Straight Ahead in the Wrong Direction

by Patti Richter

Arise, go to Nineveh… But Jonah ran away… to flee from the Lord. Jonah 1:2 – 3 ESV

Our small church on the edge of the desert held a prayer meeting on Wednesday nights, and I coordinated the pre-school room. But when our daughter felt sick one Wednesday, I arranged for someone else to supervise—until the Lord provided a different plan.

After dinner that evening, while my husband, Jim, prepared to go to church alone, I went outside to tend the garden. As I knelt down with my spade, I heard the Lord speak in silent yet crystal-clear words:  Go to church tonight. I want you to tell someone about Me.

Amazed at hearing this message, I went to tell Jim what had happened. He agreed to stay home with our daughter while I went to church.

After checking on the children’s class, I took a seat in the back of the sanctuary, where I could see those arriving. But halfway through the service, I’d seen no one that I felt led to speak to.

I slipped out of the service to check on the kids’ room but found it empty; the teenage workers had taken them outside to the playground. As I crossed the courtyard to remind the group to come inside before dark, I asked the Lord about the message I’d heard.

That’s when I noticed some movement on another playground next to the church. I saw two children swinging and someone sitting on a bench. But I continued straight ahead, despite the clear direction that came to me immediately: That’s who I want you to talk to.

In my church pew again, I silently argued with God: I thought you would bring someone into the service, Lord. I don’t know what to say to someone who’s not here to seek you.

I knew well enough Jesus’ commission to his disciples, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15 ESV). Yet, here I sat, not wanting to go 100 steps.

Years earlier, as a new believer reading through the Old Testament for the first time, I’d been disappointed in the prophet Jonah. I loved the miraculous part of the story, the man-gets-swallowed-by-fish part. But the prophet’s stubborn attitude bothered me; I couldn’t relate to his outright disobedience to God—until now, as I found myself in his sandals.

When God’s silence grew too loud for me to bear, I rose up with Jonah-like enthusiasm, went outside to the small playground, and sat down beside that young woman. Startled to see me, she asked if it was okay for them to use the playground.

“Sure,” I answered. But then, in the gap of silence, I realized she reminded me of my sixteen-year-old self. So, I plunged into an awkward testimony: “When I was your age, I prayed and read the Bible sometimes.”

The girl’s eyes grew round, but not with alarm; so, I continued.

“I knew that Jesus died on the cross, but I never took it personally—that he died for me. Some friends helped me to see that I needed to confess my sins and ask Jesus to be my Savior. This changed my life in an amazing way, and I think God wanted me to tell you this.”

I saw a single teardrop slide down the girl’s cheek, as she smiled and said thank you. Then, hearing the pre-school kids racing back to the church, I rose to follow them inside; and the final rays of light drained over the horizon.

Do not be anxious … for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:19 – 20 ESV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at with more than four hundred published articles.

Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: Has God shown you something to do in a very clear way? How did you respond?


2 thoughts on “Straight Ahead in the Wrong Direction

  1. I love that God speaks to you this way. It is always comforting to hear his voice and unsettling to sit in His gentle silence when we haven’t listened or acted as He urged us to do. Thank you for sharing this experience.

    Liked by 1 person

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