By 18 May, I decided that I was strong enough to devote my every action and thought and word to the Lord for a period of three days. It was going to be wonderful, I told myself—so much time to worship. It would mean suspending some Internet activities and canceling a few engagements with family and friends, but it would be a pure delight.
It would be a joy, that is, if I could only forgive…
First, I had to forgive myself. Two days before, I had said something to Hannah that I felt was in direct violation of everything I was trying to accomplish in the Lord. I had not meant for my words to come out the way they did, but I could not seem to forgive myself for having said them. And despite the fact that I had a full grasp on the Scriptures which state that God is faithful and just to forgive confessed sin, I felt unable to accept even His mercy. So, the first evening of that time of devotion was spent unfruitfully, simply waring myself out with wonderings and tears.
But then dawned Monday, 19 May. Somehow, that morning brought with it a slight acceptance of the possibility of God’s forgiveness—one tiny crack in the thick walls I had built around my heart. And then, Good Samaritan called. Now, Good Samaritan would be the first to say that she does not agree with me on most points of theology, but she seems to enjoy hearing me talk and she has been used of the Lord on multiple occasions. Several times, I have mentioned some great and pressing concern, and she has paraphrased Scripture that fit perfectly with the situation. I once asked her about this and she told me emphatically that she had no idea that what she had said was Biblical, so I can only conclude that the Lord speaks through her, for His purposes. Case in point: One day, because I had no church or fellow brothers and sisters to turn to, I remarked to her, “Something was once said to me that has crushed me in the areas of all I have ever held dear. That faith I treasure is being threatened… And please don’t tell me to just forsake the One I love!” Beloved readers, don’t try this… God used it, but it isn’t the best of ideas. I was desperate, though, for some sort of advice, and I had run out of places to seek it. Well, Good Samaritan thought for a minute and then said, “You need to take some time to just do what you’ve always done to get back in the place you need to be. Don’t listen to the lies… Grab your shield and hold on to it.” My SHIELD!? In that moment, the Holy Spirit filled me with the joy that comes from being chastened and convicted, and with a knowledge of the armor of God—complete with the shield of faith. I took Good Samaritan’s advice, and the Lord restored me.
Now, all of that had been in July of 2011. But when Good Samaritan phoned on 19 May, I thought she could help me with general forgiveness. We had gotten to that point, and I assumed that she might have some helpful thoughts. Before I knew it, though, I had not only discussed my own wrongs but brought 2006 into the discussion. You know—Two Thousand Six, that year in which I underwent spiritual distress and trauma so all-encompassing that it changed my entire outlook on the things of God. Why I brought this up with her when I had told myself I would never speak of it to anybody, I cannot now fathom. I know only that her sympathetic silence served as a sounding board of sorts—a means of helping me come to my own conclusions about God’s power to heal and my need to forgive all the anguish I had experienced in the past eight years. In that moment, the Lord confirmed again that He would help me to forgive if I was willing—and that with forgiveness would come restoration.
And that is what I held onto that day long, long after I had hung up with Good Samaritan. All that afternoon, I considered my role in failing to release the pain that had been caused those many years before. Then, too, I began reading a book entitled TOTAL FORGIVENESS by one R. T. Kendle. The author brought up some interesting points. For example, I had always believed that to forgive meant to attempt to forget as literally and completely as possible—to mask the memory, deny it, crush it, bury it, and generally suppress it with all of my frail human strength. Rather difficult for someone who remembers lying on the water bed at her grandmother’s house at the age of six months… Forgetting is not in my vocabulary, and so I must be living in unforgiveness—must I not?
Not so, claimed this joyous book. When Joseph’s brothers came to him and begged forgiveness for their mistreatment of him, Joseph did not say that he deserved to have been brought to Egypt, or that his brothers had done no wrong. Instead, he acknowledged the deed and then chose to forgive it ANYWAY which, if you think about it, is really a greater measure of merciful living than simply denying that something upsetting was ever done. “What you did was evil, but God…” Acknowledgement, filled with love and a sense of the Lord’s plan—what a wonderful new perspective! From that point on, I determined to truly forgive—that is, not to hold what others had done against me. To sincerely desire the Lord’s blessing in their lives, and to ask the Lord for strength to think of both those who had hurt me and the incident itself without anger, bitterness, or even pain—as a fact rather than a tale of woe and anguish.
As the days of dedication to God passed, I became more and more saturated in His mercy, His grace and forgiveness—and I resolved to shower all that I had received upon others. Then, too, there was an increased sense of His joy. And finally, there was Wednesday afternoon—Wednesday, 21 May, that is.
I had been in worship. Looking back, I cannot now recall what I sang unto the Lord, but I do know what the Holy Spirit ministered to me. I had read the Sermon on the Mount—had, in fact, so immersed myself in the teachings, the very words, of our wonderful Lord Jesus, that I felt closer to Him than I had since I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Now, I was singing unto Him with all of my heart, placing every need before Him in awe and reverence, reiterating deep within that He was all that I would ever need.
