Wednesday, 9 June 2010

...for when you feel forgotten.

After 6 years of hearing about it and following its ministry through its worship music, I finally had the opportunity to visit IHOP Mission Base (International House of Prayer) in Kansas City, Missouri. I have been drawn for years by the idea of a place (they call it ‘The Prayer Room’) where there is always prayer and worship happening 24/7. Some of my favourite worship comes out of this place, chiefly because the worship singers sing straight out of the Word of God and I find that very powerful.

I was on a family visit to my soldier brother in a nearby military town so one evening my mom, two of my brothers, one of my sisters-in-law and I headed the hour in to Kansas City. Arriving at IHOP, I was thankful to see it was an unassuming building which looked a bit like a strip mall, with a Christian bookstore and coffeeshop attached. I beat my family to the door, excited to finally praise in the Prayer Room, but we were met by a young guy explaining that the Prayer Room had moved over to the IHOPU (International House of Prayer University—a school of ministry attached to the organization) campus for a special weekend event. Apparently there’s an ‘awakening’ going on, like a revival, and IHOP was holding a revival meeting there.

I was disappointed not to be able to see and experience the Prayer Room after all these years of wanting to. But we headed over to theFSM (ForeRunner School of Ministry) building and looked for seats amongst the crowd. The goings-on were uncomfortably Charismatic for our little Baptist family, people shouting out, laughing hysterically, falling over, weeping, etc, as the man at the front preached and prayed, and the renown IHOP worship team playing quietly behind him.

I broke away from my family and found a seat at the centre. My heart was heavy before my God for so many reasons. I would be leaving my family again, and heading back to Europe and a particularly difficult ministry situation in 2 days time. I didn’t feel equal to the task. And I hated that ministry was feeling like a ‘task’. I was questioning my whole following of Him into this life of ministry…. Again…. And feeling all adrift. So inadequate. A screw-up. A laughing-stock of a missionary. As if I had ever had what it takes…

I was also wading through a particularly difficult family situation , one where I had been desperately overlooked and purposely hurt. I’d prayed when they did it that He would not let this hurt get in the way of our relationship in the future, but here I was nearly a year down the line and my heart was as sore as ever and I was fighting daily to keep from letting resentment in the way of our relationships which are so precious to me. But I felt as if I was failing miserably and found myself on frequent trips to the bathroom during that family time to just cry somewhere they wouldn’t see. I had lofty dreams of being able to sit alone with the family members and talk about it all and clear the air before I left again for Europe but chances of alone time were looking thin. Plus, I knew the Holy Spirit was prompting me to seek forgiveness from this person for my resentful feelings, regardless of what they had done to me. That humility wasn’t coming naturally. All in all, I was discouraged and bowed before Him there in tears.

The preacher spoke with passion in a faint Australian accent about being marked as God’s, about living more concerned with Eternity than with the present earth, about desiring Him above all. He called anyone who wanted more of Him, more surrender to Him, to come forward and fill the floor in front of the stage. I found myself drawn there. All around me people were having very charismatic experiences. The lady in front of me kept jerking forward as if she was about to crumble to the floor. The man to my left kept on yelling out indiscernable grunts. Beside my feet a woman was laying flat on the floor. To my right they were praying in tongues. Though I’ve become increasingly familiar with charismatic traditions, quiet and non-attention-drawing as a person, it is not my personality to be so demonstrative. It’s not necessarily a way I’d like to find myself acting. Still, I often pray that if THAT is what it means to have more of Him, then, please Lord, floor me. Knock me over. Cause me to weep and laugh and shout. Give me prayer languages which my mind has no discernment of. I want all of Him. And I prayed it again then as the preacher spoke with spiritual enthusiasm and heart. My spirit cried out in desperation.

Unfortunately, I, like many people, have had experiences of some people in authority in charismatic traditions telling me that I’m just not doing something right. That God gives us all these spiritual manifestations and it’s up to us to unwrap the gift. That until we experience His Spirit in this way, we aren’t really filled with Him at all. Sometimes they have been so convincing that I have truly felt lacking. I jump into ‘make it right’ mode and do whatever they prescribe. Then I throw myself back on Him in frustration and beg Him to break in where I am not understanding how to unwrap it, where I’m not ‘getting it right’. To have mercy on me. Usually He corrects me, reminds me that it’s about Him and what He does, not me and what I do. That He is perfectly capable of showing Himself to me in any way He so chooses, regardless of how I try to give Him the ‘right’ conditions.

