I've been reading Jack Deere's excellent 'Surprised by the voice of God' again this week. His story about Myra Wattinger is well worth retelling here.
Alone & penniless, Myra wondered through the South Texas towns of the 1940's, finally getting a job caring for an elderly man. The pay was pitiful, but at least she had the security of a place to sleep & food to eat.
Myra had a history of what psychiatrists today would call 'rejection'. She & her husband had recently divorced. Although he was prosperous he refused to give her any money. Her parents had died when she was an adolescent, so she had no one to turn to for help.
As Myra sat in the house watching her elderly employer sleeping, she thought her life had sunk as low as it could go. Sadly, she was wrong. The devil had planned a new torment for her, something that would even bring her to the point of killing herself. One day, while the old man was sleeping, she found herself alone in the house with one of his sons. The son, an alcoholic, had previously made sexual advance towards Myra. Although Myra had made it clear that she found him & his actions repulsive, on this day he was determined not to be refused. He raped her.
Nothing in Myra's short, difficult life came close to the humiliation of that afternoon's violation. 'How god must hate me', she thought. 'Why else had he let this happen, what have I done to make him so angry?'
Whenever she tried to talk to God about her situation, she heard nothing from him. It could have been the turmoil of her emotions or the fact that she had no real history of conversation with God, that kept her from hearing his tender comforts & promises. But Myra didn't ponder either of these options. Instead she concluded that God had abandoned her.
Sometimes when things can't get any worse, they do infact. The incidence of pregnancy in forcible rape is incredibly low, less than 3 pregnancies out of every 100 rapes. Myra's body defied those odds. It seemed to her God had gone out of his way to add one last torment to her misery - to have become pregnant through the rape. God was forcing her to carry the drunken brute's child.
Even if Myra had been able to support a child, she had no intention of supporting this child. She had been forced to endure the humiliation of the rape but she was not going to let the rapist, or even God, force her to endure the humiliation of the pregnancy. It just wasn't fair. She shouldn't have to suffer any more consequences from that horrible afternoon. She decided to kill the baby.
Her Doctor wouldn't co-operate. Quickly Myra found out that in South Texas in the 1940's it was not easy to get an abortion from a physician. She still thought the best course of action would be to kill the baby, with or without the help of a doctor.
These were the thoughts battling for the control of Myra's mind on a spring afternoon in 1943 as she trudged back home from the Doctor's. Sitting on the back porch of the home where she had been raped, a new option came to her mind - suicide. Just at the point when the thought of suicide seemed to offer the quickest end to her pain, there came an urge from somewhere deep in her spirit to pray. She looked up to heaven & cried out, 'Lord, I'm carrying this child & I don't know what to do.'
She was never really sure afterwards if the voice was audible or not. It was, however, as clear as any voice she had ever heard. God said to her, 'Have this baby. It will bring joy to the world.'
Those 2 short, divine sentences, dispelled all thoughts of suicide & abortion. Heaven's words have a power that no voice from hell can match. When Myra heard those words, not only did her destructive thoughts leave, but the joy of heaven entered her soul & crowded out the depression & anguish. She was convinced God would give her a baby girl whom she would call Joy, for according to God, this baby would bring joy to the world.
On October 9th, 1943, Myra brought her baby into the world in the charity ward of St Joseph's Hospital in Houston, Texas. Things began to go wrong immediately. Myra almost died in childbirth. The baby turned out to be a boy & not a girl.The next few years were not easy for Myra or her young son. They were often separated with the boy in a foster home.
Over the following years, the son showed no promise at all for fulfilling his heavenly destiny of bringing joy to the world. He did become a Christian in his early teenage years, but showed no promise for Christian work. In fact, he was so incredibly shy he simply could not speak in any kind of public setting.
The summer after the young man graduated from High School he went to a revival meeting - a Friday night - He heard God calling him to preach. It was as clear as an audible voice, though no one else would confirm it. They all knew this young man was not gifted for any sort of public ministry.
On Monday he went back to work at the Chemical plant. Most of the men who worked at the plant were not Christians. Their conversation was filled with profanity, dirty jokes & sexual references about their wives & mistresses. While this talk had never bothered the young man before, what had happened the previous Friday night made all the obscenity unbearable. As he listened to the men on the job, & again at lunch, where 200 workers gathered around 2 flatbed trailers, the young man was overcome with compassion for the workers & filled with anger at the sin separating them from Christ.
Suddenly, without realising what he was doing, he jumped up on one of the flatbed trucks & shouted to all 200 of his co-workers, 'Listen to me!' The men stopped chewing on their sandwiches & stared in amazed silence.
'I am just a boy out here trying to learn how to be a man. All you men are teaching me is how to talk filthy, think filthy, live filthy, be filthy! Men, I wouldn't talk about a dog the way most of you talk about your wives. But God loves you. And he gave Jesus to die for you.' This was the introduction to the young man's first sermon.
Pipe fitters, insulators, craftsmen & their helpers sat stunned as they heard these words. As the young man continued to preach, the conviction of the Holy Spirit swept over them. When he stopped speaking, no one said a word. They just hung their heads & shuffled back to their jobs - without realising a revival had just begun in their chemical plant. Over the next few weeks the young man had the privilege of leading many older workers to Christ. It became apparent that he was called to be an Evangelist. Some thirty years later, that young man has been responsible for leadings millions of people to believe in Jesus as their Lord & Saviour.
His name is James Robison. In the spring of 1943 his mother was truly surprised to hear the voice of God.