Lately, God has been revealing to me some ugly truths about my consecration-or lack thereof-to Him. As His light shines upon the dark spaces in my soul, I realize how much of my relationship with Him has been based upon my need for Him, rather than my love for Him. I see how much of my ministry has been based upon selfish motives, and how the cocktail of my thoughts is more often a bitter brew than a sweet Spirit-filled punch. And He's been showing me how these bitter thoughts stem from unresolved anger that I harbor towards Him- anger which began in my childhood and which has subtly choked my relationship with Him over the years.
Roots of bitterness aren't easily yanked from soil that has been rained on, packed down and fertilized by a lifetime of trials, so I don't think God is disappointed that I can't just rip the suckers out with my hands. The traumas I have endured have been severe, and my need for grace has been infinite. Yet I had hoped that after a decade of following Him wholeheartedly, my love for Him would be deeper, and my consecration to Him, greater.
If I ever thought that being in full-time ministry was my calling, I discarded the idea a couple of weeks ago. Well, sort of. I simply decided that I couldn't be used by God in my current condition and that my soul was too shredded to ever come to a truly profound knowledge of His love for me. I'm a walking bag of loveless, irritable bones these days. Maybe it's the lack of sleep. Maybe it's the pain in my hip and back. Or maybe I'm using these problems as excuses to feed those bitter roots of disappointment in God. In any case, God would never use such a person in high levels of ministry, lest the sharks of pride or something worse eat me alive.
Or have I simply been believing a fantastic lie about my usefulness to God and my ability to receive from Him? In any case, the enemy threw some well-harvested salt into the wound created by this belief at a Christian conference this weekend.
I preface this story by saying that God's love towards us and our love for Him can't always be measured by our feelings. Feelings are subject to our biochemistry, and faith has nothing to do with our neurotransmitters, hormones or other chemicals that affect our mood and thoughts.
So when the Holy Spirit touches people, especially at charismatic and Pentecostal healing conferences, and His presence manifests in us as feelings of joy, tears of release, and other warm fuzzy expressions, such feelings shouldn't be used as the barometer by which we measure the quality of our relationship with God.
But everyone still wants a warm fuzzy from God, because fuzzies touch our emotions and help us to feel reassured that He loves us.
So when I was literally (or so it seemed) the only conference attendee this weekend who didn't receive a powerful physical or emotional manifestation of God's presence in my inner being, the enemy vanquished Truth from my mind and said to me, See? You can't even receive God's love.
Normally, my thoughts don't descend into such a dark pit simply because I fail to fall to the ground under the power of God's Spirit, or I don't sense His presence when a well-anointed minister comes and imparts the Spirit to me. But I have never witnessed such a powerful anointing upon one of God's ministers as that which I saw this weekend, and yet never felt so strongly like I was the only one who couldn't be a part of what God was doing.
Shirley Strand was the minister, and as she prophesied and extended her hand to impart God's Spirit to each one of the forty-some women who came to the altar to receive from God, I watched many of them fall to the ground, with shouts of joy, tears of laughter, and other obvious physical manifestations of God's presence.
Usually, in these type of services, not everyone exhibits visible evidence of having been touched by God, but this time, nearly everyone that I saw, did. It was amazing. Every time I looked up to see what God was doing...Bam! Someone was falling down under the power of the Holy Spirit.
But when Shirley prayed over me, I felt nothing. As tears welled in my eyes, I looked at her and said, "I can't receive from God."
She prayed over me once again and still, I felt nothing. She ordered me to sit down, and as I watched her continue to minister over other people, grief filled my chest. Instead of comforting me, God seemed to be confirming my earlier suspicions that I was beyond being touched by Him...beyond redemption, beyond ever sensing His love in the way that I so desperately needed to.
Beyond ever being used greatly in ministry.
But the next thing I knew, Shirley was standing in front of me again. She said to me, "Okay, get up. You're going to come minister with me."
