Gilland: Finding peace in an ‘EXIT’ sign

Transitions are never easy, especially life-altering changes, such as a move to another city. I have experienced several of these, and not one of them was free from complications or deep emotions.

However, I have come to see that the difficulties experienced in such enormous events are better understood and appreciated in hindsight.

Here’s one example: When my wife and our two oldest children moved to Orlando in 1985, I couldn’t have been more faith-filled. I had loved Orlando since my first visit over a decade earlier and always had a sense of destiny with this city.

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For the next 17 years, it was to be my home, and I would have told you that we were there for good. But, I was wrong.

In 2002, I was given the challenge from my fellow pastoral team members to consider a strategic assignment, one that would necessitate moving to Gainesville and serving there in what was a church plant from our congregation over four years earlier.

Initially, I didn’t see this as an option. Though we really loved Gainesville (my oldest daughter and son-in-law had lived there for a couple of years), it was my lack of release and my great love for Orlando that was keeping me from thinking that this was to be my direction.

Praying through all of this was challenging, to say the least. But Cindy and I prayed, sought counsel, and prayed some more. A whole lot more.

Then, a most unexpected event occurred one night as I was locking up our church building.

It was already getting dark, and I was the last one in our facility. This potential relocation was heavily on my mind as I was checking all the exterior doors, making sure they were secured. As I was making my last pass through our lobby, this scenario unfolded…

“Lord,” I prayed out loud (hey, no one else was in the building!). “Please settle my heart on this situation. Should we do it? Please give me a sign–please send an angel, or give me an epiphany of light, allowing me to know for certain that You are in this move.”

Now, admittedly, I had just a touch of “tongue-in-cheek cynicism” going on in my mind in the following moments.

“In fact, Lord…” I continued, “I am going to walk into the darkened auditorium, where it is pitch black. In there, I can see clearly Your light!”

As I walked down the ramp into that now completely darkened auditorium, I stopped to peer in the blackness.

“No light,” I thought to myself. “He’s not going to give me an epiphany.”

Then, as my eyes began to focus in that darkness, I realized I WAS seeing some light. And, ironically, it was orange light.

What I saw was ”EXIT… EXIT…EXIT.” I had to stop and laugh at this unexpected and humorous outcome to my outlandish request from God, as over every exit door in our auditorium, these lights were shining out.

I wanted a sign, and He gave me one: “EXIT.” And it was appropriately colored orange.

Fortunately, we had more concrete and definitive answers to our prayers before our move, but this one was special, and still to this day, it brings a smile to my face.

Our move to Gainesville turned out to be a blessing in so many ways, and I was able to serve out my pastoral years here.

God’s grace is never in short supply, and there is no end to the ways He can speak to our troubled minds. He can even speak through an EXIT sign, and bring comfort to a heart that is hurting.

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