erin ahnfeldt

Listening to Life

Helplessness is a common feeling these days. Storms shut down cities, leaders debate, and a virus continues to keep everyone isolated. It feels like any action we take would be as helpful as dumping a glass of water on a forest fire. We’re small compared to these national and global problems, but we do have one powerful option—we can pray.

That’s what motivated twenty grown adults to sneak into a garage.

It was the night before the statewide cross-country meet. As the runners ate their team dinner, the parents circled up next to an SUV to pray for them. Apparently, this happens every year, but since this was my son’s first year on the team, the tradition was new to me.

Linda gave an opening prayer for protection. Then it was quiet. The floor was open. Honestly, the prospect of praying with all those people was terrifying. My heart beat so fast, I could hardly breathe, but this was special, and when Isaiah 40:31 came to mind, no matter how much I tried to avoid it, I wondered if maybe God wanted me to pray. Yikes! Finally, with a trembling voice, I broke the silence: “God, thank you for the young men on this team who’ve been examples for my son. . .” Two big breaths. “. . .Isaiah 40:31 says, ‘Those who hope in the LORD will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary.’” I paused, thinking about that verse. The word “hope” stood out. “More than running or being fast, please help these kids to put their hope in you.” There were more powerful prayers of blessing and strength. Then, someone said “Amen,” and after some lingering conversation, the garage was empty.

That night, David went to bed early. He wanted to be well-rested for the big race. This would be his first high school state meet. In his estimation, this race was what he’d been training for all his life. The whole family was excited, and when I turned off his light, I wondered if he’d be able to sleep.

The phone rang. “Hello.”

“Hi. Is this Mr. Ahnfeldt?” The voice sounded heavy.

“Yes it is.”

“This is the Athletic Director from your son’s school. I’m afraid I’ve got bad news.”

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“We need to put David in quarantine.” He paused for a minute, letting the news sink in. “He won’t be able to compete tomorrow. I’m so sorry.”

I thanked him for doing his job, and he acknowledged it wasn’t easy. When we hung up, I went downstairs to tell David.

“David?” I whispered into the darkness.


I walked into his room, letting the light in from the hallway, and sat next to him. “The Athletic Director just called.” I waited to see if he was listening. “He said you’re in quarantine. . . and. . . .” He knew what was coming, and his eyes were wide with shock. “I’m sorry, Buddy, but you can’t race tomorrow.”

“No! You’re kidding me?” he asked.

“No. . . I’m so sorry.”

As reality set in, the tears came. He turned his back to me and pounded the mattress. “Why?!” he yelled, but he didn’t want an answer, and I didn’t have one. “I’m so sorry buddy,” I kept saying, but nothing I said helped.

The next morning, I got up, grabbed my earbuds and took a walk. The sky was a gorgeous blue, and the air was crisp. God and I needed to talk, so I let it out. I told Him I didn’t know what to do, but I thanked Him for the love poured out from the coaches and teammates. After putting in my earbuds, I listened to some music, and my heart began to settle. Then I heard a voice. It was Clara, a character in the movie War Room, and her prayer was introducing Steven Curtis Chapman’s song Warrior. As I listened, her voice and Chapman’s became God’s voice to my heart. Her words were filled with victory: “You did it again, Lord, you did it again. . .” The hopeful tone was leading my heart to a different place. God was doing something good. Chapman’s guitar kept playing as he sang about a warrior who fights battles on bended knees, and when Clara prayed, “Raise up a generation, Lord, that will take light into this world,” my eyes filled with tears. It was clear. God was raising up David!

As soon as I got back, it was time to leave for Hope’s soccer game. We hit the gap between Colorado Springs and Castle Rock, and I asked Deb to play the song Warrior. There was Clara’s voice praying again and Steven Curtis singing the lyrics, and again I had to wipe away tears. My prayer from the night before came back to mind: “More than running or being fast, please help these kids to put their hope in you.” When the song was over, I looked at David in the rearview mirror. “David” I shouted over the noise of the traffic. He was looking up at me. “I’m proud of you.” My voice was trembling, and I could barely talk. “God chose you! He chose you to show the world what it looks like when a young man puts his hope where it should be—not in running or in being fast, but in Jesus.”

He gave me a subtle-teenager smile, and whispered, “Thanks Dad.”

I’m ashamed to admit it, but sometimes I pray without fully absorbing the incredible truth that God’s actually listening. He heard me in that garage and gave me an answer I didn’t see coming. Then He saw my reeling heart on a trail and gave me truth to share. This life right now is as blinding and chaotic as a whiteout blizzard, but even if we can’t see anything, God sees us. He sees our stories from beginning to end, which means He might choose us for storylines we don’t like. He’s the Author, and knowing that He can see us may be just the encouragement we need to do the only thing we can do, in the midst of all that blowing snow, and call out for Him to lead us through.

That’s all for today!

One of my greatest joys in life is to use words to encourage. I hope to do that with these stories, and someday soon with a book. If you think others might be encouraged by these words, please consider sharing this on Facebook or forwarding it to a friend. And if someone sent this to you, you can sign up here to get these stories twice a month. Thank you for your support!