On April 19, 1995, I was walking down the hallway of a hospital in southeastern Oklahoma when I felt the ground shake. I later learned that the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City had been bombed. I was more than a two hour's drive from Oklahoma City, but still within trembling distance.
Several years ago, some friends asked me to tend to their pool while they spent some time in Alaska. Every couple of days, I treated the pool by pouring chemicals into the water line just a few inches away from the pump.
The pump itself was surrounded by a small picket fence. The space between the slats of the fence was just wide enough to slide my arm in and dump the chemicals. I repeated this process countless times without giving it much thought.
Then one day as I was about to slip my arm through the slats, I stopped. I'm not sure why. Something (or Someone) told me to look around inside the fence before sticking my arm through. Less than two feet from where my arm would have been was a napping rattlesnake. I trembled at the close call.
Not long after that, I was walking back to my house from the barn. My neighbors had a redneck shooting range behind their house. The sound of gunfire coming from that direction was not at all unusual. Then I heard the unmistakeable sound of a bullet cutting through the air. In milliseconds that felt like matrix seconds, the bullet whizzed by my head and smashed into the side of my barn.
I embraced the earth. After crawling to the house and calling my neighbors to let them know they missed, I sat down and trembled at the close encounter I'd had with lead poison.
As you can see, I've come within trembling distance of things that caused me to stop and take inventory. But nothing compares to the day I stood within trembling distance of the cross of Jesus Christ.
The bomb, the rattler, and the bullet could have killed me if I had been closer to them. But the day I knelt at the cross, I truly died. My past no longer mattered. My failures and mistakes were buried and lifeless. I died to who and what I used to be. I invited Jesus into my life and felt new life surge through me. I was born all over.
When God told Moses to bring the people of Israel to the foot of Mount Sinai to see the Lord come down the mountain in their sight, the anticipation of the nearness of God caused them to tremble (Exodus 19:16).
The songwriter asks, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" The songwriter's personal response and testimony is consistent with all those who have drawn near to God: "Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble."
Have you been within trembling distance of God? Iffy answers only mean you haven't scooted up close enough yet. Get within trembling distance. It may be shaky at first. But from there, you will forever stand on solid ground.
I was there.