When You Pull Me Closer, I Come to Life

The words from one of TobyMac’s songs floated through her mind… “When you pull me closer, I come to life…”

“That is so true,” she thought.  “Spiritually, I’m easily lulled to sleep. But when God calls me, my spirit jumps and I do come alive.” Even though she could sometimes get into His presence through her own efforts, she knew ultimately she was totally dependent on God. Especially when she was as tired as she was now.

 

Later that day, as she gazed at her newborn granddaughter sleeping in her nursery bed, those words returned.  Turning to look at her daughter sitting in the chair next to her, she said, “It’s just like Ryn.”

“What is?” her daughter answered distractedly.

“That song… ‘when you pull me closer, I come to life’… that we heard earlier today. It’s just like Ryn. She lays sleeping in her bed but when you call her, she wakes up. And she’s totally dependent on you going to her because she can’t come to you. It’s the same with God. We are totally dependent on Him to come to us because we aren’t capable of going to Him. And when He calls us, we wake up. We come alive.”

“Yeah, OK,” mumbled her daughter, obviously impressed with her insight.

But that didn’t bother her. She had already turned back to the sleeping infant, enjoying her smallest moves and sounds – while God lovingly enjoyed all three of them.

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Getting Closer

Previously:

You Want to Be a What?

Wrestling with God (continued from You Want to be a What?)

Caught in the Middle, a Continuation

Under Pressure

and now… Getting Closer

Something was definitely wrong, she thought. He’s acting really strange tonight. Even stranger than he had the last few weeks, after she had heard from God to give him time. And she had. But now he was acting cold and distant.

True, he had traveled the hour to visit the local prayer meeting she had started attending. And he had been his normal endearing self to the others who were there. But when it was time to leave, he had said goodbye to her abruptly and without much feeling.

Now she was getting ready for bed and wondering what went wrong. Did she hear from God wrong and this was all normal as he prepared to leave? Was their relationship over?

“God,” she cried. “I know I gave him to you. But You also said he wasn’t going to be a priest. I have no idea what’s going on. And it hurts. Take care of him whatever’s happening.”

Just then there was a knock on her door. She glanced at the clock. 10 PM. Who would be IMG_20180421_203931566coming to her house at this time of night? Scared to open the door, she tried to peek out the window. There weren’t many lights, but she managed to see the car parked in the driveway behind her car. Could it be? It looked like his car! What could he be doing here? It had been an hour since he left and she was already in her PJs. She couldn’t let him see her like this!

“Hello?” she heard him call. “It’s me. Let me in.”

Dreading what he might have come to tell her – sure he was breaking up with her – she let him in.

“Why are you here? I’m already dressed for bed,” she protested.

“You look beautiful to me any way you dress,” he answered with a smile.

They sat in the den and he told her that as he was on his way home, he had begun thinking about the evening and didn’t like how it ended. So he had decided to come back to talk with her about it.

 

So she took a deep breath and prepared herself to be let down, certain he would explain how their relationship had to end.

“I’ve been thinking about this a long time,” he said. “I don’t really know how to say it.”

Here it comes, she thought, looking down at her lap.

“I love you.”

What? She was definitely not expecting that. She looked up into his face.

He was smiling but there was fear? uncertainty? along with the smile.

“I love you,” he said again. “I know the seminary is something we need to deal with, but for right now I want you to know that I love you.”

Unable to speak, she just stared at him.

“I don’t really know how you feel about this. I was afraid to tell you.”

She smiled. But then the smile froze on her face as fear rose up inside her. Now that she was faced with the moment she had waited so long for, she didn’t know what to say. Did she love him? Did she really love him – or was she just imagining her feelings all these months, building them up into something they weren’t? She felt so broken inside, could she love him or anyone? Was she even capable of love?

“I don’t know if I can love you. I don’t know if I can love anyone.” she finally said.

