We were conducting a session of our men’s gathering. About 35 mountain men were seated around me. The conversation was lively. All kinds of questions you can think of were hurled at me. One man said, “You say that God is all-powerful. So I ask you now, can God create a rock so huge that He wouldn’t be able to lift it?”
Before I could answer, another called out: “Why did God create mankind, knowing full well, in His wisdom, that it would just go sideways with these people?”
A third one hustled in on the conversation: “The Bible says that the first man and woman had two sons. The first one killed his brother. Then he travelled to an unknown land and took a wife. Where did this wife come from?”
And so the torrent of questions the men pelted out bombarded me. When I tried to answer, they didn’t even wait for an answer but immediately came up with new questions.
Finally, the old father Böhnke took over the conversation. He was the oldest in the circle. I knew him well. We had both shared some remarkable hours when his awakened conscience wouldn’t let him continue, and through his tears he could only stammer: “I’m so lost! I am so lost! I have spurned God.”
Then, as the rising of the bright, shining sun, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ burst forth into his life. This transformation resulted in this man becoming quietly reserved and paying close attention during the men’s study sessions.
To the surprise of the gathered men, he now contributed to the conversation: “Men,” he said, “those questions you’re asking are really dumb. I used to numb my conscience with those kinds of questions too, when I tried to escape from God. But….”
He paused for a moment, thoughtfully rubbing his forehead, and then started anew. “I’m going to tell you a story,” he said. Now he had everyone’s attention. “I would have never amounted to anything on my father’s small estate. Back then, rumor had it that in the Ruhr region of Germany, the money floated around on the streets. You just needed to pick it up.
“And so I found my way over there. What a disappointment! There was no money on the streets, only dirt. I fell on bitterly hard times. My money was soon used up, and I couldn’t find any work. Finally, I ended up in some meager quarters where a few drinking buddies tried to talk me into committing a robbery. Everything in me rebelled against such an evil act. However, what other choice did I have?
“Depressed, I wandered up and down the streets. People thronged all around me. The stores were brightly lit, and all around me was clamor, noise, and haste. No one paid any attention to me. Desperate and hungry, I slipped through the crowds. If I didn’t find any help soon, I would have to resort to evil means.
“Then, all of a sudden, I heard my name being called. ‘Henry!’ I was about to turn around and look, but I reminded myself that no one knew me here! Who would be calling my name? Surely there were many Henry’s in this large town.
“I simply continued on my way. But, once again, I heard the call, ‘Henry!’ I just continued walking. What did that concern me? And then, louder than the city noise around me, I heard the call for a third time. ‘Henry!’ This time, I turned around. I saw a coachman, who was maneuvering his large cart into a side street, looking straight at me while motioning to me with his riding whip. And then I recognized him! He had gone to school with me earlier and had long ago moved to the Ruhr area. I quickly ran toward him.
“‘Climb up here with me,’ he called. ‘I can’t stop here in this traffic.’ And when I took my seat beside him, he admonished me. ‘I called you so loudly. Why didn’t you turn around? Another few seconds, and I would have been around the corner and would likely never have seen you again! But now tell me, how things are going with you?’ And so I spilled my whole story: the misery I was in and how they were trying to make a robber out of me.
“My old school comrade had such empathy with me that he took me to his home. He gave me food and helped me out with clothing as well. And eventually, he even found some work for me to do. In short, I am indebted to my comrade who prevented me from ending up shattered and destitute. And now listen up!”
The old man Böhnke suddenly became very reverent. “Did you understand that in those few seconds, I was teetering on the edge of the knife? I ignored the first call and the second one too! If I had ignored that third call, my life would have gone to the dogs. Everything depended on me answering that third call and heeding it!” Breathlessly, the men listened. Oh yes, they understood this story well. They were all people whose life always staggered to the cliff’s edge. They understood this old man’s story all too well. Solemnly he continued. “Everything depended on whether or not I ignored that third call. And that’s exactly how it was with God. He called me. But I never understood it then. And then He called me again. I still didn’t respond to that call. But when the third call came, I knew: this one you must heed. Otherwise God might turn the corner and you’ll never hear Him again. Now you see, that’s when I turned to Him.
“So that is what I just wanted to say to you. Those dumb questions you always ask are irrelevant. It’s all about you hearing God’s call and choosing to obey Him.”
The old man sat down. Total silence filled the room. We finished with a song and then thoughtfully went home.