Friday, November 30, 2012

November 30th

I am thirty five today. It seems like a significant turning of a page.

I feel as if all the jagged loose ends of my passionate early adulthood have lately and slowly been woven into some picture that is far more beautiful and quiet than anything I myself could have done or imagined on my own.

Recently, I read the blog of another person to whom God spoke unexpectedly. It was encouraging and interesting to read. It helped put some of my own experiences in perspective, so I will share this now.

This happened nearly a year ago, the day after Christmas last December. I first wrote about it in two or three different ways; as two blogs I didn't publish- one of which I wrote directly after it happened, which is how I managed to capture all the awkwardness of my dialogue exactly, and as a letter first to my mother and then to my friend.

I've sort of combined them and smoothed out the writing.


We stopped by Keith's mother's house in the morning before getting on the interstate. When she hugged me goodbye, she squeezed me tight and prayed a blessing half under her breath. I didn't catch what she was saying, but as she prayed, I felt my spirit flare up. So did hers.

She pulled an arm's length away and looked at me, her eyes shining. "The Lord is using you, sister," she said, with a grin.

I felt hugely and unexpectedly shy, and ducked my head. It was as though she had a glimpse of something that is normally only seen by Christ. My spirit is all liquid warm and flares up easily like that because I'm held in His arms all night long; my spirit belongs to Him.

On the trip home I was talking with Jesus as I normally do. I was just wondering over how, at the beginning, I had resisted His love, denied it, out of this sense of unworthiness. His love and presence had shocked me- it was so personal, so present, so unabashed. 

But I had grown so deeply into His love and presence by then. I had learned to surrender myself- and then to delight in Him, welcome Him, adore Him.

The entire drive down, He was with me so closely, flooding me with His love and care of me. It was as though I were tucked deep, deep in with Him, safe and sound and cherished. He kept pouring His love out on me. I was awash with it, floating away on it.

I was so moved that I frequently found myself on the verge of tears. Especially when this one song came on:

I remember how it used to feel
Ridin' down ol' two mile hill
Tennis shoes up on the handlebars
Payin' no mind to them passin' cars
No doubts no fears
Just like when you are here

No chains, no strings
No fences, no walls
No net, just you
To catch me when I fall
Look heart, no hands.

Took a little time to get up to speed
To find the confidence and strength I'd need
To just let go and reach for the sky
You know, sometimes it felt I could fly
No doubts, no fears
Just like when you are here

It doesn't take much
Just a smile of a touch
And I'm a kid again
I can almost feel that wind
-Randy Travis, Look Heart, No Hands

 And I was just sitting there in the car, just overwhelmed by love, tears tricking down my cheek- my heart was so full.
I said to Him, "No more love! No more! My heart will crack open. I can't hold all this love. I'm only a human girl; I can't hold all this love."
But He kept giving me more.

Then, later on, I was thinking about a picture I'd seen on a Bible, of Jesus knocking at the door. I thought about how dolorous Jesus looked in that picture, how calm and pale and somehow almost disinterested.

He said, That is not who I am.

He said this with tender humor. He didn’t mind the picture, not one bit. He loved the person that painted that picture. He was just letting me know that it did not really capture who He truly was. No image of Him ever can.

I said, “Yes, Jesus.”

I remembered how the verse read, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens to Me, I will come in and eat with them.

The verse lingered with me. I thought, surely there’s no way He’s not in with me, after everything lately! But still, it kept lingering in my mind.
So finally, I said, with joyful abandon, Okay, sure, I’ll ask Him in. I surely want Him in, if He isn’t in already and it can’t hurt to invite Him many times. I would love to eat with Him.

So I threw the arms of my spirit wide open with love and joy and I said, “Come, come, come!”

And He filled my spirit like fire; it took my breath away. For a moment, I felt myself absolutely filled and flooded with Him. I relished this sensation and marveled and then it faded peacefully away, and I was as I normally am.

When we got home, I got things somewhat organized and then while Keith was happily playing his game, I curled up in bed, and blogged about the trip down. Then I came out, kissed Keith, said goodnight and went to bed.

I was talking with Jesus as I normally do, and I was thinking about how certain things were sacred. And I remembered that I was sacred, because I was the temple of the Holy Spirit.

So I said to Him with a kind of childlike joy, “I’m sacred!” And I imagined myself as a building, with columns and doors and walls.

And He said with loving humor and with passion, You’re no building to Me, and I felt Him take me in His arms.

And I felt as if His presence became more intense, as though it had more force and density and it was as though there was a veil in my mind and I kept wanting to hide behind the veil.

And Jesus kept gently lifting it and I kept ducking behind it and finally I said, okay, and tore the veil away and I was confronted with the overwhelming reality that I was talking to and in the very presence of God. Jesus, the Son of God, was right there, present and talking to me. 
I had always known it was Him, but it was as though He had veiled a great deal of the impact of His presence, in order not to overwhelm me, but that night, for some reason, He lifted some of the veil.
This knowledge went through me like fire. I felt as if my soul was on fire. I was terrified. It was an awe-filled terror. I couldn’t speak, not even with my inner voice. I was completely overwhelmed.

The holy terror was so great, I was so conscious of being in the presence of God- this vast, massive, fiery, invisible, powerful Presence that filled the room and everything else all at once and yet was also very near me- that I started to recite the Lord’s Prayer, but as soon as I said, “Our Father,” peace began to spread out from my spirit and it calmed all my trembling.