That night as I stood there broken-heart and discouraged before Him, everyone around me hollering, weeping, laughing, falling over, seemingly uncontrollably, I heard my soul finally say to Him, “Lord, have You forgotten me?”

I don’t know how it happened because I had my eyes closed, my head down, my arms crossed, hugging myself, and one moment I heard the preacher on the stage praying for us and glorifying God, and the next I felt a hand on my forehead and a hand on my shoulder. Someone else gently touched my back. And the preacher with the Australian accent was suddenly there praying over me. Me. In the midst of that massive crowd. A quiet, unassuming, hardly-there, little presence with the over-flowing heart. He found me in the midst of that chaos and quietly but strongly declared, “You are His. He knows who you are.”

The tears spring to my eyes even now days later as I write this.

He said (I quickly went back to my seat and wrote it down), “You are His. He knows who you are. You are worthy to stand before Him (!!!). You are worthy. This is who you are. You are worthy to do this. Do not draw back in shame. You are pure. You are His. This is who you are.”

The worship team (including one of my favourite worship leaders in the world, Misty Edwards) finally began to sing, and I went back to my seat, bent over and crying and praying and praising, and sang along. He knows me. He knows what He’s doing with me. If I belong to this King, and if He knows every detail of who I am and what my life is like, why should I fear anything, feel insecure in any of it, or wonder if I’m a fool? If I’m a fool, I’m a fool for Him. And there is nothing more secure…

The cynic in me—the one which my family quickly brought out as we reconvened back in the car shortly after—knows that the prayer/declaration the preacher spoke over me could have been spoken over anyone and meant something. But it was for me. He came right down off the stage, milled through the crowd, and was led to me. In that moment, it was exactly what I needed to hear—right down to the ‘do not draw back in shame’ and ‘this is who you are’ strengthening my weak knees about this difficult life of ministry. And the fact that my heart cannot be overlooked by Him…

I didn’t even open my eyes to look at the preacher as he stood beside me with his hands laid gently on me. I only recognized him by his voice and his accent. I didn’t speak a word to him, only cried. But after he returned to the stage he began speaking by saying, “I feel that there are people in this room tonight whom have been called into full-time ministry but whom are seeing mountains of obstacles before them. Mountains of financial problems, mountains of relational problems, mountains of their own emotional insecurities, mountains of health problems. “ He preached from Zachariah 4:6, prayed and spoke to ‘the mountains’ which have to move in Jesus’ name.

My mountains in all those areas didn’t move right away, but I know Him well enough to know His time is rarely my time. I’m still waiting for my Diabetes to be healed, but meanwhile thanking Him for His sustenance as I’m living in good health despite it. I’m learning more and more every day about how to trust Him with my emotional heart. I’m still learning to push away fear and trust Him for provision as a support-raising independent missionary. And perhaps the biggest mountain that weekend, the relational issue didn’t just go away. But He’s using this horrible and seemingly unnecessary wound causing unspoken difficulty in precious relationships to teach me how to choose to forgive every time the pain bubbles up afresh— knowing that, in time, I will feel the forgiveness and healing in my heart if I keep choosing it in my willpower. I know that I serve a God who is in the business of moving mountains, and who makes me a mountain-mover too as I trust in Him.

And I revel in the way He decided to show me He had not forgotten about me. In fact, He knows me so well-- He designed me and knows how to work with my design—that rather than manifesting Himself to me by throwing me to the floor in an unconscious stupor, He moved the direction of the whole meeting to speak to my heart and soul and mind and all the issues weighing me down that night. Forgotten? I think not.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hands…” –Isa 49:15

How I love you, Lord.
Take me again and again and again and again
until my restless little heart finds its rest in You
and You alone.


carl thomas said...

Awesome testimony. People mistake the manifestation of the Spirit with the manifestation of a person being touched by the Spirit and miss out on what God has for them. Your crying was no different than the person laughing or the people crunching or jerking. It was how you reacted to the presence of the Spirit of God. The manifestation is not God, it is merely how we react to Him.

Thanks for sharing this. Really encouraging.

:::kate::: said...

oh my goodness.

my heart just blossomed inside me as i read your post. i'm going to write you a real long letter soon. great writing, leah girl. it was what i needed to hear. love you!

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