Recap: Friday night, two weeks ago, I did something I shouldn’t have even while knowing I shouldn’t. Filled with remorse, the next evening I called one of the elders from church and asked her to come over. She led me to the throne of God and figuratively held my hand while I spoke the whole matter out with God. Then she encouraged me to know that having been forgiven, I can put it all behind me as if it never happened but my sense of guilt and remorse wouldn’t leave.
Sunday morning I went to church, still feeling numb from the previous 36 hours. Forty-five minutes before the service begins, a number of us meet in the Comfy Couch Room to pray—for the service, the speaker, the message, those who will be there and anything else God leads us to. I make a point to be there each week.
As I walked toward the room for prayer, Gloria, an elder involved in prayer oversight, looked up and asked me how I was. I didn’t want to tell her all that had happened that weekend so I chose to tell her how my depression and inability to function worsened over the summer. She suggested we should pray about that but she was collating and stapling papers together and I continued toward those who had gathered to pray.
Gloria joined us when she could and when the prayer meeting finished, she came to me to pray. I don’t remember all she prayed but I do remember the picture she said God gave her. It was of me in a lush meadow of rolling hills, alone with God. It had no meaning for her but for me it was full of significance.
In Searching for Love I tell a story I’ve called “The Doorway.” I had had success the night before (quite a few years ago) in not giving in to temptation. I was so amazed because I hadn’t thought it possible. When I went to my counsellor, he called it a lifestyle change and asked why, when I had tasted a new way, would I go back to the old? I wanted to seriously consider the answer to that and looked off into space as I thought. A picture came to me. Well, it was more than a picture, it was an experience that became a pivotal point in my journey. I quote:
I had just walked through a doorway. The door was always open but I hadn’t believed it was there. The other side was black, small, cramped, heavy, a place where I mistook the jangle of heavy chains to be the music of my soul. I found comfort in the dark closeness that restricted me. I didn’t see how it confined. It was normal and exciting! There was a mystery to the darkness that allured and seduced me and I couldn’t see the door.For a brief moment, a light shone into the blackness. I was told I could be surrounded by light but I disbelieved. Could it be real? Might the light be better? Would I be allowed to experience it? The thought stirred terror, panic. Could I leave the safety of the room, the only place I’d known? Could I believe the promises? I didn’t want to but the question remained, “Why would you want to stay here?” Why? Why? Why do I want the chains? Why choose oppression? Why remain when I had begged to be removed? Why? I knew I couldn’t. I must move through.The bright openness stunned my senses. The foreignness of it paralyzed me until I was melted by the warmth of the sun and I opened my eyes. I was standing in a vast meadow of gently waving grasses and flowers, the breath of a quiet breeze bearing the fragrance of God, iridescent dragonflies inviting me to dance with them. Yes! I wanted to dance. I couldn’t keep from dancing—twirling, swirling, leaping with joy. There were no walls, no boundaries, no chains, no end to the light, the beauty, the freedom. There was no end. Was there a beginning? The room was gone. I was free.
That day, through that experience, God freed me from the power temptation had over me. Dancing with God and the dragonflies in that beautiful meadow became the symbol of that freedom. Now, many years later, with my Friday fall, I wondered if I had relinquished the freedom and returned to the dark, close confinement of the little hut. Had I lost all I had gained from God? Was I back at the beginning and, worse, now stuck there? The picture Gloria received from God and shared with me was a message to me from God: I was still in that meadow, away from the chains and heavy darkness that had previously held me. It was an unexpected gift through someone who didn’t have a clue what she was saying. God is so good!
The songs of worship that Sunday morning were further confirmation of God’s grace and goodness:
Your mercies are new every morning. (Aaron Shust?)You know everything about me and love me anyway (don’t know which artist)Heal my heart and make me clean (Hillsong)How can I perceive your mercy? (David Ruis)There is a place where forgiveness flows like water / There is a place of healing for my soul / There is a place of drying tears of sadness / There is a place of cleansing for my soul (Winnipeg singer/songwriter Shezza)What can wash away my sin? / What can make me whole again? / Nothing but the blood of Jesus (Robert Lowry)Everyone needs forgiveness / So take me as you find me / All my fears and failures (Hillsong)
The prayer that followed our singing and worship reminded me that Satan is the accuser. He accused me—with justification, because I sinned—but God kept reminding me of truths: Jesus died for you; Jesus was cast out for you; God forgives far more than he expects people to forgive.
Nathan Rieger, the lead pastor, prayed exactly what I had been thinking all day Saturday: “We deserve for you to kill us...” then added: “...but you give mercy instead.” It was as if God had arranged the music and prayer to speak specifically to me and my need.
As I left church, “Revival” by Robin Marks began to play on the radio.
The song lists people in varying circumstances: broken dreams, rush hour frustration, innocent child playing, empty preacher with nothing to give, mourning widow, “the lost soul reaching for a higher high,” etc. I could identify. I’m one of these people. The singer declares to God:
I feel it in my spirit, feel it in my bonesYou're going to send revival, bring them all back home...I can feel the brooding of Your Spirit"Lay your burdens down, Lay your burdens down"
and then implores:
Revive us with your fire!
That night, my daily Bible reading took me to the beginning of Judges. A note in my Archaeological Study Bible (page 343) talks about God’s faithfulness:
Through the repeated cycle of disobedience, oppression, repentance and deliverance, Judges portrays a God of both judgment and forgiveness. (Italics added.)
I felt encouraged by this because I know how faithful God stayed to his people Israel despite the many times they fell away from God’s standards. It was yet another statement of God continuing to be with me, forgiving and loving me.
To be continued.