As a new believer I remember being told to listen for “the still small voice” of God (1 Kings 19:11-12, NKJV). Looking back over the past six years since coming to faith, I can remember very specific times when my actions and choices were based on following that very advice, whether it came from reading Scripture or from having that “voice” in my head tell me to go a certain way.
I don’t know about you, but in my everyday life, the world around me is pretty loud. It’s getting harder and harder to listen for that “small still voice.” As a cop of 23 years, I’ve learned to listen to my instincts. Those have been honed over two decades and, for the most part, have kept me safe. But on a recent Friday, I heard the voice, listened, actually obeyed, and saw the mighty power of God at work.
While leaving our police headquarters, I saw a guy banging on the glass doors of our “Annex.” This is the big brick building facing Fresno Street that was the original City Hall. It’s now home to a number of different offices of the department. The building isn’t open to the public, and there are signs saying so. It’s very common for people to bang on the doors hoping to catch the attention of an officer walking through, usually only to be directed to the front door of the actual headquarters where they have to wait in line. I personally have directed people in this way hundreds of times over the years, usually with a head nod to point out the sign on the door, or if I’m really generous, I may point to the sign and mouth “go around.” I know. How rude. However, if we opened the door every time someone knocked, we’d never leave the building!
This particular Friday I wasn’t busy, and when I saw the guy knocking I started to motion toward the sign when I decided to open the door. I’m not sure why, other than to say this was one of those moments when I felt a tug in my heart to see what he wanted. I walked over and saw the guy was holding a traffic ticket. Figuring he was one of dozens of people wanting their tickets signed off for court, I just assumed I could quickly do this “good deed” and move along. I opened the door and his face was instantly grateful. “Thank you, Officer,” he said. “I didn’t think anyone would ever open this door.” I laughed and explained the issue with the two buildings.
Then I asked what I could do for him, and he explained he’d just been released from county jail and needed to find out where we towed his motorcycle. He told the story of being assaulted in a park by several subjects. When the police arrived, they helped him but found drugs. He was arrested for the drugs and his bike was towed. He wasn’t angry and even said the officers who arrested him were good to him. I said I could help and proceeded to walk him to my car so I could look up the info he needed, and I was able to provide him the location and phone number of the tow company.
As I looked at him, he was distraught and lost. He was a big guy, 6 feet 2 inches tall with tattoos all over both arms, and very well built. He looked like a linebacker for the NFL, but his eyes were just so full of despair. I asked him if I could call anyone for him or take him somewhere, since he told me he didn’t have a phone. We tried calling a “friend from church” and his ex-fiancé. No answer. He finally looked at me and said, “Officer, I don’t know where to go.” I asked if he had a place or someone else to stay with. He said he was now homeless. His fiancé told him, because of the last arrest, she was done. This is where I felt compelled to ask more, “for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:12).
The man said he was originally from Sacramento. He was a gang member and did 10 years in prison for carjacking. Since getting out four years ago he’s been in and out of jail for drugs. He admitted he’s got a meth problem and has failed out of two different programs. He was lost and at the end of his rope. I took a chance based on his “church friend’ and asked, “Are you a believer?” He looked at me and said, “Yes, sir.” I responded, “Then you know who can help, right? There’s only one person who can ever fix your drug problem and your other issues.” He looked at me with a tear and said, “Jesus.”
Over the next 20 minutes I talked to him about my own journey and failures. I then told him about the Fresno Rescue Mission and the amazing work they are doing, changing the lives of those who are ready for real life change through the Academy, an 18-month, live-in program to reconnect men with Christ and begin the road to sobriety. I explained that if he was really ready to do things differently, that’s the place to start. I would even drive him there and introduce him to my friends who work there. He began to cry and said, “Yes, please take me.”
On the way we talked about the program, how messed up we can make our own lives and how Jesus is the only way to redemption. Once at the Mission, I walked him in and promised that if he graduated, I’d be there for the ceremony. He again thanked me with tears and said, “Mr. Dewey, I asked God to help me today. And then you opened the door. Thank you.” Not wanting to cry in front of him, I quickly shook his hand, blessed him and left.
I don’t know if my new friend will complete the program or wind up back in jail. I pray for the men at the Mission to be the hands and feet of Christ and walk with him to sobriety. I pray for my new friend to stay focused, to truly surrender to Jesus and accept His amazing grace. I’m grateful for those moments when I can be part of God’s plan for others and for myself. I pray that I can recognize and be faithful to the Holy Spirit, so that Christ’s amazing grace and love can be seen by everyone I encounter.
I have a sad update. The gentlemen from the story has already left the program, reversing the acceptance of responsibility he had that day. I can't help but be disappointed, but I know the story isn't about him; it's about Jesus. So I will continue to listen to the Holy Spirit and do what He asks me to, even when I don't understand the larger picture of what He is doing.