Growing up, attending church with my cousins, I wanted to believe in God. However, by the time I had reached my teenage years, I was sprinting in the opposite direction without ever looking back. Though, had I braved a peek, I would have seen God in a full sprint running after me.
After 44 years of life, God has finally caught me. His Relentless Pursuit for my soul is the basis for this account.
Sadly, most of my adult life has been lived away from God. I certainly wanted a God to relieve my burdens, and like most people, I desired an eternal promise.
Unfortunately, I found it very difficult to believe in a higher power. This was a long private struggle as my wife, and practically all my family identified as Christians.
Surrounded by Believers, I was the guy who pretended to pray, and fooled others about my faith. The idea of a magical being who talked to people and solved problems seemed not only improbable, but completely unbelievable to me.
Thankfully, God made me a Believer.
I wasn’t easily convinced. Even when the evidence was clear, I pushed back. Hard. I made excuses. I sought to explain occurrences as coincidence. When amazing things happened in my life, I looked for reasons to not give credit to God. Reflectively, my past behaviors are regrettable, but I must be transparent about who I’ve been for you to appreciate who I am, now.
I’m living proof that the Transformative Power of God is Real, and Powerful.
This story begins on June 10, 2016, the day I lost my best friend to lung cancer.
My grandfather, Norman Earl Hardin, was 84 years old when this cruel monster choked the breath from his body.
Improbably, I was with him when his life ended.
Growing up in rural Arkansas, my Grandpa was everything to me. Most of my youth was spent riding around in his dusty old pickup checking cows, laughing out loud at the kitchen table, and finishing days sitting side by side on a pond bank, bobbers dancing with the wind.
He drove me to school, he took me to practices, he brought me to breakfast at the local café with his friends, and he took me fishing. He was there when I was heartbroken, in love, on top of the world, and when I was humbly seeing it from my back. He gave advice, he listened to problems, he made everyone laugh, he made me cry. He was strong enough to stand for what was right, but soft enough to rock my babies in his big chair.
I couldn't have predicted his death would bring us closer.
I had witnessed his rapid decline first-hand. Nearly a full week spent by his side with other members of our family, he went from needing assistance to stand to no longer being able to stand at all. He gagged when soft foods were being fed to him, and he winced with every drop of water forced down his throat. Despite all of this, he was prideful and tough beyond measure. Even in those last weeks, he remained steadfast in his refusal of pain medication.
By the time I was to leave for work, I had prepared myself to say goodbye. As I knelt beside his bed and took his hand, I thanked him for his friendship and told him how much I loved him. He grinned and told me he loved me, too.
Saying goodbye to a loved one was new territory for me. I had watched movies with these type of scenes, but nothing prepares you to be in such a scene. It was surreal. Nearly impossible to accept. I didn’t want to let go of his hand. Let go of him forever.
My work took me on the road for the next week. A series of scheduled events that took me from different cities throughout the South. My work obligations ended on Thursday, June 9th, in McKinney, Texas. During my work week, I received frequent updates from my aunt. With each passing day, I found myself surprised that he made it through the previous night.
He continued to survive, but it would be difficult to describe him as living. By that Thursday, he had been without a drop of water for the week, had been motionless for days, and had not opened his eyes for a couple of days. Essentially, he lay an empty vessel atop the bed Hospice provided.
I finished my work just shy of 5:00 p.m., and hit the road with a mission. I abandoned the speed limit and arrived just before midnight.
Every inner-working of my body tensed, and a deep breath escaped me as I sought to find the courage to exit my truck. Gathering my emotions, and not knowing exactly what to expect, I walked into my grandparent’s home.
His chest heaved like a piston, laboring for each horrid breath. A skeleton of a man was all that remained. The room was quiet, but for the terrible sound created by his heavy lungs pumping against time. In my mind, and in the words spoken from my aunt and grandmother, he had waited for me to come back.
Once again, I knelt beside his bed, I took his hand as I had done previously. This time it was cold, lifeless, and without response. There was no squeeze, no warmth of blood circulating, no life left to be shared. I attempted a few words through the involuntary sounds one makes when emotion overcomes them.
For the first time in days, his eyes opened.
