My precious readers, have you ever felt fatigued, achy, and generally unwell for weeks or months, only to discover that your malady was a vitamin deficiency that an earlier visit to the doctor could easily have solved? I have, though what I was lacking was neither Vitamin B nor a good, healthy prescription for missing iron. For years, I have endured spiritual anguish that I did not realize I was carrying—certainly, I didn’t think anything could be done about it. Now, though, the Lord has promised to heal it, to restore me to what He had provided immediately after I received His Holy Spirit. I am not entirely healed, freed, or restored yet, but I see what He is doing, I know what He will do, and I thought it might be a joyful thing to inform my readers of what is taking place. Then, too, this will provide a bit of background as to why I haven’t been blogging over the past few months. This story will take some time to tell, so I plan to break it up into a few parts. If the Lord wills, I will continue recounting the glorious events contributing to my restoration—if the Lord wills, if the Lord wills, IF THE LORD WILLS! Time, experience, and I trust a measure of maturity have taught me that making haphazard plans without seeking God’s will and guidance only leads to collapsing projects. Here, then, is Part I:
First, a word about dates, and a bit of spiritual background. Early in my Christian life, only a few months after receiving the baptism, I read Ezekiel for the first time and discovered that Ezekiel seemed to remember and record the date on which each of his visions, words from the Lord, or other experiences of God’s glory took place. I loved the underlying principle—that everything the Lord did for us was worth remembering in vivid, exquisite detail—and so I determined from that point onward to do what Ezekiel did. And so, if numbers could be written in uppercase, all dates would be so written from now on.
I became a Christian in my heart, before the Lord, just prior to taking Communion on 24 December of a year that is too precious to fling about the Internet. I was four years old, but—oh!—my heart vowed to follow Jesus from that day on, even if I didn’t fully comprehend everything in Scripture. On 25 March two years later, shortly before my sixth birthday, I made a public profession of the faith I had long held in my heart. Then, between first and second grade, I was introduced for the first time to the prophet Samuel. Now, I didn’t know exactly what Samuel’s commitment to the Lord meant, but I knew that I was like him in a few ways: Hannah had dedicated him to the Lord before he was born, and my mother had dedicated me to the Lord by the time I was a week old; Samuel stayed in the tabernacle before the Lord and, while I couldn’t very well spend the night and take my meals in my grandfather’s tiny Methodist church, my heart longed to do the same; Samuel heard from and loved the Lord from earliest childhood and followed Him for the rest of his life, and I was fully convinced that I would do the same. Much, much later, I learned that the name for Samuel’s way of life was “Nazirite” (see Num. 6), but I had no vocabulary for it at the age of seven, so I simply said in my heart one day, “Lord, I will serve You like Samuel did.” I cling to that commitment; it’s an Old Testament law with many, many New Testament principles. I don’t abstain from wine or keep my hair to knee-length like the Nazirite men and women of the Old Covenant, but I do devote my life to studying His Word, to worship, and to prayer, and have asked the Lord to take all of my life—all of it!—and use it for His glory. That’s what the Numbers 6 regulations were teaching, and what we Christians can apply in this season of His grace—the need to fully serve and devote ourselves to Him.
So, those were my foundations—and, trust me, there is a point to all of this. I made and kept that commitment in the following years as best as I knew how, but drifted away at times and succumbed to many a tempest along the way. There were days when I forgot that Jesus is my all, days when I did not allow Him to comfort me, days when thoughts of the cross instilled feelings of guilt and condemnation rather than the love and sorrow that now fill my soul—love for His gracious gift, sorrow for my sin, but now no longer condemnation. Now, all of this changed in Two Thousand Two—I told you, uppercase dates!—when I really began seeking Him again. I pursued the things of God as a result of being in the midst of the truest, most profound evil I had ever really experienced—a public school humanities course that was actively teaching idolatry and witchcraft. But even when that class ended, my heart kept seeking—the Gospels, Revelation, the first five books of Scripture—everything was now so much more meaningful.
Then, on 17 August 2002, I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Time does not avail me to describe all that He did on that day, to discuss His gifts, what I received then and what I received much later, but I will say that my life has never been the same since receiving His indwelling. You see, it isn’t about His gifts—though they are beautiful. Having the Holy Spirit is more than prophesy and prayer language, miracles and healings. It is about His day-by-day, constant comfort. It is about having such glorious wisdom in reading God’s Word, about feeling so often that He is there with you as you read it. It is about knowing that our Lord and Savior will never leave nor forsake you, All else aside, it is about a personal, joyful walk, about His comfort and a newfound knowledge of His grace, and about His power and especially His strength in proclaiming the Gospel.
