I want to tell you a true story. Absolutely true despite how far fetched it may sound. A little background first.
As a “good girl”, I tried playing the part for a long time. Multiple times. I wanted blessings and I’m a pleaser. Because it depends on me, right?
But what happens when you’re giving 150% and everything falls apart and gets worse instead of better? What happens when injustice appears to be on parade while you are reeling alone on the floor in pain after your world has been blown to smithereens?
I was so angry at Him! Not because everything fell apart but because I felt like He let me go, or even led me, into a place that shattered my heart, my trust, my faith. I felt abandoned. I must have done something wrong?
Even though it doesn’t feel like it right now, in my mind I know He is only good. Correct? But there are times where intellectual knowing is not enough.
I’m going to leave this quote unattributed only so the words will stand on their own and not be automatically dismissed because of the source: “Iniquity is not only when you transgress a law but iniquity is when you take your fist and shake it at [Him] and say, ‘I don’t want anything to do with You! I reject You! Leave! Now!'”
The story I am about to tell you begins with me in that space. In the space of not having anymore strength. In the space of completely giving up. I had given my all and it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough. If it all depended on me, then I was a goner, I was toast.
So I’m sitting in my car at a park. Staring out at a lake. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go. And if I knew, I wouldn’t even have the strength to follow through.
I see a lady walk by on a trail in front of me. A thought: “You need to talk to her. She has something you need to hear.”
My response: “NO! I can’t today! You know in the past I would have done any crazy thing like approach a complete stranger just because I thought You said to. But I can’t today! I can’t! I don’t know if I’ve ever heard You! I don’t know if these thoughts are me, or You, or the devil, or if I’m losing my mind! I’m sorry, I can’t today! I don’t have enough faith today.”
The lady continues to walk down the path, around the corner and out of sight. I sit in my car, staring at the lake.
Am I going to hell? Have I lost my salvation? I bet I did it this time. You know, blaspheming The Spirit and all. Trading my eternal future for a moment of worldy relief. Terror grips my heart. I spiral further down. I’m paralyzed.
The day is eerily still. The park is unusually quiet and without activity. It’s one of those days where even the air is still.
I see the same lady return and walk back on the path in front of me. Again the thought: “You need to talk to her. She has something you need to hear.”
“No. I’m sorry. You know I would any other day before, but I can’t now. I can’t today.”
I sit inside myself like an angry child. Arms crossed. Face turned away.
How can I trust Him? I was so sure and everything fell apart. I tried so much. I wasn’t perfect, but… Who has a chance? How can anyone ever measure up?
The sun is dancing on the calm blue lake in the distance. I see some beautiful white swans. They are coming closer to shore.
I can’t figure out what happened. I can’t figure out the future. If I’m going to hell, well then what’s the harm in capturing a beautiful photo of swans along the way?
So I drag myself out of my car and walk down to the shore. To my surprise the swans come closer. Four of them. They line up perfectly for an amazing shot and linger. I’m blown away. So beautiful! Behind me and around me a group of ducks gather. So close.
I can feel my heart but I kinda don’t even want to. I’m scared of my heart. I want to pack it away. I wish my mind would cooperate and stay in control. And it’s as if at the moment of that thought suddenly the warmth and color are completely drained from the entire scene and the swans suddenly appear cold and ugly and swim off and the little ducks also leave me and wander off.
I’ve done it again. See, I always mess everything up. There is no hope. If only I wouldn’t be so lazy. If only I would try harder. If only I’d quit being so selfish and be grateful instead. And know my place.
I suddenly notice a sort of peninsula to my right. The skinniest little path of land extending out into the lake. A picnic table on the end. It looks like a good place to go be depressed about how I’ve ruined everything and my life is over.
I start shuffling over to that direction. I have to meander around a corner full of foliage. I lift my gaze from the ground and… there she is. Sitting at a different table under the shade of a big tree. I avert my gaze.
“You know you need to talk to her. She has something to say.”
“NO!” I’m angry! I already said no!! “I don’t even know if you are my thoughts, or the devil, or me. I CAN’T!!” I hurriedly walk away.
