WHAT IF I HADN’T SAID YES?
One Sunday morning, I forced myself to get out of bed and ready for a new day. I slipped five little smooth stones into my pocket with a shaking hand and went off to face THE GIANT.
I went back to church. I was present in body, but every ounce of me was uncomfortable being there. Something major shifted in my spirit when I said yes to God.
Ever since my nightmarish experience with my pastor and the church years ago, I had grown to be untrusting, cynical, fearful and very uninvolved in my attitude towards church, For over two years I stayed away. I had lost hope in praying that somehow my chasm of difference with the pastor might be resolved and somehow I could enjoy the church the way I once had. I could not understand my husband’s unwavering loyalty to a church and pastor that had “thrown me to the curb”. I felt confused and betrayed. We were unable to discuss it, and neither of us could give on our position. In spite of my hurt and cynicism, I became more than ever devoted to the Lord during this time away from church. I read books and blogs. I joined countless on-line forums which discussed scripture, doctrine, lifestyles, etc., some of which advocated a life of loving and serving God outside of “church”—a church without walls, so to speak. I explored this concept, and although it fed into the hurt and isolation I was feeling at the time, I gradually became convinced that it was not what Christ had intended for me or for His Church. When I began to voice this to my newfound on-line friends, I felt their rejection and felt more isolated than ever. I became reclusive, which was the best course of action I could have taken at the time. Alone with God, I drenched myself in worship music and prayer. Countless hours were spent just soaking in the presence of God and learning to live LOVED. God was gradually healing my wounded spirit and drawing me very close to Himself. I had almost no contact with people, though, but I think that was all right for a time. God had a plan which He was working into place.
My husband was patient with me, allowing me my freedom to spend my time this way. He continued to attend church and to teach adult Sunday School, which has been an anointed calling on his life for many years. I continued seeking and hungering for more and more of God . Those months were a time of intense spiritual growth for me. All the doubts and questions I had about doctrine and the way God moves were worked upon in ways that I wasn’t always conscious of. The Lord was doing His work in me. The missing component was fellowship, though, but I had no desire for it.
Finally I began to hear God gently speaking to me about going back to church (not just any church, but the one I had left); and after fighting that for another half year, I began to attend, only because I thought it would please my husband and I desired to be a submissive wife and show my love for him. Just walking through the foyer caused intense anxiety. It was next to impossible for me to have conversations with people in whose support and trust I wasn’t confident.
HOWEVER, almost right away, God brought into my life a wonderful family which I met at the church; and opened up a door to several years of precious fellowship and ministry. At first, my husband had to pursue the relationship by himself because I was not yet ready to trust anyone. But this single mother and her six adopted Russian children worked their way quickly and deeply into my heart. Soon we adopted them as our Grandchildren. It was through them that God brought me back into contact with other Christians. We became an intimate part of their family life, and they of ours. We enjoyed investing ourselves in time, love and money to provide experiences they had never had a chance to taste. I began to notice that spiritual gifts long dormant in my spirit began to come back to life and I truly was able to bring blessing to others. I got outside my comfort zone, and I sacrificially gave of myself in ways beyond what I thought possible. Our involvement with this family brought them through a very difficult year with two separate kids attempting suicide, as well as some intense one-on-one discipleship and mentoring between one of the boys and me. Not only was I experiencing the reward of speaking into their lives, but God was building in me a sense of being needed, and bringing healing to my fractured spirit as THEY spoke into MY life.
Along with leading times of prayer and devotions for this family, my husband continued teaching Sunday school (his class was where a large group of adults got their main spiritual feeding); and I felt peace with my submission to his desires to remain there, even though I was uncomfortable. I have always had a strong respect for his ministry of teaching and pastoring people. People commented often that we were an inspiration to them. I felt like a hypocrite. I knew that I was walking in God’s calling when it came to “my” family, but I felt like a phony attending a church of which I had no desire to be a deeply connected part. I think that mainly the people could observe the intense love for those kids radiating from my face. I did not realize that I actually was becoming deeply connected to all of them by loving “my” family.
Time went on. Our ministry with our adopted family increased and became even more evident in the church body. The pastor expressed thanks and appreciation to us several times, and in his own way showed that he was glad I had returned. Slowly I began to tolerate being around him again, and became actually on friendly speaking terms. I also slowly began to reach out a bit more to others around me in the church body. During this period of intense spiritual warfare and intercession, I grew in spirit. I sometimes felt misunderstood and unheard, but I couldn’t let that stop me. I had a strong urging to battle for the kids in intercession, especially two of the boys who were so dear to me and got entangled in unhealthy relationships and activities. I kept pressing on. My heart was totally broken over having been lied to and betrayed by one I loved so intensely. I had some hard times with failure feelings regarding him, but I never totally gave up hope for him. I continued on in prayer. But the intensity was gone. I felt like my time of usefulness in their lives was coming to an end, and I was waiting for something new from the Lord to be focused on.
I know that I am at my best and lean more toward winning the battle against depression when I have someone specific to pour my love out on. I was really trying to keep patient and expectant while God’s plan came to me. I constantly battled depression, anxiety, uselessness and unworthiness. Even with all of that, my daughter says that she never has seen me with as much inner drive, purpose and sense of being as I was when I was in the thick of serving this family.
