Monday, April 29, 2013

Seventy Times Seven Equals Infinity

So, let me tell you about this really strange, wonderful dream I had two nights ago…

I’d really like to start my story with that sentence, but the only way you’ll truly get the magnitude of this dream is if I back up and tell you a little more about the past two years of my life. Now, I actually wouldn’t mind diving into all the juicy details, but hopefully you’ll understand that in sharing intimate details of my life, I also inadvertently share intimate details of my loved ones, especially those closest to me. So out of respect for their privacy, I might be a bit vague at times, and I ask that you just go with it and not try to figure out the missing details. Despite some ambiguity, I pray you’ll see how this story might relate to your own life experiences, and that you’ll find something in it to encourage you.

Okay, so back to my story…

2011 was the start of a long journey for me, and it started off with circumstances that were devastating. I’m talking the kind of devastation that changes a person forever, and boy did it. (Here comes some of that ambiguity I was talking about. Bear with me a moment.) Betrayal changes the way you see the world around you, especially the people in it. But it isn’t just the people around you that you start to doubt. You doubt yourself, your judgment, and for me, I began to doubt things I had believed about God my entire life. I doubted that God loved me—that I’d ever even known him—and I started to think that there was no way I was actually going to heaven. I remember sitting outside many evenings crying out from the depths of my soul for God to show me somehow that He was here. Nothing crazy, no big miraculous sign or anything. I just needed one small thing, anything, that I knew could only be from Him. I prayed for a dream.

Well, time passed, and there was no dream. I went to a wonderful retreat that I loved, and where I grew closer to understanding my circumstances. I saw so many people experience that moment of intimacy with God that I was craving. I knew God was speaking to me, but it was through the words of others and the Bible, not the deeply intimate thing inside of me that I knew would be His presence.

So I came home from the retreat and faced my circumstances with two choices. I prayed and prayed for wisdom, and at the time I honestly felt that neither choice was sinful, and that I was spiritually free to choose either path. So let me get a little metaphoric on you for a moment. If you had to choose between a very steep, perilous, LONG climb up a mountain and another climb that appeared to be a shortcut around that very scary, perilous mountain, which would you choose? So here’s the thing. I just knew that if I took the scary path, I would eventually get to the top of the mountain, and at the top would be this gorgeous, thrilling experience that would surely be worth all the difficulty. And if I went around on the shortcut, I would be giving all of that up just so I could stay “safe.”

I chose to climb the mountain.

Now, this wasn’t just any mountain, and it threw some big time boulders at me. I lost friends over choosing this path, and I left a church that had grown to feel like my family. And as for my family, well, it hasn’t been easy living out this choice knowing many of them either don’t understand or don’t agree (though many of them do!). I have struggled to take each step up this mountain, and sometimes I have walked to a ledge and wished I could just throw myself off. Forgiveness is not something you do once and move on. It is a struggle every day, sometimes seventy times seven times a day. It is a choice of the will to force your mind not to dwell on hurt or anger. For me, it was seeing the enormous amount of sin that God has forgiven me for, and realizing I have no business holding a stone in my hand. And it was finally looking at others with a compassion that I know only comes from God, and being able to restore relationships that seem to befuddle even other Christians.

Lately, I came to see that I was nearing the top of my mountain. I have found a church where my family is loved and accepted, and where we can live out the call God has placed on us for serving others. My relationship with my husband and children has deepened so much, that I can look back on the circumstances I faced and honestly see them as blessings. I have spent the last eight months homeschooling my sweet boys, and despite those days when I have utterly failed in every way imaginable, God has blessed me with knowing I will look back on these days and give anything to get them back.

And yet, through all this growing I’ve done, God still has kept His distance in a way. I still felt like the invisible person in a crowd hollering at Jesus for attention, just hoping to catch a crumb of his love for me. I prayed over and over for a dream, just a simple little dream where I would know it was from God. Just a crumb.

I had finally come to the point where I just accepted that God didn’t do that kind of thing in our relationship. I was okay with that. I was content with trusting in Him, and I have been at peace for some time now, knowing His blessings and mercy have been poured out over my family. I haven’t even prayed for the dream in months.

So, let me tell you about this really strange, wonderful dream I had two nights ago…

Yes, finally. A dream. Not just any dream, mind you. THE DREAM. I have no idea why God waited so long, but maybe it’s because I have finally gotten to the point of letting go of the past where I am truly open to His presence. Or maybe he just likes making me wait on things. Who knows? I’ll do my best to describe it, but as in many things that involve God, words seem inadequate. But here goes.

As in most dreams, I was in a circumstance that makes no sense in the light of day unless you get all Joseph-like and try to interpret. There was warfare going on around me—bombs, planes, gunfire—you name it. I’m hiding behind something, and I look up just in time to see a large plane coming down right behind me. Nose dive into the ground. Huge explosion.

In my mind, I think, “I’m actually about to die.”

Then this wall of flame envelopes me from behind, but it doesn’t hurt. Immediately I get hit by this wave of something else. It’s not fire, but an intensely bright light that flickers like fire. And I remember thinking to myself, “I’m dead!!!” And I am so excited about it! It’s better than any excitement I’ve ever felt, like multiplying Christmas morning by a thousand! I’m dead!!! I am about to see Jesus, and the joy inside me is NOT EARTHLY. That is the only way I can think to describe it. All of this lasted for a few short seconds, and then I jerked awake and sat straight up in my bed.

I have thought a lot about this short dream the past two days, and I have taken many things from it. The main thing is the joy I felt. I want it back so badly, that I can truly understand now that to live is Christ and to die is gain. Not just gain, but the most abundant, overflowing joy imaginable. I’ve known almost my whole life how to explain in words that we are to seek first the Kingdom of God, and all that we need will be added to our lives. But I know what it feels like to desire to be with Him with all my heart. All I want now is to face every day with that joy inside me, and to share it as best I can with others.

So if you see me, and I seem a little excited, maybe even inappropriately so, just keep in mind it’s because I am so EXCITED about dying!!!