I say all of that up front because I need to talk about what happened to me last weekend, and it's going to come off very "Christiany." I don't apologize for that, but I'll try not to use terms that those not of my tradition wouldn't be familiar with. So here goes.
Last Saturday, I mentioned that we were hosting a Christmas party. It was a party that my wife and I have hosted every year for several years, for a group of music friends. As I said in my last post, I crave the company of my friends these days, so I was very much looking forward to it. I did get the feeling of support and encouragement from everyone there that I was hoping for, but I also got much more.
One of our friends in this group normally comes alone, but this time his wife was able to come with him. I suspect that she came because, unbeknownst to me until then, she is a therapist. Maybe she thought she could help me. Or maybe they were just able to find a babysitter this time. I don't know. I went up to her at one point to comment on how all of our pets seemed drawn to her, and we ended up talking for about an hour. I don't remember a lot of what we said, but afterward, I felt much better. That was an unexpected blessing.
Since Hope Fellowship closed, Sharon and I have been in between churches and pastors. One great luxury that regular churchgoers have is free counseling with their pastor. In tough times, this is a huge blessing and resource. It's like having a professional therapist who shares your beliefs, available to you for free when you need them the most. It's a wonderful thing. But I don't really have a pastor right now. One pastor friend of mine has made a real effort to be there for me, but I don't see him that often. That resource has not been available to me from the churches we've been attending. They don't know us. So just having a professional listen and ask probing questions, even at a Christmas party with lots of people around, was a great help.
The party went late, so the 9:00 AM service we've been going to came a little too early. But we knew some friends were playing in the worship band at another church we've been attending on and off, and that church meets at 10:00 AM. So we went to church there. During one of the worship songs, a sensation came over me that's hard to describe. But it's happened to me many times before, so I knew what it was. It was the Holy Spirit washing over me like a wave. If you know me, you know that I'm an emotional guy, and tend to choke up at the drop of a hat. I come by this honestly. I'm my father's son. But this was not that. This was God. I can tell the difference.
But the result, outwardly at least, was the same. All I could do was stand there and weep. I managed to get myself under control by the end of the song, but then they served communion, which I barely got through. The last time this happened to me was a little over a year ago when I was leading worship for a senior's retreat. The same one where the lady said she was OK either way, whether God healed her cancer or not. I was in my car warming up to sing for the next service, and I suddenly felt that same wave, right in the middle of my "la las." I had to stop and just sob. Not good for your voice, but wonderful for the spirit.
Then the guest speaker at the church we attended yesterday, Elisa Morgan, got up and spoke on forgiveness. A subject I very much needed to hear about. Something came loose inside of me, and I was able to let go of some things I've been holding on to. I was holding one thing against a friend who hurt me recently, but now I'd have to work to remember what it was. And I don't want to remember.
One of these days I'm going to talk about forgiveness. It's a huge, emotionally crippling stumbling block for many people. We must have it and give it to survive. Holding on to past hurts and resentments = bondage. Forgiveness = freedom. Trust me, I know.
There have been things going on inside me, spiritually, for the past few weeks, that I've been waiting for my whole life. I feel like I'm finally becoming the man I was always supposed to be. There's been an issue I've never been able to get over in my life, and within the last week or two, I was able to just let it go. I'm starting to think that when we approach the end of our lives, God starts taking things away from us until all that's left is us and him.
God is changing me from the inside out. I still don't have it all together, nor do I ever expect to in this life. But Philippians 1:6 is ringing true for me these days. It says, "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." And that's the thing. It's not anything I'm doing. It's all God.
So looking over this past weekend, I see a pattern. One that begins before the events I've told you about for the sake of time. There's another whole part I left out about how we ended up at the church service we attended yesterday. But it's one continuous narrative, I believe orchestrated by a loving personal God, to get me to open up enough to let go of some things that were holding me back. It all fit together in a way that has changed me, hopefully forever.