A solitary tear formed and trickled down his gaunt and ashen cheek. His pupils darted frantically beneath heavy eyelids. At first, I sensed fear, but started to interpret it as if he was desperately trying to communicate.
We spent the next moments staring at one another, before I found the courage to speak. I don't remember all the words I tried sharing with him, but I do remember saying it was okay to go. Shortly thereafter, his eyes closed for the last time.
I released his hand in a last moment that signified goodbye, forever. My aunt pulled a chair by his side and took his hand in hers. I hugged my grandmother, and exited the living room by dragging myself down the hallway to Grandpa's bedroom. Once there, I plugged in my phone, fell onto the bed, and immediately drifted away from physical and emotional exhaustion.
Somewhere around 2:00 a.m., my aunt touched my arm and delivered the expected news. Grandpa had passed.
I collected myself and made my way to the living room where I found absent the horrible sound of a dying man fighting for each breath. All was still. All was quiet.
There are protocols to be followed when one dies at home. In order, my aunt called Hospice, who sent out a nurse, a call was made to the sheriff to confirm the death, and the coroner was notified to pick up the body. All this activity, yet he was no longer with us.
The sweet hospice nurse arrived, and she began her duties of washing his body and preparing her reports. The sheriff arrived, performed his duty, and left nearly as soon as he had appeared. The coroner was on the way.
By this time, it must have been near 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. Things had settled, and I suddenly found myself alone with my thoughts.
I decided to sit on the front porch. Two chairs. One for me, and one where Grandpa had always been. Taking a seat, the flood of emotions I had effectively barricaded breached my resistance. I began to sob and started shouting at God. I blamed him for my grandfather’s death. I cursed him. I spilled out my grievances. And as loudly and sincerely as I’ve ever spoken anything, I told God that I did not believe he existed. I demanded He show me something to prove his existence. I waited in silence, fists clinched, and staring into the darkness.
Nothing but crickets.
Convinced and resolute, I denounced God, “That’s what I thought. You don’t exist.”
I settled in the living room with my aunt and grandmother. We sat separately in silence. All was quiet but for the hospice nurse pecking away at her keyboard while sitting at the kitchen table.
We remained like this for some time before a sound emanating from down the hallway garnered our attention. It was music.
The sound of harps.
I pushed myself up and hustled down the hallway to investigate. My phone, sitting on the nightstand beside my grandfather’s bed, was lit and producing a harp-like ringtone. Oddly, my phone’s alarm was going off, but I had not set an alarm, and I had never heard this sound before.
I turn off the alarm, picked up my phone with disbelief, and wandered back down the hallway where I stated with amazement, “I have no idea why my alarm was going off.”
Without hesitation, the hospice nurse turned to me and asked, “What time is it?”
I looked at my phone cradled in my hand, and replied, “It’s 4:44”
Without hesitation, she offered that 444 was the number sequence associated with angels and it was their way of comforting me.
I shook my head and sat down trying to find a logical reason for my phone to have been triggered by an alarm that I did not set and emanate a sound I had never heard. I had been awake since 6:00 a.m. the previous morning, and I had not set an alarm after that time, nor did I ever have a reason to set an alarm for 4:44 a.m.
I pondered this while my aunt began a google search on her phone, she showed me exactly what the hospice nurse had said to be the case, but I found myself swimming in doubt.
I spent the next hour trying to wrap my brain around this occurrence. But, I couldn’t bring myself to believe that it was more than my phone malfunctioning. Though, I failed to explain why it would.
Just after the coroner removed my grandfather’s lifeless body from the house, I called my wife, who was home with our two young children 550 miles away. At the time of my grandfather’s passing, our oldest son, Jack, was three. Jack and my grandfather were very close. When we would visit, Grandpa showed tremendous adoration for Jack. He gleamed when talking about him and seemed to follow his every move.
When away, Jack and Grandpa made good use of modern technology. Facetime was a regular part of our weekly schedule. Jack and Grandpa spent hours in front of iPads laughing, loving, and talking about Jack’s toys. Jack would go on and on about each toy he had. He took turns bringing a toy to the screen, describing it as a three-year old would, only to grow tired of it and quickly fetch another. Grandpa certainly enjoyed this and would encourage Jack to show more. This became the routine.
