God was there, and I knew it not.
That night, on the run from his brother and facing an uncertain future with family members he was yet to meet, and dealing with his own self-centered deceiving nature which had got him in this mess and brought him to this how-do-you-do, young Jacob had a dream.
“Behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac….” (Genesis 28:10ff)
He was dreaming, but when he awakened, Jacob knew this was the real deal.
Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not.” He was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven!” (28:16-17).
The Lord is here. In this very place. And He has my number.
That can be unsettling, humbling, and life-changing. As it was for Jacob.
Ever felt the Lord call your name?
Ever had something happen that called you back to reality and reminded you of your tiny place in the universe?
I still remember walking around the cemetery outside the tiny building of Flatwoods Primitive Baptist Church between Carbon Hill and Nauvoo, Alabama. My McKeever grandparents are buried there, along with several members of their extended family. At a far end of the graveyard, I found an old tombstone that read “Joe McKeever.” His dates were 1892-1943, as I recall.
My great-uncle Joe. I seem to have a sliver of a memory of the man, since I was only 3 years old when he left. I was not named for him, but for my mother’s Uncle Joe Noles, a wonderful character, brimming with life and laughter.
Still. It’s a strange feeling to stumble upon a tombstone with your name on it.
Then, there was this.
Sometimes, when I’m at the grave of my parents across the road from New Oak Grove Free Will Baptist Church outside Nauvoo, I will walk over a few paces to the marker bearing my initials. That’s where my eartly remains will be interred.
It gives a person pause.
Some years ago when searching the internet was a new thing for me, I googled my name to see where articles from this website were being run.
Among the endless repetitions of writings and videos by this Joe McKeever and others of the same name, I came upon a reference about “Joe McKeever’s wife giving birth to a son on March 28.” There was my name and my birthday. What’s this all about?
I clicked the link and found myself knee-deep in something called “Leather Workers’ Journal.” A little investigation revealed this to be the bound volume of monthly publications of a labor union called “The United Brotherhood of Leather Workers on Horse Goods,” from the years 1906-07. Members of this union turned out horse collars, saddles, and harnesses. Clearly, with the automobile gaining in popularity, this union was on its way out the back door.
After searching a bit, I saw that finding this reference was not going to be easy. In fact, this volume held 700 or more pages. Then I saw I could fast forward through the editorials and news and seek out “correspondence” from the various “locals” around the country. These were the ones announcing that “Tom Johnson has hung up his kit with Ellsworth Leather Goods and we find him to be a good worker” and “Ed Ainsley’s wife gave birth to twins last week.” That is clearly where I would find the reference about Joe McKeever.
I found it all right. Two hours it took! (My son told me later how I could have shortened the search, but as I say, I was new to this and by then it was done.)
From page 563, in the report of the Kansas City local of the union, was this announcement: “Brother Joe McKeever’s home was blessed with a bouncing baby boy the 28th day of March.” That’s all. Nothing more.
Now, he was not called “Brother” because he was a preacher, but a member of the union. Nor do we know the child’s name. Being born in 1907 meant he arrived exactly 33 years before I hit the ground in Nauvoo, Alabama. As far as we know, there is no relation.
It was interesting, nothing more. But still, a shiver ran over me.
We used to say when a chill ran through you that “someone is walking over your grave.” A macabre sense of humor produced that bit of wisdom, no doubt.
The best of these “Oh my goodness” moments, of course, come in church when one of these happens to you….
1) The sermon is dealing with precisely what you are going through. You know the preacher knows nothing at all about your circumstances, and that this is the Living God sending you a message. That word is to trust Him, to be faithful, to hang in there.
Or maybe to stop the destructive thing you are doing and turn to Him.
2) You get under conviction for your sin and know the living God has called your name, that this is the moment when you must respond and be saved. I was 11 years old and remember it like it was last week.
3) You have been messing with the Lord’s church or God’s preacher, and the guest preacher–who knows nothing at all about any of this!–delivers a comeuppance for you that might as well been hand-delivered by FedEx and you were asked to sign for it.
I’ve known of such church people getting angry at the pastor. “You told McKeever what was going on, didn’t you?” The pastor is able to smile and say, “I told him nothing. That was the Holy Spirit, my friend.”
The pastor and I had a good laugh about it later. (This has happened more than once in a long ministry spanning over half a century.)
I’ll say this, friend. When God calls your name, when Heaven has your number, you do well to pay attention.
“I am not going to repeat this,” we can imagine the Father in Heaven saying.
Be honored, my friend. The Creator of the universe has singled you out for His love and His purposes. How blessed you are.
Don’t blow this now. Get it right. Say, “Here am I, Lord. What will You have me do?”
“He knows my name; every step that I take; every move that I make, every tear I cry….”
Thank you, loving Father. How great Thou art!