Read: 2 Kings 20:1-5
Some call them traveling mercies. The prayers we pray for ourselves as well as others when we are on the road. In one church we attended, people referred to those requests for safety as journey mercies. Thinking about those words this week, I realize that God grants sweet journey mercies in the lives of His children even before they come to know His personal love. I have been pondering a story I heard this week about Len Crowley and how the Lord worked powerfully on his behalf until the day he was born anew, John 3:3, and His work in Crowley's life will never end. The story was told by former assistant police chief of Los Angeles, Bob Vernon. What a reminder that God writes stories with unlikely twists and turns, using whomever and whatever circumstances He chooses. All to His praise and honor.
Len Crowley lived down the street from Bob Vernon. Crowley had a lot of things going for him. He graduated from Harvey Mudd University. In addition to that, he began a football career with the Kansas City Chiefs. Then unexpected things began happening to Len Crowley. First, he was injured in a preseason game. The injury was so grave that it put an end to his dream of playing in the NFL. So, Len Crowley started a new business. Sadly, the new venture didn't put an end to the difficult circumstances Crowley faced. His brother was tragically killed, and his business failed. If those struggles weren't enough, Crowley's fiancée dumped him, choosing to marry his best friend instead of him.
When we ponder Crowley's story up to this point, it is hard to see any journey mercies. In truth, after these sorrowful circumstances and setbacks, Crowley was devastated. He was walking the streets of Minneapolis when he came upon a man who was handing out tracts. He didn't believe in what he thought he would read, but he took what was offered anyway. He would read it back at the hotel where he was staying. Sure enough, he rejected what he read, but there was a number on the back. The man who was passing out the tracts had written his phone number with the invitation that those who received the tracts could call. So, Crowley called him up.
Okay, here is where I think God could connect all the dots. In my version, the unnamed man on the other side of the phone would cheerfully answer and spend several hours with Crowley, telling him about the love of Jesus. He might even have him over for coffee. God's ways are so different.
Crowley got the man's answering machine. The message let him know that he was the man who had passed the tracts out. The caller could call back after 4:00. Crowley called back at 4:01. The man who answered asked him if he had read the tract. “Yes”’, was Crowley’s response. “Would you like to pray?” the man asked. Crowley prayed, repeating each sentence the man spoke. The man on the other side of the phone said “I'll see you in heaven and good-bye.” He hung up.
Now, I know that there is sufficient truth in the sweet words of the prayer of repentance and confession for a man to truly give his life to Jesus. The problem is that Crowley didn't really understand the words he had repeated; so, still broken and confused, he left Minneapolis. He landed in Chicago, on his way back to Los Angeles. Since he was flying stand by, he had to spend the night there. He rose early and walked the streets of Chicago. He was looking for a church, wondering about the words he had prayed.
Okay, here's another place I think God could connect all the dots. When Len Crowley entered that church, a pastor who usually would be still at home would be waiting for him in the empty church. He would have had a prompting that someone needed him, but that isn't how the Lord worked this time.
Instead the church was empty. Crowley spent 45 minutes crying out to God, asking for him to make Himself known, that is, if He really was real and if the words he had said meant anything at all. After the time of tears, the man left, feeling better for having cried but knowing no more about God than when he had entered the church. Crowley then decided that he would pick up a newspaper from his former best friend's hometown. He thought he would read the sports column the man had written and make fun of him. He was still angry with him because of his betrayal of their friendship. Crowley took the newspaper into a restaurant where he planned to have breakfast. After placing his order, he opened the paper.
Okay, here's another place where I would think God could intervene. Someone could come and sit with this broken and confused man and ask him about Jesus. That happened to my nephew when the Lord prompted him to sit next to a stranger in a coffee shop.
Instead, Crowley opened up the paper and his eyes fell upon the thought for the day. It was from 2 Kings 20, the place where God told His king that he had seen his tears and heard his cry and that He would heal him, 2 Kings 20:1-5. Precious truth for Hezekiah. Those words were also sweet journey mercies for Crowley. They spoke to him according to his need. God was real, and He had seen his tears.
Now comes the part that we hope for in the story. Crowley flew back home to Los Angeles and visited his neighbor, Bob Vernon. He told the story about the man handing out tracts, the prayer, the weeping in the church and the words in the newspaper. Vernon made certain his friend understood the meanings of the words his friend had prayed. Another sweet part of God's journey mercies for Len Crowley. It didn't stop there. Bob Vernon invited Len Crowley to jog with him each day and be discipled during those three-mile jogs. So, for three years, each day that's what happened. The result? Len Crowley became the pastor of a church near Detroit. Another sweet pouring out of God's mercies into the lives of many people.
It was a long story, I know. However, the details remind me that the journey didn't end after Crowley's NFL dream was shattered or when the other difficulties devastated him. If we had seen only that part, we surely couldn't have imagined God's work in Crowley's life. What I love is that God used unlikely circumstances and at least one unlikely person before He introduced Himself to Len Crowley.
He can use us, imperfect as we are. We can be one step that God uses as He pours out His journey mercies into people's lives. We might even be the one who disciples someone who has just become acquainted with the Savior. However, know this for certain. I won't be jogging while sharing truth about Hezekiah's and my God, the One Who sees our tears, hears our prayers and ultimately heals us. Are you praying for the Lord to make Himself known to someone? I know I am. May He help us remember that His journey mercies often wear disguises that make them difficult to see.