But the awe, in the incredible awe was still all through me. I just couldn’t speak. Finally, I said His name.

I cried out, “Jesus! Jesus!”

And I felt His answering joy and love like flames flaring up in my spirit.

I exclaimed, "It’s really You! You’re Jesus! You’re the Son of the Living God! You’re Jesus who was crucified! The first born of all creation! The Redeemer! The Creator!"

And each time, I felt His affirmation like fire.

I began to be able to speak a little more, though not very well. In response, I heard His words very clearly in my spirit or inner ear, or however one wishes to put it. It was as if His voice had weight. But I also sometimes understood things behind the words, so I will write that in parentheses.

I said: You’re really here!

And He said, I’ve been here all along.

I said, that’s true! Oh my goodness, it’s been You!

He said, I’ve been with you since you were child.

(When He said this, He specifically caused me to remember that flashback I had had of being very young, in upstate New York, and the little spring fed pool of water and how it trickled down over the mossy stones, and how He had been with me then, caught up in love with me and the moment itself. But I also knew He had been with me since even before I had been born.)

I said, Yes, You have. You’ve shown me that. I know that now.

He said, I’ve been your Companion all this time, the One that has been speaking to you all along.

I said, Yes, oh my goodness. Oh my goodness.

He said, You’re the girl that longed so much to follow along with Me like one of My apostles.

(I heard the loving smile in His voice, I felt His love and intimate awareness of me- and I remembered feeling that, so many times in my life.

When I was seventeen or eighteen, there had been a time, two or three days, when I spent hours reading the gospels as slowly as I could, trying to imagine myself there, with Him. Not because I wanted to be an apostle- heavens no. But just because I so longed to be that close to Him.)

I couldn't believe that He remembered that and choose to specifically point it out. I felt so shy, like, oh my goodness, He picked up on that. Oh dear.
I said, Oh my goodness, yes that was me. I did want that.

It was still very difficult to speak, which is why my responses sound the way they do. I kept trying to speak of something deeper- to speak of my love and my adoration and my need and my longing and I couldn’t. It was so much that it was as though it were lodged in my throat by the sheer size of it.
I said to Jesus, in a garbled kind of prayer, Please don’t leave me; please don’t ever leave me.

I felt Him smile. He said, We’ve been through this already. He said it was such tender love.

(He caused me to remember a specific time when I had felt moved to bring up that fear to Him, and He had assured me that it was impossible for me to lose Him, because I was born from His spirit; His spirit was my life, His spirit and mine were knit together like one spirit, and so I could never lose Him.)

Awe swept over me all over again. It just swept over like a wave, as I realized all over again and so much more deeply, that I had been speaking to the Son of God all along. He had absolutely been present and involved. As He had said, it had been Him all along.

"We have,” I said with awe. “You did teach me about that.”
I thought, in a babbling rush, of all the things Jesus said and did- the miracles and the people who had spoken with Him and the places He had been. It struck me all over again that I was talking to same Person right then.
I had a sudden incredible desire to talk to Him about all of it, any of it, just because, and for some reason, I thought of His ascension, and I got mixed up without realizing it.

I thought that He had said to His disciples, "I will never leave you nor forsake you," before He left them.
Of course, that is wrong; that is not what He said. What He said was, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." It was Moses that said that other phrase, and then whoever wrote Hebrews quoted it there.

I did not figure that out until much later, at which point I thought I was going to curl up and die.

But in that moment, I was blissfully unaware. I misquoted Jesus to Jesus.
I said to Him in awe, “You said that! It was You that said that to them.”
Did He correct me? No. Well, yes, in a way.

He corrected me in a way that I did not catch on to until much later.

He said with such loving kindness, I said that to you.

I, unaware that I had just put my foot in it, went on excitedly, “I’ve been reading all Your words!”

He said tenderly, I know you have.

Then later, after Keith and I had gone to bed, I whispered to Jesus, “But I’m so afraid now I’ll lose that sense of intimacy and familiarity that I had with You before, when I knew You through that veil.”

In response, He took me by the shoulders and kissed my mouth. Fire flared up all through me; for a moment I was consumed by it.
Maybe this will seem blasphemous- it certainly shocked me, but Jesus apparently was in the habit of kissing His disciples, because that is how He was betrayed. Then apparently the disciples went on in the habit of greeting one another with a holy kiss later.

 In fact, after going through this experience, it physically hurt to read that passage where Jesus looks at Judas and says so quietly, Would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?
I was still confused about the earlier fear. I thought, what about how perfect love casts out fear? Why was I afraid?

So He brought to my mind all these verses and situations when other people had been afraid and trembling before God- it's a normal human response. Abraham felt a holy terror, Gideon did, David wrote about it in the psalms.

Even just the sight of an angel can fill a human with holy fear.

I understood then about "the fear of the Lord." It's not a dread, it's a holy awe that fills a person's entire being. It doesn't mean dread or horror or shame. I didn't feel any of those things. It's not a dark fear.
It's part of knowing that one is in the presence of God. It's part of knowing with absolute certainty that He exists, that He is.

I think that must be why the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom- because the fear of the Lord is to know absolutely that He exists, and that He alone is God.
But that's just the beginning. What follows after that is love, and it is perfect and it does cast out the fear.