They say the sunsets over Lincolnshire, Illinois are bright and beautiful, especially if viewed from any of its tall, glittering buildings. The nights, however, are often black and cold and windy. Not a place to be caught alone.
Ken Cleaver knew the nights. A seminary student by day, he spent his evenings as a security guard for a multi-building corporation that was perched on one of the town’s best-known streets. He was a likable guy who’d found rapport with fellow guards, many of whom shared his faith in an almighty God. He was young, yet his hard work had earned him a seat at the security desk, away from laborious duties in the unforgiving elements. Ken appreciated his company’s care of its employees: the security office was commissioned to aid its people in any problems encountered on site. Guards were even trained in jump-starting vehicles.
Ken recalls one incident that required skills beyond his job training. It happened on a wintery evening when the last rays of daylight had vanished. Ken was sitting at his post behind an office window, watching folks in their cold-weather gear scurry toward the exit, their posture already braced against the wind beyond the door. Suddenly, a young woman was at his window. Her hair was disheveled. Her cheeks were reddened. Her brow was wrinkled with worry. Her car wouldn’t start.
As he picked up the phone, Ken assured the woman that his team would help her. He called the guard on duty in the lot where she was parked and told him the situation. Then Ken accompanied the lady in distress to her car.
The three gathered around the paralyzed sedan beneath lampposts with amber lights, the kind that throw an unattractive cast over people and cars alike. Beside them sat the security truck, engine warm, yellow hazard lights flashing. The lot guard quickly went to work connecting the jumper cables between the car battery and the portable charger he’d brought. He had mechanical aptitude, says Ken, and seemed to know what he was doing.
A cold battery is hard to revive, so the guard wasn’t discouraged that the first attempt to start the engine was unsuccessful. His method required that the cable ends sit for a few minutes between tries in order to allow electrical charge to flow into the dead battery. The wind whipped in defiance as the three people waited. Ken explained the process to the car owner to encourage her perseverance.
The second attempt to start the car failed. The woman looked worried again. Feeling a tad helpless himself, Ken tried to relieve the tension with a quip, “I’m a pastor and don’t know much about cars. I could probably lay hands on it, but that’s all I can do.”
The guard moved the cables from the portable charger to the truck battery and then asked the woman to turn her key in the ignition. No luck. More waiting. Ken felt a tug in his thoughts to do just as he’d offered. He stiffened and thought, What if it doesn’t work? Then he’d make God and himself look foolish. He could also be risking his employment and maybe even causing trouble for his company. As a well-studied student, he was quick to quote biblical justification for his resistance. He remembered a passage in Isaiah 7 where the Lord invites King Ahaz to pray for a sign. Ken’s mind recited the response of fearful Ahaz: “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
He shivered among his companions. The coldness of the night sank more deeply into their garments. Steam rose like spirits from their mouths when they exhaled, but the car gave off no clouds of life on the next crank. Finally, the guard shrugged and removed his cables. The woman’s countenance sank. Ken was reminded that “the God who is big enough and powerful enough to create the universe is certainly big enough to start a car engine.”
With that, he stepped forward and offered one last possibility for getting the car going. After all, there was nothing left to try. He placed his hands on the frozen battery and prayed, “Lord, we can’t start this car by traditional means. Would you start it and show your power today? I ask this in Jesus name. Amen.”
Ken asked the owner to get in her car and start it. The engine turned immediately and smoothly and hummed happily. The woman’s face lit up with delight. She shook hands with the two men and gave credit to God for the miracle before driving away in her liberated ride.
The guard got into his truck and offered Ken a ride back to the office. Ken Cleaver stood in a state of surprise about the result of his prayer. Then he felt guilty over his unbelief. Behind him, his fellow guard summed up the event simply: “That shouldn’t have happened, but it did. It just proves that God has the ability to do whatever he wants.” True, thought Ken as he climbed into the truck. Another voice echoed in his head: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).
The truck drove away from the amber lights and the empty parking space. The only matter that remained was what to write in the incident report.