(Warning: this post is filled with things that you may or may not believe concerning your faith. I have vacillated back in forth in my decision to write out my experience below out of the simple fear of worrying I may offend someone who believes different from me.
My final decision however has been the idea that this blog is a place for my personal thoughts and its purpose fits me as an online journal of sorts. I choose to write out my experience so that I may not lose sight and forget pieces of it.
In no way is this post meant to challenge the readers faith foundation......unless of course that challenge ends up broadening the reader's spiritual personal horizon.
I will undoubtedly bounce and rabbit trail a bit as I figure out how to put my heart and thoughts into words and will no doubt write a post of sizable length.
If you decide to read on then I thank you for your patience.)
A couple of weeks ago; actually it was the day of that fateful and entirely uneventful tire blow out, I had spent the day with my fellow peers at a church seminar. The discussions and teachings of the day centered around how we as church leaders can help people in letting go of the things that haunt them and cripple them from being all that they can be.
I thoroughly enjoyed the day as well as all of the knowledge I received. It is always a good thing to learn more on how to be able to help and encourage people. And don't we all know that that sometimes the best of information needs to be applied to ourselves first before we can help others?
It turns out that this was such a day for me.
Towards the end of the day, the hosting church that was facilitating the event, had said that they wanted to have a time of sharing words of encouragement that God gave to them.
Now before I go on, I'd like to preface what exactly I mean by this.
In historical times of old, God would speak to others through certain people called prophets. Biblically, it was always a valuable and important time for the people to listen and embrace the words given to them so that they could move forward in life. I believe that when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave, the ability to hear personally from God became something that each and every person could embrace.
There have been so many times in my life where someone has given me a word of encouragement that has completely lined up with something I was thinking in my head and keeping to myself. There have been also so many other times when I have been praying with someone and I have shared a picture or a thought from my mind and asked if it meant anything to them and they have been amazed and encouraged for whatever was shared to be so right on in what they were thinking and needing to hear. It is not magic or trickery of any sort. It is simply God validating what we already know in our hearts.
I'd also like to point out that no one at that seminar knew me or my background but my team. There are times when you can look at a person and read how they feel about themselves by how they carry themselves. I have always been told however that I am a hard person to read. Because I am quiet, and administrative in demeanor, and smile a lot........people say I appear to be without faults and full of confidence. They are shocked when I share that I struggle with this or that. I just wanted to clarify that so that you know what I will be sharing was totally from God.
So, there we were sitting in a group of some 70 people and God began to give words to the team up front to share with others. They were all words of encouragement because that is the way of God. He is a gentleman and He is never going to air out some one's dirty laundry in public.
Honestly, as I sat there being happy for those being encouraged, I began to feel down on myself. I thought, "Lord I am so glad that these people are being encouraged by you. You used to have words like that for me but that was a long time ago. These days I do wrong things and don't spend time in prayer like I know I should. So I understand that I am unworthy of you now."
Okay....that was a major red flag lie that I was letting swim around my head and just didn't recognize it for the lie that it was. See, we don't EARN God's love and time. He FREELY gives it.
How easy it is for anyone to listen to subtle lies that distracts us from being with God.
God didn't let me sit on that lie and keep it company for very long. What happened next was so amazing that it is hard to describe. I have had times in my life when I have been praying and could feel/sense something different around me. But this was unlike anything I had every experienced before. I felt the presence of God swirl around me like a a drapery of fabric. I have always thought the term "the feeling washed over me" an interesting literary description that was pretty but couldn't really picture or relate to. Now I know and understand. That is exactly what it was like. I felt covered and protected, safe and secure, nothing else around me mattered anymore. The air was different and time was different.
I heard, "I love you and I am still here. I never left you at all."
I broke and cried.
But then another thought came into my head and it was covered in another disguise of shame. "I said, "Lord how do you stay so patient with me when I fail so many times? I read the stories of the Israelites traveling through the desert, so quick to grumble and complain even though they were witness to your presence and miracles for 40 years straight. I think of them and wonder how they were so quick to give up and yet I am just like them. I know you are here but I give up so easily. Shame on me."
When I opened my eyes, there was a young girl in front of me that I had never met before. She introduced herself and said that she had a word for me if I would give her permission to share it. I hesitated but she smiled and said, "Don't worry this is really good."
Her smiled increased like that of a child getting ready to share a juicy secret as she said, "When I saw you sitting in your chair I was drawn to you. I couldn't look away from your eyes and God spoke to me. He said, 'Do you see that woman? She is my delight. I love her with an everlasting love. Do you see the beautiful garments I have placed on her, her crown, her radiance? It is because she is mine. She is mine I tell you. I could never and would never leave her. She is my joy.'"
Can you imagine my reaction? It was exactly what I needed. All my defenses broke. All my shame evaporated away. By nature, I compete and I strive.....with no one else but myself. I mentally beat myself up for things imagined and real and hold a high standard against my own flaws. In my own way of punishing myself, I put up a wall and say I don't deserve to be close to God. But that wall is of my own making and God delighted in tearing it down.
Yes I cried until there were no more tears to cry. I hugged her and thanked her for being brave enough to share.
Not long after that we drove home, had the uneventful accident, and then went about our daily routines. Even still, the experience kept its roost in the forefront on my mind. I felt joy and peace but I knew there was something more to unearth.
I found it a couple of days later. I was reading and doing my devotions when I stumbled across a passage that I had seen before. This time however it jumped out at me in a new meaning. God does that you know. We can read things over and over again and then all of a sudden it makes sense and we wonder, "Wow why didn't I see that before?" It is because we weren't ready for it before.
I read in John 12:47
"If anyone hears my teachings and fails to observe them [does not keep them but disregards them], it is not I who judges him. For I have not come to judge and condemn and to pass sentence and to inflict penalty on the world, but to save the world."
Now, I know that if I read that in context with the text of the chapter there is a different meaning to be had. But when my eyes hit on that sentence I clearly heard in my head, "See I even told you here. I do not condemn you....so don't you condemn you. I am in your life to save you and delight in you."
My perspective on God .... on me .....is changing.
I knew He felt that way about others but I wouldn't accept it for me.
I have been struggling for days on how to put all of this into words. I don't know how to wrap it all up except to say this....
Our experiences big and small are meant to help us grow individually and help one another grow in encouragement. If there is something here that created a spark in you, please take hold of it and fan it into a flame. God loves YOU with an everlasting love and he delights in being with YOU.