So, in a previous post , I mentioned how the Holy Spirit had confronted me with my aversion to the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit, in particular, speaking in tongues, at a Praise and Worship Conference in Flensburg (up on the Danish border) back in Spring of 95. What I did not explain is just how dull I had been in paying attention to the role prayer and the Lord’s answers to prayers had played in my life. That dimension of Christian living had profound implications for the question of “cessation of miracles” and should have shaken my convictions on that point…if I had taken time to reflect on it. I should have, since God had already given me more than ample reason and opportunity for such reflection.
Back in Spring of 94, in an empty apartment in Bloomington, Indiana, I had heard the voice of Holy Spirit telling me not to put a knife into myself. I will not explain those events in detail here, but instead my response to the fact that the God of the Universe had stopped me from taking my own life. My response was not immediately flinging myself into ministry out of gratitude nor was it an emotional outpouring of tear-filled repentance for the thoughts and actions that had led God to intervene in my life. It was to pray more. And those prayers were for specific things to happen for me: That I would get summer teaching (I did), that I would get funding for a conference presentation at the first ever International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds (I did) and that I would get the appointment as the fellow for the Indiana University-University of Kiel Exchange Fellowship for the next year (I did). By the end of that summer, I knew I was going to be in Kiel in the coming academic year.
Then there was the business with the flight. My mom and my brother took me to the Indianapolis Airport (the old one, with the Adam’s Mark Hotel near it) on a sunny day, and – believe it or not, you who were born after September 11th, 2001, they were allowed to accompany me to the gate. We were a good two hours early (even then I always wanted to be very early for flights), and there was another flight to New York- my connection- already boarding. When we got there, the gate agent said, “Mr. Martin, you’re on the flight to Hamburg?”
“Yeah, is there something wrong?”
“Yes,” he answered, “there’s been a delay with the flight you are scheduled for out of New York. But there’s another flight, an earlier flight. But we have to get you on this flight. Let me see what I can do.”
He tapped rapidly at the keyboard and in a few minutes he asked me to hand him my already-issued boarding pass, which he then exchanged for a new one. And with a much hastier round of leave-taking from my mother and brother than I had planned, I was on the plane at the gate within minutes. I had a longer-than-planned layover in New York, then arrived early in Hamburg the next day. This of course meant that my luggage did not arrive with me and after filling out the requisite forms with the airline’s baggage desk, I realized I needed to find the bus to Kiel, like NOW. The schedule I had read back in Indiana had told me that there were buses from Hamburg to Kiel only at two hour intervals, and if I missed this one, the last before noon, I would not be able to meet the people at the University Foreign Student’s Office, get into my housing, and so forth. For a moment or two, I stood there in the baggage claim area, not knowing which exit to take to get to the bus.
Go out that door right now, said an audible voice in English. Only no human being was standing within thirty feet of me and the human beings close enough for me to hear were not speaking English. I did what the voice had said, and right outside “that door” was the bus to Kiel. I barely had time to put my carry-on bag into the overhead bin when the bus took off. If I had hesitated….
When I got to Kiel, having taking a taxi to the Christian Albrecht’s University’s campus, I had another shock waiting for me in the Foreign Student’s Office. My acceptance letter for the exchange program had never arrived. It had gotten lost in the mail. Thankfully, I had made a photocopy, which I then presented to the office’s director. He hastily made some phone calls to Bloomington and to their student housing…a place called the Studentendorf. The housing manager was not happy to hear about me. Since my letter had not arrived, university housing had assigned the room that was supposed to be mine to some other student. A man from South Africa. Only, he had not arrived and had not sent any notice that he would be arriving, either. So, having no one in the apartment, just then, they mercifully decided to let me stay in it until matters could be cleared up.
Remember that group of Charismatics and Pentecostals I mentioned in the post linked above? Well, my apartment was in the middle of them. Right where God wanted me to be. And this was all before I had really devoted much mind space to the “divine action in the here and now” question.
My being among those people, at that conference where the Holy Spirit confronted me, even my being in Kiel had all been engineered by the hand of God. And more divine handiwork was to come in he next quarter century.