying "No. It is time for you to come home." But until that time, I am already in agreement with the psalmist, who in Psalm 16:11 said, "in thy presence is fullness of joy."