Her response was not what he expected, but he accepted it, as he had accepted her from the beginning. They talked for hours about her fears and feelings, about his fears and feelings, and about their possible future together. Then they prayed. “God, we don’t know where this is going. But we thank you for the opportunity we had tonight to really share our hearts with each other. We place this relationship in Your hands. And we trust that You will continue to guide us. ”

And He did. For the next six months as seminary loomed closer (those struggles are a whole ‘nother story), for the following four years of their courtship, and for the next 33 years and counting of their marriage – His amazing love was with them every step of the way.

The end. Or the beginning depending on how you look at it. 🙂

Under Pressure

Continuing the story begun in You Want to Be a What?, continued in Wrestling with God (continued from You Want to be a What?) and in Caught in the Middle, a Continuation

She listened in amazement, then frustration.

So, he’s under pressure about this priesthood thing? Really?

It had been several months since he informed her that he thought he was being called to be a priest.

She had spent those months rotating between hopeful trust in God, depression, and anger. It was affecting her whole life, and he was surprised to be feeling pressure?

“What kind of pressure?” she asked him.

“I don’t want to be a priest.”

“So don’t be one.”

“But what about the call I feel?”

“Then be one.”

And around and around they went. It was causing a strain on their relationship. She didn’t know how far to let him into her heart or how to look at him. Romantically? Platonically? She wished Jesus would hurry up and settle this, or help them to get past it and just enjoy their friendship.

Eventually she started sensing that he was pulling away from her, like he didn’t want to IMG_20180420_185546747spend time with her anymore. He didn’t explain himself, or even acknowledge it, so she went once again to the Lord about it.

“Oh, Lord,” she called. “I have a question.”

“Go on.”

“Why is he acting like he doesn’t want me around anymore?”

“He’s afraid of his feelings for you. He needs time to adjust. Give him time. Don’t become impatient with him. Keep loving him and he’ll be back.”

“Does this have anything to do with the seminary?”

“Yes. He’s afraid of leaving. He’s afraid that he might become too deeply involved with you to want to leave.”

That makes sense she thought. But she didn’t like it. What about her?  What if she became too deeply involved and didn’t want him to leave? God had said he wasn’t going to be a priest. So maybe she should just do what He said – be patient and wait it out. Or maybe she had been hearing wrong all along and he really was going to become a priest. Maybe he was hearing from God and she was only hearing from herself.

She sighed. He had made one short trip to the seminary already, and another longer one was scheduled for the next summer. How in the world was she going to navigate these next six months?

to be continued…

Caught in the Middle, a Continuation

A continuation of You Want to Be a What? and Wrestling with God (continued from You Want to be a What?)

They went on vacation with her family. A three week long vacation entailing well over 2,000 miles. Lots of miles with little to do than drive and talk. And sleep if you weren’t the one driving. Visiting relatives on both sides, answering questions… surely during this time God will make His plans clear for us, she thought. At least clarify things.

But she was wrong.

It just brought them closer. And yet, he kept talking about seminary.

So she came back from the trip just as confused as when she left.

She called on God again.IMG_20180420_123724358

“Lord, we need to talk again,” she said.

“What do you want to know?”

“I want to know about him.

“I already told you that.”

“When will he know?”

“When it’s time.”

“Why do you speak in riddles? Why aren’t you more informative?”

“It’s better this way.”

Exasperated, she gave up and they changed the subject.

 

The next time she drove to his house, she asked him about their relationship.

“You help me a lot,” he said. “Like a soothing ointment on my pain.”

“You mean the pain after your previous girlfriend left you?”

“Yes, that pain.”

That made her feel good. But then she thought what will happen when he doesn’t need me anymore?

So she asked him. “Is that all?’

“Well, our relationship is completely different than any I’ve ever had before. It’s lively and refreshing and perfect.”

“But you’re still going to be a priest?”

“I don’t know. I think so. I’m going to spend some time at a seminary next month. I should know after that.”

