This is an excerpt from my third book, Wind in the Pines. As I watched today’s inauguration of Barak Obama, I was reminded of an estimated one- million- man crowd I was a part of on the National Mall. This is a story of what God taught me there.
“From ‘Big D.C.’ to ‘little d.c.’”
…Sometimes the best place to be is right where God has planted us.”
The first time I heard about this future event I felt “called” to go. it was in the Houston Astrodome. 35,000 men were gathered, not to cheer the Oilers or Astros, but to worship, sing, and praise God. This two-day men’s event was sponsored by Promise Keepers, an organization started by former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney.
At the end of the Houston meeting, Coach McCartney announced that in two years there would be a huge Promise Keepers meeting at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The name of the coming event was, “Standing in the Gap.” This theme was based on the verse in Ezekiel 22:30:
“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.”
I turned to our guys in the Astrodome and stated that I was going, and from that day on I began to plan toward it. It was going to be a trip from my D.C. – a place called Dry Creek to the other D.C. – our nation’s capital.
Many times, we loosely use the term “I feel called by God….” We should use that term carefully and with reverence. However “called” is exactly what I felt on making this trip. I knew I would only be one person among hundreds of thousands, but if being one small raindrop in a flood of millions would help, I would do my part.
If my simple attendance in Washington, D.C. on an October Saturday would help our country regain its spiritual footing, I would gladly be there.
October 1997 finally came and eight men loaded up into two vans and headed northeast. One of the vans was mine and the other van, a Chevy Astro, belonged to a special friend, Jimmy Fisher of DeQuincy.
Driving eastward all night across the Deep South, we were too excited to sleep. We were on a road trip and it was a road trip with purpose.
However, by the time we reached mid-Georgia, there was serious trouble with the Chevy van. Jimmy’s van was leaking transmission fluid badly. Traveling northward, we made more and more frequent stops where several quarts of transmission fluid were added.
By the time we reached Greenville, South Carolina, Jimmy finally said what we all already knew – He was going to be forced to stop and have the transmission replaced. Our first stop was at a Sears automotive store but no one could help us there. They sent us on to another shop. This was repeated several more times. By the time we reached the fourth, we were losing both our hope and an ever increasing stream of leaking transmission fluid.
This fourth stop was near the edge of town at a small transmission shop. Jimmy was visibly frustrated and tired as he went inside. He shared with the man at the front desk how he was from out of state and needed a rebuilt transmission put in. Knowing how far from home we were and being at the mercy of an unknown repair shop added to Jimmy’s stress.
The man behind the desk quietly listened to Jimmy’s plea and said, “Well, we’d like to help you but I’m not sure we can. We’re closing down early today. All of us are going tomorrow to that men’s meeting up in Washington, D.C.”
Jimmy stood there stunned, fully knowing that not incredible coincidence, but rather God’s leadership had brought him to this shop. Needless to say they quickly replaced Jimmy’s transmission for a very reasonable fee.
Now with renewed excitement, our caravan was back on the interstate. During the day we began to mingle with buses, vans and cars of men, many of them decorated with sayings and scriptures- all headed northward toward our nation’s capital.
In the crowded Smithsonian Natural Science Museum, right under one of the huge dinosaur skeletons, I saw “Dog” Lambert from Merryville. I poked him from behind and said, “What’s an old country boy from Beauregard Parish doing up here?” We laughed as we marveled at the odds of seeing a neighbor and friend here.
Several sights I saw that Friday are still vivid in my heart and mind – Inside the Capitol rotunda I saw three men face down on the marble floor weeping and praying for our nation. They lay prone right under the dome where the coffins of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy had lain in state.
That night we stood on the steps of the lighted Lincoln Memorial as a lone saxophonist played “Amazing Grace.” He stood up in the covered area by Lincoln’s “seat.” The echo of this beautiful hymn throughout the huge memorial was both eerie and touching.
On Saturday, the actual “Stand in the Gap” event took place… we rode the subway in from the Maryland suburbs. Everywhere there were men of every race, color, age and size. Many young sons walked beside their dads in a huge flow of men.
The National Mall is two and one half miles long from Lincoln’s Memorial to the Capitol. It seemed as if every inch of grass or concrete had a man or boy standing on it.
I hate to admit it, but I barely remember the speakers or what was said. But every part of this day’s experience was life-changing. It was just indescribable as to how it felt to be among this mass of humanity gathered to worship God.
We talk sometimes of “God speaking to us.” That is something hard to explain or describe. I heard the story of how a wise old man told how God “had spoken to him.” When asked if God had spoken in “an audible voice,” the man smiled and replied,
“Oh no, it was much louder than that!”
I would daresay that nearly every man present that day felt this special presence of God. I know it was sure true among our group of men. I’ll always remember the moment as I knelt beside one of my former students, Greg Spears. A large flock of pigeons flew over the vast crowd. It was nearly a visible picture of how God’s spirit was hovering over this gathering.
How did God speak to me? Well, like the earlier quote, it wasn’t audible but it was deep in my heart. Here is what God showed me:
I had come to Washington to be among a vast crowd of men to “stand in the gap” for our country. From comparing the moral direction of our country to God’s
unchanging standards, I felt (and still do) a sense of concern.
But what God showed me was not a message of despair. Standing there in “Big D.C.,” God kind of took me back to “my d.c.” – the special place where I have lived, worked, and raised my family.
That day on the National Mall I realized that my calling – my place to stand in the gap – was a place called Dry Creek. A place where thousands of young people come yearly to have a fresh encounter with God. A place where marriages are healed and families strengthened.
I saw that the best place for me to take a stand was right where I was. On that day in front of our Capitol, I was willing to go wherever God wanted to send me—I would even come live in a big city
like Washington if that was what God wanted. (I would go, but it might take a burning bush to convince me that my marching orders were correct.)
However, I saw with the eyes of my heart, that my place of service- “my gap to stand in” – was Dry Creek, Louisiana, USA. My calling was, and still is, to be available to join with God where He is working… and the camp where I serve is definitely a place where I see God at work.
This is the story I took home in my heart, and seven years later I still feel the same way. I hope I’m always ready to go where He leads and willing to serve passionately where He places me.
May it be said of each one of us that we stood in the gap and were found faithful, regardless of our level or place of service. Let us be faithful, whether it is in “Big DC” (our nation’s capital) or “little d.c.” – that place sitting at the intersection of two rural Louisiana highways, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 1:6
My friend Jimmy Fisher died several years after this trip. He was “a man’s man” and I still miss him. However, in my heart, I still see him on the trip that changed all of us.
I dedicate this updated version of the story in his memory.