erin ahnfeldt

Listening to Life

My friends Trent and Cliff almost died at a traffic light.  Both do maintenance at my school and cover the same shift, so quite often they’ll drive together to work.  As they drove—probably enjoying some good conversation knowing them—the light in front of them turned red.  Cliff was at the wheel, so he stopped the car, and then Trent asked a question.

“Hey Cliff, what do you think about. . ?”

Cliff turned his head toward Trent who was sitting in the passenger seat, so he didn’t notice the light turning green.  He could’ve pulled forward, but he didn’t.  He was looking at Trent.  That’s when it happened.

Right in front of them, a huge dump truck rumbled through the intersection like a freight train, like there was no traffic light at all.

I don’t know if they shouted or gasped, but they both noticed a truck had just blown through the red light.  They both noticed the truck’s massive size compared to their little car.  If Cliff hadn’t been looking at Trent, he would’ve seen the light change, and he probably would’ve gone.  He would’ve stepped on the gas, and both of them would’ve been killed.

Trent and I have worked together for almost 7 years.  Before he started doing the cleaning and maintenance in the gym, his area used to be the English Department.  I’d be sitting in my office, and he’d come by to empty a trash can.  We’d talk about the science fiction novels he was reading or the rise of technology and its impact on all of us.  We’d even talk religion.  To him, we were all gods, and this world was whatever we make of it.  He used to go to church as a kid, but honestly, he got sick of the judgement he felt.  Whenever I’d mention Jesus or the one God I believed loved him, he had another perspective.

“Yes, but what I believe is. . .” and while stroking his long white beard (which grows so easy and full it makes me jealous), he’d tell me his alternative to God.

A few days after Trent and Cliff had that experience, I sat at my computer after school, and Trent walked through the door.  It had been a while since I’d seen him.  His duties downstairs in the gym kept him busy.

“I had to come find you,” he said.  “How are you doing?”

I told him how things are going with my students and a little about my family, and then I asked him the same question.

“How are you?” His bright eyes gave him away.  He was eager to answer.

“I’ve got the usual issues.  Things get hard,” he said, and then he smiled.  “But you know what? I’m gonna be okay. . . ‘cause someone’s looking out for me.”

The last sentence didn’t hit me at first.  Trent waited patiently, just smiling, as the words bounced around in my head like a pinball machine.  Then, finally, the bells and lights went off.

“Wait a second.  Did you just say, ‘Someone’s looking out for you?’”

He nodded his head.

“Trent, are you telling me you believe in God?”  I asked, swiveling in my office chair to face him.

“Yep,” he said.

“What sparked the change?”

That’s when he told me about his moment at the traffic light.

“We could’ve easily died,” he said, looking me in the eyes.  “If Cliff would’ve seen that light change. . .Erin, that was no coincidence.”

“That was God,” I said, and he nodded.

“Yeah, and those things happen to me all the time.”  He was almost shouting with excitement.  “I’m actually really good at noticing them, and I’m sick of explaining it all away.”

We talked a little longer, and then I took a chance.

“Are you okay with praying?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said, stroking his beard.  He was standing, so I got up to stand next to him.  And right there in room 212, the two of us prayed, both thankful for the moment.

After Trent left, I sat in my swivel chair staring at the door.  Then I dropped to my knees.

“Thank you, God!” I whispered.  “That was you!”

It’s hard to describe experiences like Trent’s, but last Friday night, my nephew Peter gave me the words.

We had just watched a great movie with my son David.  After it was over, we talked, and Peter shared something vulnerable.

“It’s been a hard week,” he said, putting his hands through his hair.  “I didn’t get much time with friends. . .  I needed this.”

God knew Peter was struggling, so He gave him a night with the guys.

We ended the night praying, each of us taking a turn, and then Peter prayed something profound.

“And thank you, God,” he whispered, “for winking at us.”  The words were his way of recognizing that God knew the storm in his heart and did something about it.

I’m not sure where Peter found those words, but they offer a refreshing way of seeing God.

One wink speaks volumes.  Sitting around a Christmas tree, a savvy adult might wink at the older kids while he tells the younger ones about Santa.  Or during a Thanksgiving meal, my mother-in-law might wink at me as she passes her famous red cinnammon Jello (my favorite).  Winks have all kinds of different messages, but there’s always one basic understanding coming from the winker—you are known!  And it’s not a “known” like we know the state capitals; it’s an intimate, relational kind of “known” like a father knows His son.

Created by Trent

Pretty cool to think about God winking at us, isn’t it?  Looking back, I think that’s what Trent experienced.

God knew the truck was coming, but He also knew the angst in Trent’s heart, and in one heroic moment, God winked at him.

Is it possible there’s an Author winking at us as He weaves all these stories together?  You bet it is!  I’m done with coincidence.  Like Trent, I’m sick of explaining things away or talking about being “lucky”.  We have a good God.  He knows every hair on our heads (Mathew 10:30) and every page of every chapter of our stories.  And if He’s winking at us, I don’t want to miss it.


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