I had woken my wife with the early-morning call. I told her that Grandpa had passed, and I shared some of the details of his passing. It was about to be a short conversation, but I decided to tell her about the strange events involving my phone. I began, “Before I let you go, the strangest thing happened to me at 4:44 this morning…”
“Look, I don’t know what you’re going to say, but I have to tell you what happened here at that exact same time. I woke when I heard Jack on the baby monitor. I know it was 4:44 because the monitor was positioned right next to the alarm clock. I got up, made my way to his room and found him sitting up in his bed.”
I intervened, “Was he upset?”
She responded, “No, that’s just it, he wasn’t. It was so strange. He was sitting up in his bed and he was talking.”
Bewildered, I asked, “About what?”
Her reply - “His Toys.”
He was talking about his toys. At 4:44 a.m., 550 miles away, at the exact same time my phone’s alarm began to play a harp-like song.
It's my belief that God correctly knew that I would be skeptical and make excuses for the happenings with my phone, but it was going to be extremely difficult for me to dismiss both occurrences and passing them off as coincidence.
A few days later, we buried Grandpa. The story had been shared with the attending pastor, and I decided to ask him about all of it before leaving the gravesite.
As I shook his hand and thanked him for the service, I asked, “Why me? Why did my phone go off at 4:44 a.m., and why did my son wake at that same time talking about his toys?”
He smiled and said, “Jerrad, it’s because you asked.” And then rhetorically, “Didn’t you?”
I had asked. Rather I had demanded. I had cursed God, and made my disbelief and displeasure clearly known to Him.
Even though, He still answered.
But… I continued trying to excuse it all away.
Yes, I know... I’m a knucklehead.
Despite my attempts to excuse away signs and attribute happenings to coincidence, God refused to give up on me.
Since the events that transpired on June 10, 2016, God has consistently and continually shown me 444. Below are just some of the ways: (many of which on multiple occurances)
Walking into Hotel Rooms and seeing clocks flashing 4:44, and it being hours off.
444 on receipts
444 at gas pumps
444 at airports
444 on license plates
444 on scoreboards
444 on television
444 being shouted aloud
444 when checking stocks
444 as numbered on comments for articles I’m reading
444 on my GPS
444 on my iPhone
444 on Stopwatches
444 on Road Signs
444 on Phone Numbers Dialed
444 on my Personal Credit Card
Waking at 4:44
4:44 on the Stove
4:44 on the Microwave
4:44 on my Car Dash
444 on Mileage Estimates
444 on Odometer Readings
I began to take pictures and document the different ways I was seeing this number sequence. Even though I continued to pass it off as coincidence and I refused to link any part of my story together and give God any credit for trying to communicate with me. Frankly, I started to feel haunted and was growing frustrated with it.
Then on the Friday before Mother’s Day 2018, God FINALLY got my attention!
We have a workout facility across the street from where we live. It’s a small place with just a few pieces of equipment. On this particular day I chose to do my cardio workout on the elliptical machine. The elliptical faced a large window where I focused my attention. Mindlessly, I pumped the pedals and held my stare through the window. Sweat began to drip from my brow, when a bolt of thought struck my mind with an inexplicable clarity. Instantly, a fully-developed plan was laid before me with explicit detail and instruction. It unfolded in my mind so deliberately that even skeptical-me, immediately thought it to be a direct message from God.
However, as quickly as I entertained that idea, I dismissed it. Shrugging it off, I looked to the elliptical screen to check my progress. In bright digital print, staring back at me in that exact moment, I had traveled 4.44 miles. It held for about three seconds before changing to 4.45, at which time I jumped from the machine, leaned against the wall, and tried to process what was happening.
When my wife arrived home from work, I met her at the door and asked that we sit on the front porch to talk about what had happened to me earlier in the day. I unveiled how and what had been delivered to me.
Given the context of how 444 had been consistently showing up in our lives, it was getting increasingly more difficult to explain it all away. My wife, fully supportive, interpreted it as a message from God, but I wasn't as sure. Our discussion turned to my unwillingness to do what I was being instructed to do. And, we both agreed that I would be an Unlikely choice for God to place this task upon. After all, I had been pushing God away for most of my adult life. Now, God was asking me to share my story with anyone willing to listen and testify to his existence?
