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Hearing God’s Still Small Voice

by Susan Avera Jones

I looked up and stared. A crowd of people gathered anxiously near the exit gate. Momentarily I wondered why.

But all I had on my mind this lazy summer afternoon was relaxing on the warm sandy beach of Wakulla Springs near Tallahassee where our family of five had escaped for a quiet time together.

While my husband and two older children were swimming, Matthew, aged 4, and I began to wade in the shallow blue waters. He giggled timidly when a school of tiny blue-grey fish nipped at our toes.

As the crowd near the gate grew larger, I couldn’t resist the urge to go see what was happening.

Taking Matthew’s hand, I hurried toward the commotion — close enough to see a boy, whom I guessed to be about seven, wiggling his best to get his head out from between the iron bars of the one-way gate. Apparently he had tried to enter the swimming area through the horizontally barred exit gate and got wedged and locked in an awkward position between iron bars.

As I watched, various onlookers gave him conflicting advice.

"Try turning to your right."

‘‘No, wiggle this way."

He’d turn his head from one side to the other but he could not squeeze through. First he’d twist his back, then side, then stomach. He’d try so hard to push his body back out the way he came in. All without success.

‘I’ll go try to find a hack-saw," a tanned young man said, running toward the parking lot.

"Maybe I can locate a crow-bar," another volunteered as he left.

‘I wish I had my blow torch with me," a big burly man said. "I’d have the little fellow free in no time."

The little boy, whose name I learned was David, was dressed only in swim trunks. He kept swallowing hard, fighting back tears. He didn’t appear to have any relatives in this crowd who could encourage him to hang on until help could arrive.

As a registered nurse I realized that if he panicked he could seriously injure himself.

Feeling completely helpless, I stepped back from the crowd and whispered to my small son. "Matthew, let’s pray and ask our Heavenly Father to help little David. You know God says in the Bible if we need wisdom — need to know something important — He’ll show us."

Matthew, always my ready prayer partner, closed his eyes and lowered his head while I prayed aloud. "Father, this little boy David is in trouble. Please give him peace and set him free." Then, almost as a postscript, I added, "Father, how can I help?"

Before long I heard a voice coming from the stillness of my mind — clear, simple and direct. "Anoint him with oil."

Anoint him with oil? I’d seen Sandy, our minister, anoint the sick in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and many were healed. I knew it was scriptural for pastors and elders to anoint the sick. But this child wasn’t sick and I wasn’t a church leader. I was the mother of three children, in my early 30s.

Had I heard right? Was this God’s voice answering my prayer?

Again came the calm, sure command:

"Anoint him with oil."

I admitted to myself I’d feel pretty silly going up to the kid and putting a dot of oil on his forehead and praying aloud — with all those people standing around. But if that’s what was required, I’d make a fool of myself.

First I had to find some oil. I darted up and down the beach with Matthew in tow, "Do you have any suntan oil?" I’d ask. I couldn’t believe it. Not one sunbather would admit he had any tanning oil.

What now? I wondered.

Then I had an inspiration. Surely the hotel kitchen would give us some oil to use. "Uncle Charlie," I called to the tour guide of the glass-bottom boat who was standing near me, "Would you please go get me some cooking oil from the hotel kitchen?

In moments he was back. But when he handed me a large slab of white lard heaped on a colorful china plate, I stared at it quizzically. How could I use that stuff to anoint the child?

Suddenly I understood — understood why God hadn’t let me find any suntan oil. I knew now why He had wanted me to have lard. While David’s head could not be forced to pass between the bars as most everyone had been advising him, his body could. His rib cage, his largest part, could bend without breaking. After all, he had come into the gate that way.

I knelt beside young David and began to rub lard over his pudgy little torso — anointing him with oil of course. As I did I assured him softly.

"You’ll be free soon, David.  Just a few minutes more."

Within seconds after he was covered with that white lard, David’s greased body slipped free.

We all cheered. Before the man with the crow-bar returned, the gate was deserted. People scattered to enjoy the crystal blue waters or to lie lazily on the beach.

But Matthew and I hurried behind David as he ran to find his teenage uncle who had brought him to the springs. When we caught up with him, I squatted down to his eye level to talk.

"David, do you understand what just happened, honey? I wanted you to know it was God who helped me get you out. He loves you very much, and He set you free today."

He turned his freckled face up to mine. "Yeah," he said, with a long sigh, slowly nodding his head as he spoke with certainty. "Yeah, I know it."

What if I hadn’t obeyed that still small inner voice? I wondered as I flopped down on the beach blanket beside my husband. Sometimes God answers prayers in ways that seem altogether strange to us. But not to Him, I’m sure.