“Go Home Now!”

Dick Duerksen
“Go Home Now!”

Betty’s voice was clear and direct. “Jim, I can’t live with you anymore. You need to be out of the house before I get off work today.”

It was Friday, and things had not been going well for Jim and Betty, a young Adventist pastoral couple. Betty was finished with their marriage, and Jim did not understand why.

“I thought we had a typical marriage, a good relationship,” he remembers. “But now the worst thing I could ever imagine was happening, and I didn’t even understand what I had done!”

Jim called the hospital chaplain and asked him to take care of the sermon he was to preach the next day; then he got into their old RV and headed south. Some hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail would help to clear his head, he hoped. He spent a fitful night parked near some railroad tracks. Sabbath morning took him farther south.

Then the transmission made a few terrible screeching sounds, seized up, and quit.

Stuck in a Small Town

It took a while, but a tow truck finally towed the RV to the local transmission shop, where the mechanics quickly analyzed it and gave Jim the news.

“It can be repaired, but we close at noon today, so you won’t be able to get to it until sometime Monday. Until then, you can camp here in our parking lot.”

This was not the way he had planned to spend Sabbath.

That night a gang riot broke out in the parking lot, surrounding the RV with gunshots, shouting, squealing tires, and sirens. Fearful for his life, Jim spent most of the night lying flat on the floor of his tiny motor home, quietly crying out to God.

Sunday morning Pastor Jim woke up feeling that he needed to be in church—any church. He began walking, and just down the street he heard enthusiastic Christian music. The sign in front of the church said “Victory Outreach.” As he stepped into the small chapel, he quickly realized that these people were nothing like the people who attended his large church back home. Jeans and T-shirts, tattoos and piercings—this church seemed to be targeting addicts and street walkers. They were singing at the top of their voices, praising a loving, forgiving God.

As the music soaked into his soul, Jim began to weep uncontrollably. The members seemed to sing louder to cover the sound of his sobbing, and Jim knew God had led him right to where he needed to be.

When the service was over, he caught the attention of a woman in the pew ahead of him.

“I’m in trouble,” he said. “Is there someone I could talk to?”

“Just a moment,” she answered.

A few moments later a young deacon came and sat down beside him. As Jim sobbed out his story, the man listened deeply. When Jim paused, the deacon spoke directly to his heart. “There is something I don’t understand. How could a Christian pastor permit his marriage to get so bad that his wife would rather live without him?”

The question was shocking. “You don’t understand. She is the one who kicked me out of the house. I didn’t have a choice.”

The deacon persisted. “You can’t fix what you have broken from here. You have to go home.”

“I can’t.”

“You must.”

United Prayers

Outside, Jim began to wander around town. Walking, thinking, pondering what he had just heard and experienced, watering the path with his tears.

Later that morning Pastor Jim’s walking took him to a local hospital. The air-conditioned lobby was comfortable. After perusing a few magazines, he found a small chapel just off the lobby. He slipped in, knelt beside one of the chairs, and prayed, seeking peace and understanding. After a time of quiet solitude, he rose. As he started to leave the chapel, he noticed a binder for prayer requests.

“I am a Christian pastor,” Jim wrote on the open page. “My wife has just kicked me out of the house. Please pray for me.” Then he signed his name.

Monday morning, mechanics pulled the old RV into the garage and began major surgery on the transmission.

Jim went walking.

And sobbing.

And thinking.

He found himself back at the hospital. There was no one in the chapel, but he could hear a chaplain talking on the phone in the adjoining office. When the man hung up, Pastor Jim knocked on the chaplain’s door.

“Come in!” a kind voice invited.

“I walked in, sat down, and wiped my soggy eyes. When I looked up, I saw a kind-faced man reaching for a box of tissues,” remembers Jim.

“How can I help you?”

“I’m Pastor Jim,” he began.

“You’re Pastor Jim?” the chaplain exclaimed.

“Well, yes, I am,” Jim responded in bewilderment.

“Before you say a single word, Jim, I want you to know something. Every Christian pastor in this city is praying for you by name this morning. That message you wrote in the chapel prayer book yesterday, I shared it with all the pastors at our monthly prayer breakfast this morning! We all prayed for you then, and they are praying for you now!”

Jim could hardly believe what he was hearing. God had orchestrated an amazing gift for him.

“There, in an unfamiliar city, far from home, all the Christian pastors were calling out to God on my behalf. So unbelievable.”

Jim and the chaplain prayed and talked together. Finally the chaplain put a hand on Pastor Jim’s shoulder and said, “Jim, you need to go home. You can’t fix what’s broken in your marriage from here!” Jim recognized the counsel and knew what he needed to do. But he was terrified to follow through on the words. What if he called and Betty just hung up?

Back at the transmission repair shop, he sat in the small waiting room, his mind slowly replaying the words again and again. “You can’t fix what is broken from here!” “Go home now!”

When the RV repair was finally finished, Jim placed a trembling phone call to his church. His wife, Betty, would be there with the kids for the weekly Pathfinder club meeting.

“May I speak to Betty, please?” His voice sounded as if he were in a magnitude 7 earthquake, his heart beating in fear-filled hope.

“Hello, this is Betty.”

“Hello, this is Jim.” “Jim, you can come home. Just promise me we will both go for help. God wants us to fix this, together.”

Dick Duerksen