I forced a smile, though I'm sure my expression screamed devastation. If it wasn't, my soul certainly was, but nobody seemed to notice as Shirley took my arm and raised it to the people still awaiting a touch from God. As my hand touched their faces, they collapsed backwards, releasing peals of laughter and shrieks of joy as they went. Some simply fell, struck by the power of God flowing through my hand as Shirley moved me from one person to another. Granted, it was her anointing, not mine, touching the people. I was simply her puppet, but I didn't understand in that grief-stricken moment that God was doing something with me besides trying to get me to smile.
My grief intensified as the women fell. Everyone in the room seemed to be receiving a touch from God--that is, everyone but me- the instrument that ironically, He was using to drop the people to the ground like sacks of potatoes.
Maybe Shirley just wanted to cheer me up, I thought. After all, it was her anointing that was touching the people, not mine. Anyway, I was too bitter to be used by God in that moment...or was I?
The message became clearer when one of the women who had organized the conference came over to me and prophesied over me. She said, "You are a healing minister. I saw it all over you the second you walked through the door (of the church)."
She then told me she thought that it was no accident that Shirley had asked me to stand and minister to the people, because she thought that God was calling me to do the work of an evangelist, too.
It's not the first time I have heard it, or the second, or the third. We are all called to pray for the healing of one another, but as the conference concluded, I realized that God was yet calling me to a position of higher authority in ministry. He still believed that I could be healed of my wounds, and when that happened, it would unfold into the fulfillment of an amazing promise.
I didn't receive a touch from the Holy Spirit as I had hoped this weekend, but as I left the conference, I realized that God had yet reached out to me- knowing, perhaps, that using my hand in ministry and receiving words of prophecy were the only ways that I would be able to sense His love, and receive the knowledge that He yet intended to do great things with my life, despite what I believed about myself. I could have chosen to ignore the signs, and the message. I could have said to myself, "Shirley just asked me to minister with her because she felt sorry for me. The prophet called me a healing minister-but aren't we all?"
As I drove home, I realized that how I decided to view the situation meant the difference between growing my bitter roots towards God or taking another step towards uprooting them.
As difficult as it was to choose, I finally decided that God using my hand in ministry was meant to be a foreshadowing of the fulfillment of one of His great promises in my life. The prophecy was meant to confirm that He intends to use me in an even greater capacity as a healing minister, and that He yet thinks I'm divine material for that purpose. That my lack of consecration, irritability and intermittent bitterness are no hindrance to the fulfillment of His promises for my life- if I keep seeking to be healed from them. But like a surgeon who removes infection with a scalpel or a knife, God must first bring my infection into the light, before He begins the painful work of cutting it out, so that I may eventually be healed.
The choice I made at the conference to believe that I am one of God's sheep, instead of a stubborn little mule who is too broken to receive anything from Him, wasn't just for yesterday. As the daily stresses of life press upon me and symptoms continue to poke at my happiness, I realize that I must continue to choose to see His love and promises through the grind of my day-to-day existence, instead of focusing upon difficult circumstances that blind me to His Truths.
The devil is always looking to slap a blindfold across our eyes and tell us that we aren't really chosen, loved or created by God for great things. He would have us believe that we are more screwed up than any other; that our messes make it impossible for us to receive from God or be used by Him. That lie has never hit me so forcefully as it did this past weekend.
But then God reminded me that the darkest hour in our lives is sometimes just before the dawn. Though I yet long for God to descend upon me with flurries of warm fuzzies, I realize that to see the dawn, I must stop expecting Him to love me my way, and instead allow Him to love me His way. And I must know that He doesn't give up on me, even when I give up on me. Only then, will I perceive His gestures of love towards me in the darkness.
May we know in our heart of hearts that we are not beyond redemption. May we know that there is no soul on this earth that the power of Jesus Christ can't touch, and no wound that He can't heal. May we know that our circumstances and emotions are no reflection of His love towards us, and that when we are tempted to see them as such, we must look to the Cross and know that we are loved, simply because of what He did for us there.