Homer was admitted to hospice with end stage lung cancer. The best way to describe Homer is a graying Abraham Lincoln, tall, thin, his hair combed straight back with sharp chiseled facial features. Years ago, Homer’s wife left him with seven minor children, whom he raised on his own. He affirmed, “I’ve raised good kids” and he did. His sons recounted how he was both a father and mother and declared, “He stuck by us, so we are sticking by him.” and they did.
Homer had little formal education and was unpolished, but he was a deep thinking man. One day he shared, “I always felt like maybe God wanted me to be a preacher. But now I can’t get anywhere to preach to anybody anyway. I get up every morning and have a cup of coffee with God and talk with Him. Whole sermons have come to me, things I never thought of before or heard anybody else talk about. Once I wrote out a whole sermon and gave it to a preacher and he used it one Sunday.”
Homer paused for a few seconds and then concluded, “I’m convinced that God wants to speak to us more than we are wanting to listen.” Then he illustrated his point with a story. “About five years ago I stepped out on my front porch and God spoke to me. He told me, ‘There’s going to be a day of judgement, you better get ready.’ He told me I needed to get ready for myself and for my children’s benefit because I didn’t have any life insurance or money to pay for a funeral. I wasn’t sick or anything, so I ignored it. Then God spoke to me again about a year later, but I ignored it again. Then, a couple of years ago, God spoke to me a third time. He again told me, ‘You better get ready’, but this time he also told me I wouldn’t live to see my 70th birthday. This time I listened. I started making payments on a vault and cemetery lot. I have them paid for but my kids will still have to make payments on my funeral. Now I’m 69 and have cancer and it doesn’t look like I’m going to see 70. If only I’d listened to him the first time it would all be paid for by now. That’s why I’m convinced that God wants to speak to us much more than we want to listen.”
Homer’s story reminds me of the prophet Elijah (I Kings 17-19). I believe most of us can identify with Elijah. One minute he’s on the mountain top and the next minute he’s running for his life. He boldly confronted Ahab, the wickedest King of Israel. But when King Ahab’s wife Jezebel threatened Elijah, he ran south of the border. While hiding out in the wilderness he entered a cave to sleep for the night. Then God commanded Elijah, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord. And behold the Lord passed by and a great strong wind tore into the mountains but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”
Homer, like Elijah discovered that God usually speaks to us in “a still small voice.” Perhaps, so that only those who are really listening will hear. So let’s learn from Homer and Elijah. Let’s have “ears to hear” (Matthew 11:15) and hearts to obey. Perhaps then we won’t end up saying to ourselves, “If only I’d listened to him the first time.” And, by the way, Homer didn’t live to see his 70th birthday.
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center – Hospice and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 740-356-2525.