The lady calls out to me, “Nice day, eh?”
I am NOT doing THIS!! I think I gave her my coldest most aloof “uh huh”, looked ahead, and kept walking.
All the way down the path to the very end of the skinny peninsula. Water surrounding me on three sides. Only room enough for the picnic table. I sit down and stare out at the lake.
Look at my life – what am I supposed to do now? Where am I supposed to go from here? Is there any point?
And then like a shock, even though only in my thoughts, the loudest sound in the middle of everything: “You know you need to talk to her.”
MY FURY! “NO!!! NO! NO! NO! I CAN’T!! IF YOU ARE SO BIG, IF YOU ARE SO REAL, YOU CAN BRING HER DOWN HERE TO ME!!!”
I think I may have even folded my arms, stuck out my bottom lip, and stomped my feet on the ground. I certainly felt like it.
A moment or two. And then… I just knew. I turned from looking at the lake and looked back down the path towards the tree… yep, sure enough, HERE SHE COMES WALKING TOWARDS ME!!!
In the most literally sense: Oh My GOD!! This is really happening!
This is a big park. I can’t see anyone else around. I’m on the skinniest little peninsula. All by myself. I made it abundantly clear that I was not interested in communicating. I obviously want to be alone. AND HERE SHE COMES!
I guess we are doing THIS.
It’s like all the life was coming back into the scene. Alive. Alive is what it felt like. I was almost shaking inside.
She walks directly towards me. She doesn’t stop. She sits down directly in front me, faces me, and says, “Hi.”
Hi?!?! Just, hi!?!? I’m laughing inside at this point.
But I still don’t want to do THIS. I’m not ready. I can’t. I’m not going to let my stupid emotions get the best of me again. I’m not going to get tricked. I’m not going to read too much into this.
So I take control! I come back at her like a machine gun, like an investigative reporter: asking her question after question, all small talk. We’re not going to do THIS! I don’t want her here. If you’re going to invade my space then you’re only going to get so far.
She humors me for a few minutes. Then she interrupts me: “What I really came here to say was: if you died tonight, do you think you’d go to heaven?”
It’s like the world stopped turning and it was only she and I on the planet. On this picnic table. Whoa. Ok God, we’re doing this.
I deflate. I irreverently respond, “I don’t know, I think so.”
“Well, what are you going to say when you are standing in front of Him?”
“I’ll tell Him I have nothing to offer. I can only get in through Jesus.” Empty pockets, open hands.
She looked like that wasn’t the answer she was expecting. She looked confused. I felt bad. Like maybe she needed to say something more. So I said, “Well, what would you have said if I told you ‘no’?”
So she proceeds to tell me the gospel message. I don’t even remember her words. It wasn’t really the words she used. There was just this feeling that started washing over me. Tears! Tears started streaming out of my eyes, down my cheeks, onto my shirt. Tears and tears and tears! Nonstop stream of tears. She didn’t miss a beat. She didn’t acknowledge them. She kept talking as this wave washed through me and carried me away.
She finished and said something like, “So do you want to pray with me to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” I kind of flippantly said, me the one who has just left full-time “ministry”, me the one who has been preaching to people for years, me the one who can be the most legalistic of a bunch, I say to this person who doesn’t know me, “Yeah sure, ok.” Fire insurance. For the four hundredth time. And she leads me through the prayer.
We chat about some things for a minute or two. The mood has changed. Suddenly she’s not my spiritual Tinkerbell. Suddenly she is just a lady. Just another person at the park. Kind of detached.
She starts getting up to leave and then she turns back to me and says, “You know, I was on my way home, leaving the park, I was on that path and I saw a snake across the path so I turned around and came back.” Then she walks off.
Wow! I’m left there by myself at the picnic table at the end of the peninsula.
What just happened? I thought I was saved. Then I thought I wasn’t. Did I just get saved now?
“No. You just needed to be reminded of how simple it is. And she needed to be able to say something. They were not necessarily the same or related.”
Wow. A lot more I could say but I want to end this now with some song lyrics: “I wanna go back to ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible, for the Bible tells me so.'”