Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Face to Face

"...God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We're free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him."
2 Corinthians 3:16-18

(God has stirred my heart to share the details of the night he "saved" me. There are so many who do not receive Him because they feel so overwhelmed with their unworthiness. I've talked with them, you may feel it too. So - i share the truth here of how He met me/how i met HIM -- He never forced me to be "good enough" -- He met me where i was. And the transformation slowly began. There are WAY too many "i"s in this posting---but in truth - to tell the story - they are unavoidable. - And the story of His grace MUST be told.)

On the night i asked Jesus to come into my heart and be my Savior, i struggled, intensely. At the young age of 11, i had already given up on myself. It was beyond my understanding that God could even possibly like me, much less that he could really love me. The enemy of God, sometimes referred to as the accuser in God's Word, had done a number on this young soul, and i was convinced that i was no good.
I was drawn to the alter in that little country church --- out of fear. The thoughts of eternity in hell literally scared the h--- out of me and i wanted no part of it. So i timidly went to the altar and asked...
The big preacher who had frightened me soul deep into coming forward could no longer reach me with his words ---- i was too scared --- and too certain --- that God would not want me. It was a deep seated self-hatred that choked me as i knelt there. My parents had loved me, i lived in a safe, good home, i'd read the Bible school lessons and followed the rules (well most of them at least). But deep inside me, i was convinced i was worthless. Only the accuser can cause that in an eleven year old.
And so as the preacher tried to talk with me ---- and explain to me the simplicity of accepting Christ, my head could not receive what my heart was starving for --- silence dominated when he tried to lead me in prayer.
It was a holy struggle --- painful for a little girl --- the assignment was in place against me --- the accuser screaming at my soul --- "you are not wanted", "you know you're no good", "no one would want you if they really knew you", "you can't fool God", "if you ask, He will say no to you, and then everyone here will know, you are not wanted --- even by God". How does a little girl fight back against those sort of words --- spoken only in the spirit realm but bearing down like loud speakers on her heart.
My parents did not know how i felt about myself. After all - that was a part of the plan, right. The enemy would not want them to know --- for if they had --- they surely would have confronted his lies with words of loving truth. But much of the work of the enemy is done in secret - in silence - in isolation - in the dark. And so --- i lived pretending --- that i was just like every other little girl, hoping no one would know, that deep inside, i lived daily with the words  --- "i was not wanted --- even by God".
So this night as i knelt ---- i went silent.
There was a canyon between me ----- and this God who loved everyone else.
I remember the preacher asking someone else to pray with me, but i don't remember who they were or what they said --- i was numb and frozen in my fear of the ultimate rejection -- paralyzed at the thought of God pushing me away and exposing that i was "the unlovable one".
Then the preacher called for his wife to come and talk with me. She felt like a warm breeze when she came near me and without a word, i began to cry at her softness. She asked me if i would like to go and talk with her, she said she understood how i was feeling and she thought she could help me. Oh how --- how could she possibly have understood --- for i know -- i had sealed my lips and had told no one of the self-hatred that lived inside me. But with hope, i went with her.
She walked with me to a small room with Bible in hand. We sat down and she went to work on my soul. She asked me if i was scared ----- yes. She asked me if i was afraid of God ---- no. She asked me why i was so frightened ----- i choked on the words, they would not come out.
i remember how we just sat there in silence for a few moments; i finally looked up at her. And there was so much love and tenderness in her face, it was exactly what this scared little girl needed to see. She was not frustrated with me, she was not suspicious of me, she was not irritated with me, she just poured out unconditional, all consuming love on me ---- with her eyes.

She opened her Bible to several different passages --- she literally thumbed through her Bible --- and read different verses to me. But she changed them ---- in ways that kept their holiness completely in tact, but made God's Word leak into my frightened, self-condemned heart. She changed only the pronouns and names of people ---- and in their place ----- she put my name in those spaces --- in God's Word --- she dared to place me -- inside God's Word.
For the next few minutes she read ----
"The Lord is Donna's shepherd; Donna shall not be in want. He makes Donna lay down in green pastures, He leads her beside still waters. He restores Donnas' soul..." (Psalm 23:1-2)
"For God so loved Donna, that He gave His one and only Son..." (John 3:16a)
"'Because Donna loves me', says the Lord, 'I will rescue her; I will protect her, for she acknowledges my name. Donna will call on me, and I will answer her; I will be with her in trouble, I will deliver her and honor her. With long life I, God, will satisfy Donna and show her my salvation.'" (Psalm 91:14-16)

WHAT --- did she just say ---- "because Donna loves me, God says, HE WILL rescue her, He will protect her, He will hear her when she prays and answer her"?

I remember very clearly --- as her tender eyes looked through me ---- realizing in that moment ---- that God would save me because of how great HE was --- not because of how good or bad i was. My portion was nothing --- HIS portion was everything. It was ALL about His goodness --- and His goodness was so great --- that my "badness" could not effect it. He would love me --- because of His greatness --- and He would not withhold His love from me --- He couldn't --- He didn't care what i had or had not done --- HE saw me - and He loved me --- and i became HIS forever in that moment.

I do not remember her name, this servant of the most High God ---- but i know when i see her in Heaven, we both will remember ---- she served God well that night --- and she enabled a hurting little girl to crawl up into His lap.

She cried with me --- we prayed together ---- and the dark clouds inside me, blew away.

We walked back to the altar, she stood with me as we shared that i had accepted the Lord ---(inside i was whispering to myself -- I have accepted His love --- I am lovable in God's eyes -- I am lovable to God --- I am loved --- by God).

The whole church came around and shook my hand --- such a sweet way of celebrating together. I thought i would pop from the joy inside.

Then afterward, as everyone mingled and began to leave, dear Mrs. Edith, the lady who gave me my first glimpse at worship (not just singing --- but real worship) leaned down and whispered in my ear, "You are glowing donna, you are glowing with my Lord. I know you have been touched by my Father, never forget, never doubt, you --- are --- His".

Later, during my teenage years and college days, when those "doubts" came and i was tempted to wonder --- "am i really His, did He really save me?" I would remember Mrs. Edith's concrete words ---- "never doubt, you are HIS".

Those two ladies ---- did a mighty work of God ---- for a little eleven year old girl who was being devoured by the one who acts like a roaring lion. They shut the lion's mouth just as surely as if it were one of the lions in the den with Daniel (Daniel 6).
And they gave me the ability to ----
believe God was big enough and beautiful enough to love --- even me ...

My gift to you ----
do the same for yourself that the preacher's wife did for me ---
open God's word --- put your name in the middle of it --- and feel --- His --- love -- for ---YOU.

Photos taken by Steve and Maggie in northern Kenya and central Kenya delivering and reading Bibles with people in their language --- Swahili, Turkana, and English. "Helping" them put their names in the middle of God's Word.

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