"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."


~C.S. Lewis




Friday, September 27, 2013

When Jesus speaks: stories from my life

And Jesus said, ask about her tattoo. South Dakota sky is the child of eternity, just land and sky and land touching sky, with grass turned gold. The gas station off the highway was the only building from here to the horizon, and outside the door, I licked my ice cream, wiping chocolate from my shirt, and listened to the attendant as she took her break. Her cigarette smoke hung flat. And Jesus said, ask about her tattoo. It’s beautiful, I said—what does it mean? And I heard a story of loss and of pain, every color a different death, and a woman left now alone.

And as I heard her story, I saw a picture of a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. We sat on the floor, the corner of the church, after everyone had gone home; midnight streamed through the windows. So much shame and so much pain, with broken marriages and hurtful words, of rejection by the church and of forgetting her own worth, and I hated the cruelty of the world. And as I heard her story, I saw a picture of a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, a beautiful creature full of hope and of grace. I told her this, and she cried.

And I said, how can I pray for you? A Wyoming trucker, Vietnam veteran, and his semi truck broken down. The gas station crowded, he sat next to me as I ate my lunch from Subway and heard of a life that had been hard and was not getting easier. People mocking his service, wives now gone, friends eternally lost, war nightmares that would not let him go. And I said, how can I pray for you? And he stopped. His body began to shake—he took off his sunglasses, pulled out his gray-worn handkerchief—and tried to hide all the tears that fell. No one has ever made me cry, he said.

And as cancer was destroying her body, I held her hand and prayed. I knelt by her side as three of us women covered her in prayer, each in turn. The doctor had just told her—bad news. It had been in remission and she had seen the hand of Jesus—finally, she was going to be healed, she was going to be free! But it was back, and it was worse, and she was too young to die. And as cancer was destroying her body, I held her hand and prayed. Please Jesus, give her my healthy cells. What grace has been given me, let it pass to her.

And she looked lonely, so I smiled. She was royalty; I knew because she had gray hair. No longer able to leave her wheelchair, she sat in the bead shop, watching the silence, surrounded by walls and tables of purple and blue, pearls that caught the Colorado sun and silver chains two feet long. And she looked lonely, so I smiled. Isn’t it a beautiful day? Do you like to bead? Making necklaces is my favorite, what’s yours? Though her former stroke left the words up to me, the smiles were from us both. After I left the store, a woman ran up to me. Thank you, thank you, she said, for being so kind—that woman is my mother, and though she can no longer speak, what you did means everything.

And my prayer changed to an unknown tongue, and she began to cry. The room was filled with those trying to find their way—the New Pagans and spiritualists and Pleiadians and those desperately seeking hope and truth. This tiny woman sitting nearby was the hardest, coldest, most closed soul I had ever seen; only six inches from me, her heart was galaxies away, and she would let no one through to be hurt again; the strings of advice from the others in the room made her only more cold. But Jesus said, pray. So I turned to her (meeting still going), and I said—can I pray for you? So I took her hand, and I began to pray, and my words changed to an unknown tongue, and she began to cry. She curled up on her chair and I held her hand tightly, and her soul came back from where it had been lost, and she was no longer hard but beautiful. She sobbed in the agony of finally letting herself feel, repeating—thank you, thank you—this Jesus, He comes to me at night, He’s calling me. And I said, yes, yes, because He loves you.