God had told her to relax and enjoy her time with him. But how could she with this hanging over their heads – her head? She felt like something was going on and she was caught in the middle. He says he probably will be a priest, God says he’s not going to be a priest. Who should she believe? What she could see? Or what she couldn’t see? If only her emotions weren’t so caught up in this dilemma.

to be continued, again…

You Want to Be a What?

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She looked at him with disbelief. Did he just say what she thought he had said?

“But what about us?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he answered. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

She wasn’t happy. More than that, she was hurt. After months of getting to know each other, they were inseparable. She spent most weekends with his family to be close to him. And, when he could, he traveled the hour distance to her house to surprise her. She had even begun thinking this might lead to marriage one day. And now this!

“It’s not like I’m leaving tomorrow,” he continued. “We can still spend time together.”

“Doing what? Are we allowed to even hold hands anymore?”

“I don’t know,” he repeated.

She tried to sort through all the feelings flowing through her. Hurt was way up there on the list, along with a feeling of betrayal. She had finally begun to open up to someone, and now God was taking him away from her.

“How do you know He’s really calling you to do this?” she asked him.

“I prayed about it with a friend. He saw me pulling at a white collar around my neck. I think that means God wants me to go to seminary, but not immediately. He wants me to relax first.”

“What does that even mean – relax first?”

“It means to not worry about it right now.”

“That may be fine with you, but what about me? How do I date a future priest? Do we hold hands? Kiss? That just seems wrong.”

“I don’t know. Let’s just take this one day at a time.”

They parted, neither of them happy, and both wrapped in their own thoughts.

All the way home she thought about what he had said. A priest? Him? Now? Was this some kind of game God was playing with their hearts? If it had been another girl that was threatening their relationship, she could fight. But fight God? How does anyone fight God?

“Lord,” she finally prayed, “I don’t know why You’re doing this. But I know you love us and want what’s best for us. So although I don’t understand, and really don’t like it, I will trust You.”

Trust is one thing, she thought. But the pain is another. And this pain isn’t going anywhere.

The following days were hard as she tried to wrap her head around what God may be doing and what her place in it was. It seemed mean for Him to bring them together, only to separate them. She struggled to maintain her trust in God through the waves of pain, betrayal, sadness, loss, confusion, and anger that flooded her.

A few nights later, as she cried her way through her prayers yet again, she sought a word from the Lord, something to comfort her or to give her hope. But she heard nothing.

“Fine, Lord,” she finally said. ” The most important thing is that You are pleased with me in all this so if this is what You want, then so be it.”

He smiled at her, understanding in His eyes.

“That doesn’t help,” she told Him. “I was really hoping that You’d say it was just a test, that I passed and I could have him back.”

He just continued smiling at her and she knew He knew what He was going to do and He wasn’t going to change His mind. And He wasn’t going to tell her either.

Well then, maybe she wasn’t ready to hear those plans. Maybe she didn’t want to hear those plans. Maybe she should just ignore this whole thing, pretend it didn’t happen and just keep on dating this might-be-a-priest guy. After all, he did say God had told him to relax. And God wasn’t telling her anything.

“OK, Lord,” she said. “I know You’re going to be amazing in all this, but if You won’t tell me anything, and he doesn’t feel we need to change anything at this point, then I’m going to keep dating him until You take him or say otherwise.”

And so she did. Or tried to.

to be continued

Slime Monster

Where did this feeling come from, she wondered. This warm, want-to-hug-people feeling?

She had never wanted to hug anyone before. As a child, she had been forced to hug every relative hello, regardless of who they were and how she felt. That was not OK with her. In fact, she hated it. But she did it dutifully. She learned to see hugging people as a chore and to bury any feelings involved in it.

But now…she WANTED to hug people.

People in her family.

People in her church.

People at her prayer meeting.

People who befriended her.

People she knew.

People she didn’t know.

Even her pesky little sisters.

Where had this huggy part of her come from?

Then one day she read Romans 5:5. “…for we know how dearly God loves us and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”

Ahh! So that’s where it comes from, she thought! I’m so full of God’s amazing love that it oozes out of me every time I get near someone. I’m like some kind of slime monster!

