The ending of part one...
God grabbed my hand in that moment and walked me deeper into the waters. I gave up all my preconceived notions that afternoon and I fully put my trust in what God was asking of me. Trust without borders. It was the lightening bolt moment I had anticipated since the chaos on the plane, and it changed my prayer life in such a beautiful way. It also taught me a very important lesson...I wasn't in charge, God was. I guess I needed - in another April moment, the month He brought me into this world- to be reminded that God can still mold me. And if I allow Him to do with my life what He intends, without fear, there is so much more for me. So now my no's are fewer and further between.
I heard someone say once, "Fear will keep you from moving with the Spirit. Fear has many faces and it often masquerades as wisdom, dignity or love. But underneath that mask is a scared believer who doesn't want to look bad. The Spirit is imprisoned in the bodies of the unbelieving believers." That lightening bolt moment on April 13, 2013 changed me to the core and removed most of that fear, allowing God to do more through me than He ever could before that day. And I learned I don't ever want to hide underneath a mask of fear. That day was so much more than gaining a new gift, it was also about gaining a new freedom from fear and what I thought things should look like. Because of that day, I'm more willing to walk out into the deep waters and go where God leads - without fear.
The beginning of part two...
The next day, I was sitting in a sanctuary in a church on top of a hill in a beautiful part of Seattle and we had just opened in prayer. It was the day after my lightening bolt moment and I was feeling closer than ever to God...drawn to His presence, desiring more than ever to seek His face and to listen to what He wanted from me. I prayed that morning that He would show up to me that day in a way that I wouldn't be able to miss.
It wasn't long before God answered that prayer. While the pastor was praying, God began showing me images of eyes - it was only one eye - but I was seeing it over and over. It was strange to me and I was frustrated because I couldn't figure out what God was trying to tell me. I knew He was wanting me to see something, to understand something, but what?! Was it that He was watching me? At that moment, I looked up and the picture that had just flashed on the large screen caught my attention...it was the exact eye I had seen. The Father's Eye. The Pastor began talking about the image and mentioned the insert in the bulletin. I flipped through my bulletin and found the flyer he mentioned and this is what I saw....
It was interesting to me that I saw an eye - my eyes have always been a source of conversation, well at least my conversation, for much of my life, starting at the age of 5. One evening at the dinner table, I crossed my eyes and to my parent's dismay I couldn't make them go back to normal, no matter how hard I tried. The months that ensued involved eye patches, numerous doctors appointments and finally surgery to strengthen the muscles to pull my eyes back into place. It's one of those stories that's funny, but not really funny, and definitely came in handy when my kids needed the "don't cross your eyes - they'll stick in place" talk with actual facts to back it up. Most of my life was spent in glasses until the day I got lasik eye surgery, a day of incredible joy and freedom from the constantly dry contacts I had been wearing. And years later, when I got sick, one of the first things that was affected was my eyesight and I had to start wearing glasses again. So strangely enough, I thought about eyes quite a bit - but had honestly never once thought about God's eyes.
And then it all came full circle, three-and-a-half years later, when God revealed to me the answer to what He had shown me in Seattle in the church on a hill, the day after lightening struck. I was in Ohio just a few weeks ago when He began showing me the eyes again. This time, I thought to ask what He was telling me specifically to do with what I was seeing. And that's when I finally got an answer. The eyes He had been showing me all along were His eyes. He was asking me to see through His eyes, to be His eyes. To love with His eyes. I think I had known it that day, I just wasn't ready to fully embrace and understand it because it felt bigger than me and I wasn't really sure what to do with it. So I kept asking. You know that saying that the eyes are a window to the soul? I realized God was asking me to look with my eyes deep into the soul of people, allow them to look into mine, and in that, the prayer is that they would feel and see the love of Christ. Matthew 6:22-24 says "The eye is the lamp of the body. You draw light into your body through your eyes, and light shines out to the world through your eyes. So if your eye is well and shows you what is true, then your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is clouded or evil, then your body will be filled with evil and dark clouds. And the darkness that takes over the body of a child of God who has gone astray—that is the deepest, darkest darkness there is."
Meet Jon...he is the 15-year-old boy wearing a disheveled blue jumpsuit sitting in the juvenile detention center who reached up and grabbed my hand as I was leaving. Minutes before we had shared the Gospel with a room full of boys and Jon was one of the 19 that stood up to accept Christ. And he was one of the 24 that eagerly wrote his prayer request down on a small slip of paper. I was startled when I felt his hand and wasn't sure what he wanted. He looked up at me and I crouched down to be eye level with him as he said "that prayer you all said...it made me feel lighter." Lighter. A 15-year-old with all the weight of the world on his small frame suddenly felt lighter. And God said to me - Look him in his eyes, I have something for him. I was the only one from our group left in the room and class had begun to shift back into session, but for Jon and I the world froze for a moment and I asked him to look me in the eyes, the eyes God asked me to fully surrender to Him. Never breaking gaze, I shared with Jon what I believe God wanted him to know. And immediately big alligator tears started to stream down this young boy's face from behind his glasses. He never once looked away, maybe never even blinked. He was hungry for love, for just a touch and that day Jesus reached out and touched Jon's soul.
