I could not find the peace that I needed within the confines of the Baptist Church where I was born and raised. It is not particularly a spiritual church, so I began to search. I went first to one church and then to another, until finally in frustration I came back to the Baptist church. It was early in 1967 that I sort of formed an understanding with the Lord that I’d go my way and He could go His way because I did not really believe that prayer had any power or meaning. Now that wasn’t satisfactory, so I determined that if God and particularly Jesus Christ were real and Christ was indeed my elder brother, I, as a child of God, was going to start talking to Him as a friend. So I began to talk to the Lord, just as I talk to friends, not really expecting anything to happen, but I felt better about it.
One night as I was getting ready to go out to the house of some friends, I took my shower, and went into the bedroom, talking to the Lord all the time. I asked the Lord a question, when suddenly He answered. This was not in the mind, but quite verbal. In fact, the house vibrated from it. He said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”
Well, now, I’m a bachelor living alone and when you hear all the walls saying, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” you’re going to have a reaction. Well, my reaction was to fall over the bed, which was where I belong at that particular moment. I asked, naturally, “Who is there?” This time the voice was much softer: “My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you.”
I managed to get dressed and to get across town to my appointment for dinner. I still don’t know what route I took. I did take the car, but I had help with the driving because I had no notion of how I got dressed, let alone how I found my way into the car. When I arrived at my friend’s home, the wife opened the door and said, “Norman, what is wrong?” I had no idea of what was wrong, let alone of her question of what was wrong. About that time, her husband appeared at the door. These people were Unitarians and they had some notion of what was occurring, so he said, “Woman, go to the kitchen immediately.” I couldn’t understand his abruptness. She said, “What is wrong?” and he said, “do as I say, I’ll explain later.” He invited me in, invited me to sit down and said, “I’ll leave you alone for a few minutes.” I could not understand his strange behavior, but I welcomed the opportunity to be alone for a time. Approximately twenty minutes later, he came in and said, “Do you want to tell me about it?”
I said, “About what?” I really couldn’t see myself reporting that my house had spoken to me. However, I was impressed that I should tell him, but first I had to know why he was asking. He said, “OK, are you ready for this?” I said, “Well, tonight I’m almost ready for anything.” He said, “When my wife came to the door, she did not turn on the porch light and yet you stood, from head to foot radiating with light. So startling and so blinding was the light that I knew that you were in the presence of the Lord.” Oh, wow! How does one handle something like that? Especially when in his heart he doesn’t truly believe? Yet, here was a friend, who knew nothing of what was occurring, making a statement like this.
We had dinner and he explained to me, “I have a feeling that the Lord is trying to tell you something more.” But, as we all do, I had interrupted. I went home early that night and I began to speak again to the four walls. About ten-thirty, the four walls spoke back, only this time, very softly. He had my attention, He didn’t need to shout at me. The statement was this: “Upon three cities will I build my last empire.” That made no sense at all to me. I went to the phone and called my friend and said, “That’s man’s trouble, we’ve been building empires all our lives, only to get in trouble.” And he said, “Now, this is not man speaking, it is God speaking, and stop interrupting. He has more to say!”
So I went back and talked some more, but nothing happened, so finally I went to bed. It was midnight and just as my head hit the pillow, I heard. “My empire is love; go forth and build.” The statement, go forth and build, seemed like a ridiculous statement at that time, because I didn’t even love myself, let alone my fellow men. I had trouble tolerating myself. It’s really not an unusual experience in this day’s world. Many of us feel that same thing; how do we face ourselves in the morning? I was having that trouble. I couldn’t love myself, therefore, I couldn’t love my fellow men; yet he was giving me a commandment: “My empire is love; go forth and build.”
Read Norm Gaddis’ complete story in His Everlasting Love Volume II.