And that was just fine with her.

 

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I’m an Ear

She thought about what she had just heard. That some people have a gift for listening to others.

Was listening a gift? Isn’t that something anyone could do? That everyone should do?

Evidently not. Some people seem to be gifted the opposite way – they could talk about anything at anytime with anybody. In fact, she had noticed, they were so busy talking, they barely heard what anyone else said. If they even gave them time to get a word in. And they seemed intent on making their thoughts known regardless if anyone was actually listening or not.

She was not like that.

For some reason people thought she had this gift of listening.

“OK, Lord,” she prayed. “If listening is a gift, and if You’ve given it to me, I ask that You send me people who need someone to listen to them. I’m willing to be Your ear.”

So He did.

For the next three days, people came to her house and ended up talking at length to her. She listened to their problems, concerns, doubts, and fears. And they each left saying, “I don’t know why I told you all this. I didn’t mean to.”

But she did. God was answering her prayer.

“Am I really going to be an ear for Jesus?” she wondered excitedly. She thought of all the people who needed someone to just listen to them. She thought of the comfort and strength listening might bring them. Yes, this truly is a gift the body of Christ needs.  “Wow,” she thought. “I’m an ear for Jesus! What an amazing ministry this will be!”

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That’s My Dad!

As she read the Old Testament, and the various ways God dealt with the prophets and the Israelites, an idea slowly took form in her mind. That was not just God who did those things, it was her Dad!

The whole previous year, God had revealed His Fatherhood to her. And now she connected the God of the Israelites with the God who is her Father. But not just her Father – a parental figure who loved her and took care of her – but her Dad – who knew her intimately and who liked to hang out with her.

Wow!  She was blown away!

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It was her Dad who hid in the burning bush and parted the sea and rained down manna.

It was her Dad who appeared as fire and smoke and scared the Israelites.

It was her Dad who knocked over the walls of Jericho.

It was her Dad who sent the big fish after Jonah.

It was her Dad who had incredible conversations with the prophets.

And it was her Dad who did so many other amazing things!

Excited, she couldn’t wait to reread the Old Testament in this new light. It was like His dealing with people of long ago suddenly became more personal.

Looking up, grateful to the Holy Spirit for helping her understand a little bit more about God, she whispered, “There is none like You, my amazing Dad!”

He whispered back, “And there is none like you, my amazing daughter!”

Voices

Cast of Characters:

Voice One: a young girl, relatively new in the faith

Voice Two: the girl’s inner voice, whether her own or the Holy Spirit

Voice Three: the enemy (we all know who that is), sneaky quiet voice

Background: the young girl has been on a quest to learn about prayer in order to deepen her own prayer life

 

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Voice One: Prayer often seems so empty and unanswered. What am I doing wrong? God, why are You so quiet?

Voice Three:  Where is your Jesus now?

Voice Two: He’s giving you a chance to grow in your faith. But He’s smiling down on you. He knows how this will end, and He is so proud of you.

Voice Three: You should have this by now. You’re not good enough to pray.

Voice One: I’m so sorry, Father. I wish I was better at this. Would You teach me? I’ve tried all week to have a quiet time, but I just don’t know how to.

Voice Three: See? Nothing. He won’t answer you.

Voice Two: That’s just the enemy. Don’t listen to him.

Voice One: Really? Satan is involved in this? Why? I’m nobody.

Voice Three: You’re so right.

Voice Two: You are the daughter of the King. That makes you a target.

Voice Three: Nah. you’re no threat. Not worth Satan’s time. You can’t even pray.

Voice One: So if Satan can’t steal my soul because I belong to the Father, why is he after me?

Voice Three: I’m not.

Voice Two: He wants to keep you so busy worrying about your spiritual growth that you can’t enjoy life. He can’t steal your soul, so he’s trying to steal your joy.

Voice One: Hmmm… that makes sense.