Late that evening, after the passion and joy of that experience in the Holy Spirit had turned to the calmest possible peace, the stillest of still waters, I said something in prayer that I will never forget. It was almost a covenant, a surrender beyond what I could have grasped at the time. I said, “Lord, from now on, I will never want anything except Your glory. You will always be enough for me, and I will serve You as though nothing else matters.”
I did not understand the ramifications. I did not see at that tender “baby Christian” age that this meant the end of all the world ever considered happy and fulfilling. I knew, but I did not know, that all my struggles from that point forward would primarily be focused, at their root, on spiritual attacks. I could not have put into words what I now know to be true—that people can insult anything from my appearance to my intellect to my status as a Braille reader without it having much of an impact on me, but that I have been known to crumble if but one word is insinuated against the particular way I serve the Lord. I did not realize that, years later, a good friend and sister in Christ would ask me, “If your health is good, your family is also in good health, your house isn’t on fire or flooded, your studies are going well, your friends and family are all at peace, your guide-dog is such a blessing, your financial status is good, and you have fulfilling activities in your life, why aren’t you happy?” I could not have known that I would respond to her, “Because my spiritual life is everything, and without knowing I am at peace in that one area, everything else is vanity of vanities. Everything with Him, nothing without Him.” Words could not have expressed at that time the depth to which I meant that commitment, but it was there, it was real, and it has remained central to everything I do.
Thus much of my complete-surrender commitment. Now, about those lovely, clean, innocent years between 2002 and 2006. I asked the Lord to help me understand and memorize Scripture, and received more wisdom and ability than I could possibly have imagined. I knew, I loved, I delighted in those Scriptures. Each time I read the Gospels, my relationship to Jesus Christ was strengthened in a way I have attempted to write about, but which cannot be penned. Trust me—I just completed this exercise, and I think I’ve just about loosened the backspace and delete keys on my poor laptop! There was worship music always, and I immersed myself in everything from Don Moen to Michael W. Smith. I knew—oh, I knew!—the Holy Spirit, and I talked about Him constantly. If God told me to do something, I simply said so—there was no hemming and hawing about what other Christians might think, whether or not they were continuationists, or how this might impact my relationship with them.
At the moment, everything from armchair protector covers to ceiling fans has important associations for me. The same principle applied then, but the associations were only ever glorious. Now, I sometimes avoid eating both beef stew and chicken noodle soup because they carry connnotations of heartache. At that time, though, every food item, every article of clothing, every medication and piece of furniture and technological component and satchel and timepiece and cassette player and plant—everything!—either had no associations or filled me with joy. That old, worn-out computer chair from 1999? Why, I had sat in it while singing a song by Don Francisco. A thick piece of manila paper intended to be fit into the Perkins Brailler? It reminded me of a small miracle in which the Lord demonstrated His power. And every day was like this—every thought, every moment, every hour. It was all prayer without ceasing.
Were there difficult times? Oh, you must believe there were! For three months, I underwent painful procedures and an eventual surgery as the result of a hemorrhagic ovarian cyst. Sometimes, people said things that threatened what I knew in the Lord. Most of the time, I could pray against these, but even if I couldn’t, the disconcerting worries never lasted longer than three months—and I still understood that Jesus loved me. That was another thing—the faith that I had at that point was so filled with innocent hope that I would have thought nothing of sandwiching a song like “Jesus Loves Me” or “Isn’t He Wonderful?” between more “sophisticated” anthems like “I Can Only Imagine” and “Shout to the Lord”. And that sort of worship only intensified in 2004, when we all went through a deep emotional crisis that is too personal to print. I suffered along with everyone else, but in that glorious era, I knew it was nothing that an old-fashioned camp-meeting-style revival service couldn’t restore, or that a three-day fast couldn’t obliterate completely. Nothing is too difficult for our sovereign Lord, and I knew that with absolute certainty from 2002-2006.
Now then, my beloved reader, if you think you’re going to read that 2006 saw me turning to alcohol or some other substance, leaving my faith entirely, straying for some time, and eventually being restored to a love shakier than I had known before, you will be disappointed. None of that happened. Things did change in subsequent months and years, but not in the ways you might imagine. In Part II, if the Lord wills, I will recount what happened and what was apparently lost, the things I longed for but which I never thought I would have again. And then, in Part III, if the Lord so plans for this project, I will talk about 2013 and the beginning of my call to holiness, and 2014 with its promises of total restoration.
Addendum: The title is based on the song “You Alone” by Passion Worship Band—an early song of theirs, and with a delightful, anointed, congregational sound. I love part of the opening verse: “You have / Given me more than I could / Ever have wanted and I want / To give You my heart and my soul.” I discovered it in mid-2003 and immediately embraced it as mirroring my commitment of 2002.