The thought of God revealing Himself in a supernatural, i.e. miraculous, way to any of us in our modern age is almost beyond comprehension for the sophisticated mind. Yes, one reads in the Bible about that happening many times – an ax head floating (2. Kings 6:6), Samson’s power collapsing a temple (Judges 16), Jesus’ proof to an inquiring John the Baptist that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised (Matthew 11:4), etc. But, as a Ugandan bishop once told me in an unrelated matter, “Yes, that’s the Bible, but this is Africa.”
My experience happened some fifty years ago, and looking back it seems as if I had been dreaming. But I hadn’t. And as those who know me know I am not a dreamer. I am a realist, looking at life with whatever my humble amount of gray matter can wrestle from it. I try to think critically and have made a habit of asking questions, such as “Why do we talk about someone who married his wife?” “Why do we talk about two different people? If they were the same, wouldn’t ‘they’ be ‘one’?” “Why has God removed our transgressions ‘as far as the east is from the west’ (Psalm 103:12) and not as far as the north is from the south?” (Because the former is limitless, the latter is 12,430 miles.)
My experience took place in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I shared a house with two other bachelors, and together we were known as “the three cruddy buddies,” undeservedly, I maintain. The house was sparsely furnished. And though we each had our own bedroom, we had no beds; we slept on the floor in sleeping bags.
At that time I was in the habit of waking up at 3 a.m. and would read in the Scriptures and pray before falling back to sleep. One morning, shortly after 3, I heard my name – not a formal Eberhard, but my nickname, Eb, and it entered my consciousness loud enough to awaken me and clear enough to communicate that I was being called. I shot up. Had I been dreaming? Sitting in my bag barely breathing, I listened. Sure enough, I heard my name a second time. I got up and checked on my two friends. They were fast asleep – no playing games there.
As I walked across the living room to the front door I heard my name a third time. Convinced that somebody out there was eager to get a hold of me despite the odd hour I looked out. It was a quiet night. No wind. No movement. Nothing.
Then I realized that the Lord must have called me to my informal nightly appointment with Him. I have been asked if I had responded as Samuel did when Eli told him to say, “Speak, for your servant is listening,” (1. Samuel 3:9-10). But I can’t lay claim to that. I don’t remember my reaction, even if that experience left a lasting impression on me. I returned to my sleeping bag full of wonder and kept my appointment, if a bit late.