This new home was located about 120 miles south in Appomattox, VA. Four years later, Wilmer got a knock at his front door from a messenger of Robert E. Lee’s. A few hours later, Lee surrendered to the Union Army in Wilmer’s parlor. The Civil War began in Wilmer’s backyard, and ended in his living room!
I like to think about what must have gone through Wilmer’s mind when he opened the door to his Appomattox home to find the war he had fled was back at his front doorstep. Shock, anxiety, maybe anger? Fear? It had to be surreal for the guy.
I think the closest Biblical equivalent to Wilmer is Jonah. God calls Jonah to preach against the wickedness of the city of Nineveh, but Jonah is afraid and flees. Jonah flees on a ship, but it’s caught in a storm. Jonah flees the ship but is swallowed by a leviathan. I imagine Jonah at this point is in about the same frame of mind as Wilmer: “You gotta be kidding me.” And it’s enough of a wake-up call to get Jonah to do a 180 and obey God’s command.
For the vast majority of us, there will be no Wilmer/Jonah moment of realization. There will not be a cannon to jolt us out of our sleepwalking, no fish motel where we’ll see the inevitability of resisting God’s plans for our lives. And I think this lets us feed our own apathy, our own sense that there’s no significant part for us to play in God’s designs.
When we don’t hear God calling over a megaphone, we take it to mean He’s silent.
In 1 Kings, Elijah is fleeing for his life when this happens:
"The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave."
It’s so easy to ignore the whisper. But we’re selling ourselves and our relationship with the Father short if we do.