God in The Whisper

I have always enjoyed listening to a good story, and I particularly enjoy stories that are rooted in truth. I think most people are in that boat. That’s why you see “based on a true story” slapped onto every other movie these days. But there are plenty of stories that go untold or at the very least, under-told. One of these stories is Wilmer Mclean’s.

Wilmer was born in 1814 and sold groceries wholesale in Virginia. He had a pretty cool farmhouse in Northern Virginia. You can still go by and see it, if you like. 

Wilmer's home, 1814

Wilmer Mclean

Wilmer's home today

Wilmer’s farmstead was not too far from several rivers (waterfront property, I see you Wilmer!).  Unfortunately, one of those rivers is a 32.8-mile tributary known as Bull Run, and on July 21, 1861, the Civil War began in Wilmer’s backyard. As is probably the case with many of us, Wilmer had a “one war per domicile” policy and decided to relocate his family somewhere a bit calmer. 

Wilmer's second home, 1814

Wilmer's second home today

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. 


Sam Houff amd his wife Elissa have been attending Redemption for 4 years. Sam is one of our Worship Leaders and a member of the South Park West Community Group