I’m honored to participate in our pastor’s current sermon series, “#1 Fan?” as a guest writer. Here is the second installment:
My toes were on the edge of the pit and it was very deep and dark down there but I couldn’t stop gazing intently into it. I wondered if it would really be so bad to dip my toe in, just for a second, knowing I’d then instantly run in the opposite direction. Because surely I couldn’t fall in. I knew better and I went to church hourly and I did Beth Moore Bible studies for Pete’s sake. So I stood on the edge and just stared and stared and stared down into it.
One Sunday, as the pull from the pit was magnetic, I simultaneously wanted and didn’t want to go to church. I felt introverted and isolated yet desperate and needy and decided I couldn’t go to my church for fear they would smell the scent of the pit all over me. Instead a friend and I went to visit another church where I felt safer and after a few dizzying deep breaths I walked in and found a place to sit not too close to the front and not too close to the back.
During worship and the teaching I was desperate to hear a word from God that would make it all better, but nothing happened. The worship was amazing and the teaching was incredible but I was missing the pull of God that would be stronger than the pull of the pit. I gathered my purse and started to leave when suddenly a man with gentle eyes and kind words stopped me and said,
“The minute you came through the door, the Holy Spirit told me to pray for you. Would you mind if my wife and I prayed over you?”
I nodded mutely for fear if I opened my mouth I’d fall apart and ooze all over the pews and he and his wife placed loving hands on my shoulders and prayed and how did they know everything they knew? Each word spoke directly to my wiggling toes and the pull of the pit. They said how much the Lord loves me and nothing could ever change that and how the devil is trying so hard to distract and tempt because he knows what’s coming right around the corner for me. And then he, the man, prayed the most unforgettable thing — God was putting barricades on the path I was currently on. He was shutting them down and closing them up and that He was creating a completely new path even that very day.
My eyes were blurry and my nose was runny and I had to wipe my eyes and nose on my sleeve because I didn’t have a tissue, and it was as if Jesus Himself was wrapping his arms all over me in a giant bear hug. He and his wife closed the prayer, I told them thank you so much and I somehow found my way outside to the car. I didn’t even know their names.
Soon my toes were well over the edge of the pit and they were wiggling furiously and I just really thought I’d be strong enough to pull myself back but whoops, there I went down, down, down into the bottomless abyss. I didn’t know about the power of the pit. I didn’t know it was a black hole with no end that left you with a physical feeling of warring between flesh and spirit. I didn’t know the speed with which the pit can suck you in. I just didn’t know.
With each passing day I spent in the darkness, however, I clung to the words the gentle and kind man prayed that Sunday. The words given to him by the Holy Spirit — those were words I clung to. With the hope from those words I soon got a foothold and then I had a handhold and soon I had climbed out only by the grace of God. I was beaten and dirty and my fingers were bloody and my nails were broken, but I made it out and I was still alive.
As soon as I came up for air and saw the sun again and took a deep breath of fresh air, everything changed. My career ended and I started working at church and I met Greg and he started working at church and we fell in love and we began ministry together. And then I discovered that same Sunday the man and his wife prayed for me — that exact day — that was the day the Holy Spirit had also gotten a hold of Greg and Greg had gotten on his face and accepted Jesus.
I’ve never forgotten the kind words that gentle man prayed that Sunday.
God did exactly what God said He’d do. My life was taken and shaken and flipped upside down and placed on an entirely new path. The past was gone and shut and barricaded and has not peeked its face at me, not even once.
Years later, after much redemption and heapings of mercy and grace, I met a woman that my spirit fell in love with the instant she opened her mouth. I boldly asked her if she would mentor me and she agreed and we spent the next year meeting in her home where she would mentor and pray and edify and encourage me. And I’d admire her home, for she was a decorator, and I’d pour over every little trinket and tchotchke, for there were many. Once she invited me to her mountain home for a prayer retreat weekend. As we arrived she gave us a tour and I poured over every little knick-knack there too. When we got to a downstairs guest room, my eyes were glued to a black and white photograph in an ornate silver frame on a hall table.
“Ann, who is this?” I asked as my eyes stayed fixated on the picture.
“Why darlin’,” (for that’s exactly the way she talked) “that’s my daughter and her husband, my son-in-law! Aren’t they precious?!”
The kind words washed over me as I once again looked into his gentle eyes. It was them. I never saw it in all the times I was at her house before. It was them. The couple who had prayed for me years earlier at a church I just decided to go to at a time I was contemplating the pit. It was them. The couple who listened to the Holy Spirit and obeyed and prayed for a very confused and conflicted girl. It was them. I wept.
The power of the Holy Spirit isn’t in the emotions and the hyper-spirituality. The power of the Holy Spirit is in the obedience and the confidence and the boldness of listening to Him and then acting on it. He’s all about action and equipping and encouraging and edifying and enabling us to act in Jesus’ name.
And He’s all about completion. Only God could have brought me as a visitor to a church and met me there and sent the Holy Spirit to comfort me through the actions of a couple who would turn out to be my mentor’s daughter and son-in-law. Only God could have given the Holy Spirit such profound and life-changing and hope-giving words to me on the exact same day my future husband turned over His life to Jesus. Only God can do that.
The whole picture remains unclear and unfinished if the Holy Spirit piece isn’t in place. But when we include Him and allow Him to fulfill the role given to Him by God, it is complete and our eyes are fixated on it because it’s suddenly all so clear.