Meet Kelsey...she's the young girl we met in the room next door who also raised her hand to accept Christ. The girl who God was chasing so hard that she had heard the Gospel from our team earlier in the month, wasn't ready and then ended up getting locked up in juvie. And then God caught her. As we were leaving God asked me to share a few things with her so, like with Jon, I got down on eye-level and asked her to look me in the eyes, His eyes, so she could feel, see, hear what God had for her. He simply wanted her to know how much He loved her. And it was what she needed to hear that day as tear after tear fell to the desk. God wanted Kelsey to know He loved her and that day, I believe she felt it.
Meet Daniel...no longer young enough to be tried as a youth, but still very much a kid. The boy whose home is now behind big bars. His flaming red hair and youthful face made him stand out among the group of about 30 inmates. He was also one of 12 that took the step forward to accept Christ that night. And when he did, God gave me a message for him. I thought this was going to be harder to share, a tougher environment, harder guys. But God is bigger than all of that and Daniel actually approached me first, asking if he could read me a letter he had written to his girlfriend. After reading the heartfelt letter out loud, his shame was so great he couldn't look up and his head hung low. I asked him to look at me and he slowly lifted his gaze until his eyes met mine. I shared with him the story about Daniel and the lions' den...that if God’s ways are perfect, then we can trust that whatever He does - and whatever He allows - is also perfect. That our responsibility to God is to obey Him and to trust Him. Daniel should have been devoured in the den that day, but “no wound was found on him, because he had trusted his God." - Daniel 6:23. A different day, in a different kind of den, another boy named Daniel put God in charge of his life and began his journey of trust.
Meet Keith....The one God had pointed out to me as the warrior in a room full of inmates. He left the circle when we were done and I was tempted to leave without saying anything, because he was one of the more intimidating guys in the room, but God once again said "No". So I asked Daniel to call him over. He came over, seemingly hesitant to oblige a perfect stranger, but he came. The fact that he bothered to come, confirmed what I knew God was asking. Earlier, as I was sharing with the group of inmates about the Holy Spirit, God keep asking me to tell them that they were warriors. That they had done battle on the side of evil, but now it was time to do battle for God. Every single time the word warrior came out of my mouth, I stared right at Keith. Not because I wanted to, but because I couldn't help it, it was God directing my gaze. It was uncomfortable, really... super awkward. And he knew I was intentionally focused on him. So when he came over to me later, I asked him "you know that was all directed to you, right?" And his reply..."I know." So I looked him directly in the eyes and shared with him what God had laid on my heart - that he was a leader, a warrior and he could set the tone in the pod he was sharing with twenty-plus other inmates. That if he let God be in charge, he could make a difference. Keith listened intently and he softened. I don't know what God will do with the words Keith heard that night, but I know he saw the compassion of Christ and it impacted him.
There are a couple of reasons I believe God chose to weave the story of what happened in Seattle and the stories of what happened in Ohio together. One, because He began something in Seattle by asking me to be His eyes, but because of my fear, I had "imprisoned the Spirit" and I didn't fight through that fear until three-and-a-half years later in Ohio. The other reason is because so many areas of our walk as Christians are defined, hindered or completely squelched by fear. Fear induced by man. I know mine was. It's when our fear is relinquished, that God can finally move...whether it's in our prayer life, our gifting, our calling...or simply in our eyes.
I love when God brings things all together in a big picture for me:
"Seattle", in the native language, was pronounced “see-ahlsh” but it was difficult for English speakers to pronounce, so they anglicized it to the version that we know today.
When I first started to drive I struggled with direction and knowing how to get home. Traveling outside of Middlebury, IN usually found me on a highway running east and west between Illinois and Ohio. In my attempt to remember how to get home from South Bend (I never traveled east of Middlebury), I used Ohio on the highway signs, saying "Ohio, home". It didn't really make sense, I know, but it was how I knew I was headed home. "Ohio, home."
Seattle was where God taught me how to really "see" - with His eyes. And Ohio, "Ohio, home", was were He taught me to make faith my home and to live in it.
As I was writing this, the song by Jonathan David & Melissa Helser "You Came" started playing. Turned my fear into faith. That lyric played over and over in my head. Turned my fear into faith. There was fear when God asked me to trust Him for a gift He had for me. There was fear each time God told me to use my eyes. And then as only God can do, He turned that fear into faith. Faith for the person I was praying for - that they would see Christ that day. Faith for me - in trusting God every step of the way for what He has for me. It took three-and-a-half years, but I finally walked right through the middle of fear and out to the other side where faith lives.