May I be vulnerable with you?
"Stone cold!" my friend said to me with a chuckle as he put away his camera. I smiled, but my eyes averted downwards. "Stone cold," I thought to myself. "That's the last thing I want to be."
This week's theme was centered around the "Father-heart of God," given by Jeff Pratt. It was a pretty emotional time for everyone, to say the least.
Within the first two hours of the week-long session, someone was already bawling their eyes out.
While Jeff Prat gave his talks, I could almost feel the hairs on the back of my neck prickling, acutely aware that I was being hunted by The Great Hunter... God himself.
Before we had even met Jeff he already knew all of us by name.
He seemed to embody the love of the Father.
During one break, I distinctly recall laughing nervously with another student about how terrifyingly loving Jeff was to all of us. A couple times I had walked past him, somehow wishing he wouldn't take notice of me because even though I didn't know him, he seemed to know me and love me. And of course he would take notice, throw an arm around my shoulder and begin talking to me. I don't know why, but I felt a natural inclination to shy away from him, though my heart felt warm. Really, really strange, I know.
Jeff did say that "We can only have as much affection and passion for God as we realize he has for us."
Maybe my reaction to him had something to do with that.
As we progressed through the talks, Jeff encouraged us to closely examine any "bricks" around our hearts that were creating a divide between us and the love of God - not that God loves us any less but so that we could acknowledge or experience more fully the unconditional love that he has already had for us.
One of Jeff's many points was that God always stops for those who acknowledge their need for mercy. The walls around our hearts cause him pain because it is his joy for us to know that we are loved.
On Thursday, the final day, we were going to share our wounds and pray over each other for God's healing.
To be honest, I was a little skeptical. I have been through many similar 'healing things' before, and I never had a transforming experience of God's love like many others have had.
But if God is who he is, then his heart aches to heal us, right?
So I decided to trust, and 'verbally' gave my doubts to God. Whether they actually left, I don't know.
Long story short, we all poured out our hearts and prayed over each other. It was incredibly powerful, and I know without a doubt that people were healed.
When it was my turn, I shared all the vulnerabilities and wounds that God had revealed to me the night before. A major theme of mine was that in an attempt to flee from pains of the past, I had traded a heart of flesh for a heart of stone, thereby closing myself off from joy. Perhaps in my numbness I had forgotten that as a child I used to cry whenever I saw my brother and sister fighting - and my crying alone would make them stop. I had forgotten that I was once empathetic, and it gave me hope that I could be so again. For many years now I've longed to have a tender heart, a joyful heart, and to be able to cry for other people.
I was never more ready to be healed. I felt that I believed as much as I possibly could and was willing to let go of everything I had inside. Brothers who had just experienced transforming healing were praying over me.
But nothing happened.
When it was over, I immediately became bitter with God. I felt like I had done everything that was in my power to do (acknowledging specific wounds, asking for healing, etc.), and yet he didn't come and rescue me.
I began to buy into the lies of the enemy that I had renounced just minutes before.
After the session was over I went into a bathroom stall and just sat there for a while, unwilling to rejoice in everyone else's healing.
I can't remember if I said it or thought it but over and over again I told God: "You didn't come to rescue me."
As I continued to do this I began to realize that, after years and years of striving, I was rejecting God right to his face.
And then I began to weep.
I wept because for the first time in a long time, I realized just how far away the separation between me and Jesus was...
...and I felt like Jesus and I were weeping together over our separation.
And that was my healing, or the first step of it I should say. Because it verified that I did have a tender heart, that God had done something inside it, that I really was passionate about being close to Jesus, and that he was even more passionate about being close to me.
When I closed my heart to pain all those years back, I also closed my heart to joy. And God was opening up my heart to feel that pain (that separation) again.
And it gave me a lot of hope.
Crying in that bathroom stall was like seeing myself nail Jesus to the cross, and then suddenly see a glimpse of his love for me.
So, I can say with a little more faith that God's heart does yearn to heal and restore us.
I've heard stories of how sometimes he doesn't, particularly with physical healing, and I can't begin to understand that, except that he's mysterious and sovereign.
But I haven't heard of any time when God didn't heal willing hearts either in an instant or over time.
What to do now? Willingly and consistently choose truth and faith. Faith is an inner certainty that is greater than our emotions. He wants to move us with his emotions, not just our own.
So, I'm going to continue to endure and pursue.
I'm going to hope.