What God was asking me to do was something I absolutely did not want to do.
My story was personal, and I wanted my struggles, my beliefs, and my life to remain private.
On Mother’s Day morning, we woke, and my wife asked me if I wanted to go to church, which she generally knows the answer to this question before asking. But, for some reason, I said, yes.
We arrived at church for the third service of the day, got the kids settled in childcare provided by the church, and found ourselves perched as comfortably near the last row as possible. My choice.
When Pastor Stacy walked out, I looked at my wife whose smirk gave me permission to take out my phone and start browsing. Surprisingly, Pastor Stacy's opening remarks caught my attention when she stated that God had asked her to deliver a message to someone sitting in the crowd. She went on to explain that God told her that He had asked someone in attendance to do something specific, and that the person he asked was maybe reluctant and probably felt to be the most Unlikely to be chosen.
I peered up from my phone, my wife nudged me and said, “She’s talking to you!”
I shook my head and responded with a hushed tone, “No, she’s not.”
Pastor Stacy continued and what she said raised the hair on my arms. As she continued, she nearly repeated verbatim the conversation that Julia and I had shared on our front porch just two days before.
My immediate thought was to talk to Pastor Stacy about this, but again, I received a message I deemed to be from God, and that message was to speak to Pastor Keith.
Keith serves as the Executive Pastor at our church. And while I had no logical reason not to talk to Keith, he wasn’t someone I necessarily wanted to seek out. But, I decided that maybe I should start listening to the directions I had been given.
I sent Keith an email, to which he quickly responded, and we arranged to meet at a local coffee shop.
Not sure if I was losing my mind or being instructed by God, I sat down with Keith for clarity.
He assured me that I was indeed not crazy, and it was his supportive nature that helped me sort through the many happenings in my life. He encouraged me to take time and to pray about it. He wanted to know if God would continue to talk to me. I decided to take his advice.
I took the next month to pray about what God wanted me to do. Praying was not easy for me, but I did my best to immerse myself in conversation with God. I prayed aloud with deep sincerity. I asked God to show me signs, I asked for things I was unsure He could or would deliver. But, he did. Even things I deemed impossible.
I was hosting a number of softball camps on the East Coast. Rain was predicted nearly every day - which would force us to cancel our work. Rain forecasts varied in different locations from 40%-90% each day.
Each night prior to camp, I found myself praying for the opportunity to do my work without being impacted by rain. God answered my prayers each day. There were days the location where we were having camp was surrounded by large intense yellow and red masses on the radar, encircling our location, however it did not rain in our location. People found themselves astounded as they used their phones to show me local radars indicating flood-inducing rains occurring short distances from where we stood. Yet, our location remained untouched during our activities. However, on several occasions, at the very instant we finished our camp activities, rain would begin to fall.
It was a powerful and overwhelming indication that God was proving Himself to me.
Each day God showed me 444 in some unique way. The most astounding, as I was preparing to leave a parking garage in New Jersey plotting my route to my destination in Canton, Ohio, over 6 ½ hours away, I found myself staring at a GPS showing that I was exactly 444 miles away.
This is but one example experienced over those 30 days.
Exhausted by His pursuit, having been reluctant to follow His instructions, I have finally yielded myself to God's will. I am now sharing my story and doing exactly what he has asked me to do. I’ve come to learn that this is no longer about what I want, but it’s rather what God wants for me.
Admittedly, I do not know exactly what 444 means. I’ve studied scripture, I’ve done extensive research, and I cannot find anything that resonates with me to be a perfect match. However, I am confident that He used the sequence to get my attention to bring me closer to God, and to put me on a path to share His message. God is real, He exists, He communicates with us, He pursues us, He loves us, and He will never-ever give up on any of us.
My accounts prove that not only is God Real, but God speaks to us. He commands us. He provides a path for each of us. He spoke to me, and I know He speaks to others. We must choose to listen and be obedient to his commands. Follow His path and do as he desires. When we do, he enriches our lives, fills the voids, and provides for our needs.
I would encourage everyone to speak with sincerity to God. Look for the ways He chooses to communicate with you, cherish Him, honor Him, and deeply value the love He has for all of us.
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