We were driving west on a late autumn afternoon as mostly cloudy skies stretched across the horizon of the Welsh Hills of Ohio.

I passively sat in the front seat of our family sedan while my father quietly navigated our way home. The radio was not playing and only the rumbling of the tires upon the country road could be heard.

I was lost in thought, daydreaming, when I abruptly awakened to the sun radiating through the clouds. Innumerable rays of light beamed, and extended brightly toward the ground. It was in that moment that my spirit was aroused, as I sensed a message from God.

As a seven-year-old boy, I had never experienced a provocation in my spirit. Yet uncontestably my spirit was stirred, yearning for God. I listened as a quiet voice branded a thought into my heart. In that special moment, I was impressed that God was calling me into the ministry.

My spiritual journey had recently begun through weekly religious training on Saturday mornings. My parents were committed to investing in my spiritual formation and insured that I attend the classes. I was an eager student, soaking up the lessons of the Gospel, reconciliation and confirmation. The training was making a significant impact on my life.

I passionately memorized prayers and creeds. My spiritual mentors gleaned my religious zeal and afforded me the opportunity to read my work in church. The seven-year-old’s religious journey was off to a fast start.

However years would pass and my family’s commitment to faithful church life would wane. As a result, the fire that once burned in my heart for God was quenched. Without the doors of opportunity previously afforded, my focus was diverted to other personal interests. It is paramount to note, however, that God would not give up on me! Although years would pass, it was not the end of the story.

As an 18-year-old, I enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed in Michigan. My newlywed wife reminded me that I had promised her before we wed that we would go to church once we settled down. However, I had become comfortable sitting at home watching sports and enjoying my time off. It would be through the persistent coaxing of my wife, and her prayers, that I yielded to her prompting and attended church with her.

It was on a Sunday morning listening to the pastor preach the Gospel of Christ that I trusted Jesus as my Savior. Even though I had been taught many creeds, and experienced religious ceremonies in my youth, I came to realize my personal relationship with God was not through my own works of righteousness. It was by grace, through faith alone, in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

Months would pass and my journey would lead me to serve at Strategic Air Command in the U.S. Air Force. While off duty and participating in a mission’s conference in my church, God spoke to me about full-time service in the ministry. The journey had come full circle. From the initial prompting of God in my father’s car to a pew in a mission’s conference, the Spirit of God made His purpose for my life abundantly clear. My next step was formal education.

As I reflect on a long and winding road, there are several mysteries of God I cannot explain. Yet today in my spiritual maturity, I know that at seven years old I had zeal, but lacked knowledge. The eye of God was upon me and even though years would pass, His plan for me would be accomplished according to His perfect will.

I am now in my 40th year of ministry and have assisted numerous men and women discern God’s call upon their life. My counsel for others is clear: be open to the small, still voice of God in your life. Yield to His prompting. Follow His leading. What an exciting journey lies in store for you!

Have a great week and remember, God loves YOU!

Reach Jon Shonebarger at jtshonebarger@gmail.com.

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