Voice Three: NO! It doesn’t! Who cares whether you are happy or not? That’s just selfish.

Voice Two: If you have no joy, it’s hard to spread God’s love to others.

Voice One: So I should just enjoy who I am.

Voice Two: Right.

Voice Three: That’s just hiding your head in sand. You think if you ignore your problems, they will go away.

Voice One: So if I just focus on who I am, how do I grow?

Voice Two: Your Father is in charge of that.

Voice Three: That’s what they want you to think. It’s the easy way out. Growth takes work and discipline and plans.

Voice One: But don’t I need to work at it, make plans and discipline myself to follow through on them?

Voice Two: That’s just the enemy again. Don’t listen.

Voice One: Then how do I grow?

Voice Three: You won’t.

Voice Two:  Does a baby concern himself with how make himself grow? Or does he relax and allow his parents to be in charge? To lead him to what he needs – school, exercise, food – at the right times?

Voice One: I think I understand. I just have to enjoy being with My Father, and He will lead me at the right time into doing what I need to do to grow.

Voice Three: Mayday! Mayday! I think I’m losing her! All demons respond!

Voice Two: Uh, no. Cancel that request. You will leave her alone for now. Go!

Voice One: Thank You, Father, that You’re in charge and I don’t have to be. I can just relax and enjoy the life You’ve given me. You are amazing, God. There is none like You!

Welcome Home Party

“Will you go?” her boyfriend asked her. “You really should. You’ll love it and it’ll be good for you.”

“I don’t know,” she responded hesitantly. “There’s going to be a lot of people there.”

“So? It’ll be fine. You’ll see.”

She didn’t know why she found it so hard to be around groups of people. Even going to the same prayer group week after week still caused her to get sweaty-hands-and-stomach-cramps nervous.

“But I don’t know anyone there.”

“You’ll make some new friends. Everyone is really nice.”

“I won’t know what to do.”

“They’ll tell you. The leaders are great. They will take care of you.”

“What if I can’t sleep in that room filled with women?”

“I’ll be praying for you.”

Finally she agreed, and within a week she was signed up and on her way.

The first night was filled with introductions, expectations, and a short teaching. Not too bad, she thought. Even sleeping on her little cot went better than she expected.

The next day was so full of activities and teachings that she barely had time to think about being nervous. Everyone was so friendly and helpful, looking out for her and making sure she was OK. By that night she had begun relaxing and went to sleep full of the presence of God.

The next day brought a time of worship, a last message, and some group discussions. Then it was time for lunch.

While she ate, she marveled at the acceptance she felt from these ladies. No one was judging or criticizing her. No one was expecting her to be any different than what she was. It was even OK for her to be quiet and silent most of the weekend. She was so completely accepted just as she was. She knew after lunch would be the closing session and then it would be time to leave. She didn’t want to leave. She didn’t want to lose the warmth she had experienced all weekend.

A sound brought her out of her thoughts. Music? Where was it coming from? She noticed all the other women had also noticed and were looking around for the source. The music got louder and louder, and now voices could be heard accompanying the melody. Suddenly the door opened and in came a line of men holding lit candles while singing along with the music. And in amongst the men was her boyfriend! They made a ring around the women and sang to them.  Most women were crying by then, and she was no exception. Only her tears were on the inside. The men were singing to them! The men were singing to her! She was loved and cherished and valued! She was overwhelmed!

On her way home, she struggled to put her feelings into words, to form a picture of what the weekend had been for her. And then she knew! It was her welcome home party!

That’s exactly what it was, she thought. I left God when I was young, just like the prodigal son in the Bible. Only I wasn’t smart enough to go back home like the son was. The Father had to come find me. We spent the last year walking together  along the road back towards His home as He taught me about His love. And now, I’m surrounded by my brothers and sisters – all who love and accept me because He does! This weekend, like the party the father in the Bible threw for his son, was the party my amazing Father threw for me!

And she was grateful that her boyfriend had been right.

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