And then, to my heart, there came an incredible knowledge that the Lord would heal me, had healed me, would continue to heal me. I said in Part IV of this series that the Lord began showing me this earlier in the month, but the moments of 21 May were different. It was much like the man whom Jesus healed at the pool of Bethesda. First, He asked the man if he wanted to get well. There’s a minor parallel to what He did in my life at first, when I was given the hopeful possibility of being made whole in heart, mind, soul, and spirit again. But 21 May was like the healing itself—it was leaping and dancing, throwing my hands into the air and singing for joy, crying out in thankfulness and weeping for sheer gratitude—not quite like the man in John 5, who did not seem to comprehend the wonder of what had been done for him, but that is a theological discussion for another time.
In that instant, I knew that all my mourning, all the effects of 2006, all the painful associations I had ever accumulated as a result of the spiritual crises I had experienced, were being washed away. I was free. Whatever the Lord had given me when I first received His Holy Spirit, He had suddenly restored to me again. It was beyond words. What singing there was then, what pure and unalloyed wonder! The very fragrance of His presence permeated that moment (see II Cor. 2:14-15). I felt baptized, renewed, and filled anew, and coming away from that time in Him was like immerging from the Jordan River or some other symbolic place without bothering to dry off, just allowing that holiness to cling about me like the garment of praise that it was.
Proof of all that the Lord had told me came later that evening. In the past, I used to see a counselor in order to cope with a great deal of emotional anguish—caused, I am now sure, by the spiritual turmoil I was wearing like Christian’s loathsome burden in THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS. That evening, his name came up in the conversation. Suddenly, and without giving it any thought, I found myself crying out, “Naomi, Naomi, very soon the day will come when I do not need him anymore!”
Now, those who know me understand that I am very, very quiet about certain things in the Lord—or, at least, I had been since 2006. If the Lord showed me something special either in His Word or most especially by His Holy Spirit, I might remark softly to one believer at a time, “I believe… now, we can’t know the mind of God… perhaps I’m misinterpreting here, but it seems that God may have told me… I think…” Saying something so definite—nay, proclaiming it from the rooftops as I did that evening—was so uncharacteristic that it stunned me even as I spoke the last syllable of that declaration. Certainly, if I had said something like this in the past, I would have been temporarily silenced by what Naomi said—”I pray it will be so for you soon–I really do.” But not on that precious day. There was no silence. Instead, in words that leapt over one another like gazellse in my hurry to speak them, I tried to explain: “But you don’t understand… God promised… He told me that all the mourning and sorrow were over, and He has healed me, and I won’t need to see this man anymore because He is my Wonderful Counselor!”
And what more can I say of that evening, that night? It was like being in the throneroom of God, like living in His manifest glory and presence, yet having just an iota of enough presence of mind to be able to communicate with others and go about my daily routine. It was ineffable.
That week, I asked the Lord to show me what to do with this counselor of mine. I try to serve the Lord in wisdom; I was not going to step out before Him. So, I asked that the Lord would use this man to propose our next steps—from one week to two, from two to even less than that. This is exactly what happened, and I rejoice to this day that He is strengthening me to walk with Him alone. Now, please don’t misunderstand—what I was doing was helpful, and it was used by God for a season; I am in no way opposed to it. I just know now that what the Lord is doing, He can accomplish with OR WITHOUT the help of those from whom I had formerly sought help. Rejoicing!
If I had ever harbored any doubts about my freedom in Jesus, they were all laid to rest on 31 May. I was reading Revelation that evening when I cam upon this from chapter III, verses 7-8: “The words of the holy one, the true one, [Who] has the key of David, [Who] opens and no one shall shut, [Who] shuts and no one opens. … Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut” (RSV, capitalization mine). I know that I am not a member of the church of Philadelphia, but in that moment, the Lord used this passage to speak to my heart. Those words were for me—a seal of sorts, a promise that what He had begun and was completing in me would not be taken away. So often, other Christians try to caution us against losing some spiritual blessing. Has that ever happened to you? You’re at a weekend youth conference and on Friday evening, not ten minutes into the service, the pastor or worship leader says something about keeping hold of God’s blessings when you return home on Sunday afternoon and going into Monday… have you ever experienced this? Well, another believer had warned me against growing faint-hearted when I was still atop my mountain, and I began to wonder. Was I going to slip, to slide, to revert to my former fleshly and faithless ways? Into the midst of all of this came that promise, and I no longer doubt that He Who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). He is faithful, and I have no need to fear, for if I should begin to fall, He is able to make me stand—His gifts and His calling are without repentance. Open doors.
Addendum: “Mourning Into Dancing” by Tommy Walker has been a heart-cry since December of 2004. I forgot the message, though not the song, in the intervening years. Now, the message of that praise chorus has woven itself into my very framework. “Where there once was only hurt, / He gave His healing hand; / Where there once was only pain, / He brought comfort like a friend…” The song is too beautiful to miss. It may be found on the album SONGS FOR WORSHIP: GREAT IS THE LORD. The word “for” in that album title should be represented by the number that is its homonym, but that seemed irreverent and insincere—the only thing that Integrity Music ever did wrong as far as album construction went—and I could not bring myself to write it. Now, go track down that song and rejoice with me, my beloved readers!