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#5 – Playing Chess with God

by | May 16, 2016

At Christmas time in 1974, we were visiting my wife Cynthia’s family in Chinook, Montana, and I had babysitting duty. Our five-month-old son, Spencer, was taking his afternoon nap. Since his birth, I had been asking questions and seeking answers. Who am I? Where am I? What am I doing here? Far-away voices had been pulling at me for some time. I didn’t want to believe in God; I didn’t have time. I wanted to disbelieve, but my deeper instinct could not stop believing. I sat down in a comfortable chair in front of the fireplace and just happened to pick up a Bible lying on a table nearby. I opened it to the Gospel of Mark and read it from beginning to end. When I finished, I realized I had to make a decision. Who was Jesus? What did He do? Why does it matter?

That afternoon I met a different God than I expected, and I was stunned. Why did I miss this? How could I have been so wrong? This was a God I needed to know—an intimate, direct-dealing, and forgiving God who asked for my free acceptance of Him. I believed in my heart and asked Him into my life.

My father was a Presbyterian minister, and he told me God has a plan and purpose for those who believe in Him. But how can this be if we have free will? He that said that if he played a game of chess with the world’s greatest chess player like Bobby Fischer, no matter what move he made on the board, Bobby Fischer would win. It is the same in the game of life. No matter what decisions we make, God will make His move on the chess board of life that will get those who believe in Him where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there to fulfill His purpose and plan for their lives.

In the spring of 1979 I was the Assistant Regional Manager for the Chrysler Regional Office in San Francisco, California. My wife and I had three young boys, Spencer (5), Trevor (2), and an unexpected blessing, Blair (1). We loved San Francisco, had joined a church, had a lot of friends, and had made a commitment to tithe 10% to the church. We had already been moved six times by Chrysler in our eight years of marriage. We were very happy, so I started exploring the idea of going retail with some local dealers so we wouldn’t have to move again.

Then, in late March of 1979 I was unexpectedly promoted to be the Regional Manger for Chrysler in Cleveland, Ohio. It was a huge promotion, but I was badly shaken and did not want to go. I was to leave immediately for Cleveland. Confused and angry, I got in my car and parked by the San Mateo Bridge. I pleaded with God that we not have to move to Cleveland. I played chess with God and made an impossible demand. If I could not sell our house before I left for Cleveland, it would be a sign from God that I should quit Chrysler and go retail.

It was Tuesday. I called my assistant to make flight arrangements to Cleveland. United Airlines was on strike, so the first flight I could get was a Sunday night red-eye on American Airlines.

Still I thought I should be okay. In good faith I contacted a real estate agent. She was pessimistic about selling the house because I set the price so high. Our house had not yet even been listed when two couples viewed it on Saturday morning. The first couple offered full price and the second couple offered more than the asking price. I was surprised and unhappy—but moving to Cleveland. God won.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 (NLT)

We found a really interesting old Victorian home built in 1908 in the village of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. In August of 1979 we moved into our new home. Two weeks later Chrysler closed the Cleveland Regional Office. I was demoted and transferred to Detroit, Michigan.

(To be continued in “Lost in Detroit”)