One Sunday, just over a month ago, I stood in the morning worship service, enjoying the songs and praying the words to the Lord. As the music flowed on, a phrase kept entering my consciousness over and over: “You are not alone.” And then another: “I will ALWAYS be with you.” At the emphasis on the word ALWAYS, I knew I was receiving a prophetic word for my dear grandson, who was standing behind me. He had not been in church for many weeks, and none of the family had been in good communication with him. It had been a very very long road for him. I think back to that awful time when he attempted suicide and was hospitalized for months. Hardly a day could pass without the Lord heavily laying him on my heart for intercession. I labored in intercession, day and night. I pleaded for his deliverance, healing, and salvation. He seemed to resist every move made toward him, but I still gave him one of my prayer blankets and told him I would ALWAYS love him and pray for him. I sent him notes several times a week to encourage and share scripture, and I signed each one, “Love ALWAYS, Grandma”. For me, the word ALWAYS was like a code word. I wanted him to remember that I always said that! He continued to pull his wall of self protection tightly to himself, and he seemed to reject every outreach of love.
Now, here I stood in the worship service battling against giving this prophetic word that I knew was for him. The enemy whispered to me, “He will know it’s pointed at him, and he will just think you are preaching at him, and he will reject it.” I battled and battled, but it kept building up stronger and stronger until I could stand it no more. I also knew at that point that the word could be for others in the church who needed to hear it as well. S, out it came finally in tongues and interpretation:
“Comfort yourself with the knowledge that you are not alone.
I am with you, I have always been with you.
I see you standing there thinking that you are all alone
but you are NOT ALONE.
I will always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS be with you and
I will always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS love you.
No matter what.
I love you.”
I felt the presence of the Lord coming in waves as we ended the time of singing. Pastor must have felt it as well, because instead of just praying a general prayer over people’s needs, he called them forward for prayer, which doesn’t happen very often. My husband and I, when we saw some people making their way up to the altar, went and stood in front of a couple of them. I prayed over Anna, an African lady who devoutly loves the Lord. Her english is difficult to understand, so I didn’t ask what her need was, but just started to pray and minister love and encouragement to her. Soon she was weeping in my arms, and I knew that the prayers had found their mark.
I glanced up just then, and there was my dear grandson, standing there alone watching me, waiting for me to finish!
I held my arms out to him, and he flew into them and began to weep, great wrenching sobs tearing from deep within him. He tried to hold it back but I said, “Let it out!” and began to pray that walls long in place would come down and he would be set free. We hugged on each other tight and he sobbed and sobbed. I prayed and held him close. I wanted to give the Lord opportunity to speak to him and to cleanse him and set him free. Finally I held him at arm’s distance and looked directly into his eyes and asked, “Do you give your heart back to Jesus today?” and without a waver of any kind he said, “Yes I do.”
Sometimes, single moments have eternity wrapped up inside them.
When I looked into his eyes before asking that question, I saw all the beauty and the glory that I have always been privileged to see in his spirit, even when others were ready to give up on him. His beautiful blue eyes were calm and filled with peace and love. Later, when I was visiting with people after church, he came to me again, and hugged me and thanked me. I could not have been more blessed than I was at that moment. He looked so different, so radiant! I told him, “You, know, the enemy is not going to like what happened here today. You need to know that and be prepared.” He said, “I know.” I invited him on the spot to come over at least once a week and have some supper, one-on-two fellowship, bible study and prayer with us. It has been a rich time. He is a new man. He is soaking up all the mentoring like a sponge, and we have great hope for him as he grows up in God. He has entered an apprenticeship for membership in the carpenters’ union, and has willingly sat down with his Grandpa and begun to set his messed up finances in order. I sometimes feel the need to pinch myself to see if this wonderful change has really taken place! But yes, indeed it has!
What if I hadn’t said YES to God???
The other grandson’s life also came to a crisis recently and he made a firm commitment to go on with God. He will be starting college next fall, and feels called to be a Youth Minister. God is at work restoring trust, and I am so glad I continued to love him and pray for him even when all hope seemed gone.
What would have happened (or NOT happened) if I had not said yes to God and come back to church, even when I didn’t want to be there?
What would have been prevented from happening if I had given up praying and believing and hoping for my two precious grandsons when it was really dark?
I am in awe of how God worked all these individual testimonies out and brought all these circumstances and lives together in a miraculous chain of events! He graciously allowed the ripples from my love relationship with Him to touch and intersect with the lives of these precious ones. How I thank Him! And I marvel at the privilege of being allowed to see the answers to all those prayers spring to life before my very eyes! What a privilege, when it seems so many go on for years and years without seeing any result or change.
Lord, I thank You that You always have a plan—You are at work in each of us, bringing our lives into proximity with others who You love, drawing all of our processes of individual inner healing together, into that earth shaking, astounding moment when You converge those streams and pour out oceans of grace on us all at the same time! You are always working, and You invite us to come alongside You and join in what You are doing. Even when wounds are deep, You are there drawing out love. You loved me too much to leave me alone in depression and woundedness; and you loved my grandsons too much to leave them without hope. You are a miracle working God, and capable of working so many things to come together at once and work together for Your glory and our good.
I stand in awe. It is a great marvel and a wonder: Even though You are infinitely capable of doing so all by Yourself, You love working miracles in response to our YES.