Hands clutched, griping the pew in front of me. My lips are parched, I need something to drink. It's sweaty in my shirt and I've been at church for hours and it's almost midnight. I'm 14 and I've just come back from Winterfest youth group trip in Knoxville, Tennessee. Like, literally just got back that evening and of course in all our youth group's new found zeal for the Lord from the weekend of church services set in a big coliseum, we had to go tell our home church what had happened to us.
And something did happen to me. That little hard-hearted, resistant newly teen girl had softened her heart that weekend and did something that would change her for the rest of her life. She asked Jesus into her heart and different from all the other times she had already asked Him, this time it felt different. She believed it, so much so that she felt the moving in her heart to forgive her absent father. And also the heartthrob crush beside her who loved Jesus too, sure helped move her along in her Faith. (Yes, I'm talking about Randall.)
But anyways this story takes place at my little home town church in Lincolnton. I grew up Pentecostal and as soon as I could leave for college, I left that description of my life behind. I was tired of being a misfit. People just don't know how to take you when you say you grew up pentecostal. "Oh, you play with snakes?" "Did you have to have long hair, no make-up, and wear long skirts?" "Ya'll go to that crazy church where they run the aisles?" "Oh you grew up at one of those tongue speaking churches?" (well, they might have got the last two right.)
Now headed into my 30's, you get to a place in your life where you just embrace your background and heritage and say "Yep that was me." And had it not been for Jonathan Martin at Renovatus with his openminded forgiving stance on every human being and on being raised in the Church of God, I might have never been able to embrace it again. I've even embraced being a misfit again. It just feels right like it's a tattoo I've always had but just now getting comfortable enough to show every now and then. And yet here I am about to disclose one of the most secret but most influential moments in church that had ever happened to me and it happened that cold night in March after that youth group trip…
After our Winterfest trips, we youth still high on the Spirit and the atmosphere of worshipping for a weekend straight with thousands of other pentecostal youth groups, so you know it was a crazy adrenaline filled spiritual weekend. We wanted Jesus. I'm not sure we knew what Jesus entailed back then besides an idea of pleasing Him by giving up things we found appealing i.e. cussing, secular music, piercings and always came back all fired up and ready to save the world. In our traditions we have to get up and say what God did for us and give our testimonies when we returned to church that night. For someone as introverted and insecure as an unsure young girl this part was always terrifying to me. One at a time, we go up there and are handed a mike and tell something that we learned from God that weekend. What happened next that night, was so paralyzing I can't even remember if I even gave a testimony that evening.
A young guy in his twenties came down, maybe he was moved by our "preachings"? I'm not really sure, all I know is from what I saw and he came down to the altar that night and something took over him. I didn't notice, until there were lots of men praying for him and then they had to hold him down as he spat words that weren't from his voice and facial expressions that weren't normal for humans to make. Foam coming from his mouth. I swear there were 10 men holding him down and they were struggling…
You could say what you want about this experience in my life maybe even have a psychological profile picked out about what happened to this man and why he was doing what he was doing. But until you've experienced something like this, you can't know or feel what your spirit tells you, it is. And that night, on all accounts a terrifying scene, that little 14 year old girl was not afraid. And maybe that was just as much a miracle in itself. Not one ounce of fear in her. And I'm not a brave person, actually I am very scared of vomiting and rollar coasters and after that night, demons. I had nightmares about the dark side after that night. To me, all the other times of talking about Jesus and God and Satan and Demons sounded plausible but that night it seemed it scarily close and it changed me forever.
I consider that weekend, the weekend I got saved. And maybe I was saved before that, for many times I had said the sinner's prayer but after that night. I believed it. Definitely believed it. I couldn't deny the realization of that night. My friends in my youth group, we're all still friends and we all still remember that night. We don't talk about it much, though. Sometimes we wonder if were crazy for witnessing that. The next day at school, I told people, I've always been an open book lol. They looked at me like I was insane. People who never really talked to me came up to me and asked about what happened. And somehow the misfitness always deepens when I'm just speaking truth to people. They do and they don't want to hear it but I told them anyways. And, obviously, I'll still tell people to this day. Most of the time they will cut me short or say it didn't really happen. But I'm kinda glad it did happen and to this day I'm still learning things about that night.
Like lately, after having a discussion with my former youth pastor that was my youth pastor back then. We were talking about Spiritual Authority and calling out sin in love and it got me thinking. When can I feel worthy to do that, I just don't sometimes. And I started thinking about my daughter and how I mentioned that I definitely have Spiritual Authority over her to tell her what's right and wrong. How do I have that confidence?
And it took me back to that night. That night were we sat for hours and we prayed, rebuked, prayed, spat bible verses at those things in that guy and it just didn't work. They wouldn't leave him. We didn't have the power to do it. But someone did that night, it was his mother. She went to pray and lay hands on him and they left him, quickly within minutes. He was made whole. It got me thinking. Can Love as powerful as a mother's love be the key to Spiritual Authority?
Now that I'm a mother, I've experienced that Love that just aches my bones when I think of my daughter. The kind of Love that I would easily die for to protect her. Could I manifest that love onto other people? It comes naturally for her, but let's be honest, it doesn't come naturally for others. Sure I say I love people, but a lot of times, I'd rather put my head in the sand when it comes to other's sufferings and keep living my Me centered rat raced, making money to survive way of life.
I think this Love is not found in us like that for others. You could say you have that love for everyone all day but the only key center point to witnessing a life where someone does that is Jesus. I think that's why Jesus just won't go away. Two thousand years later, were still trying to make sense of what he did and what he was trying to tell us. We still have a hard time believing it, or believing that we could do the same. Could we tap into a love for our enemies, people we are indifferent too, and love them like our children?
I think we could. I think it's crucial if Christianity wants to survive. They are not going to take us serious, the pointing out of other's sin and not backing it up with the kind of love that we would be willing to die for people. Serving them before we serve ourselves. That's the key component to taking up your cross daily. It's humbling ourselves and seeking God for what he wants us to do for others. It's seeking the beauty of God and finding him in the lowliest of us sinners. Coming to the table with them and just loving them where they are. Like they are our children and it's our job and joy to serve them. I think that's the key to slaying the Enemy and being a Spiritual Warrior. Less of us and more of Him.
Facing ourselves and realizing "saved" or not, we become a part of the problem more so than the solution. We could point out other's problems/sins all day, and the rest of the world loves to partake in that just as much. But were called to be more than that. We're called to be Lights, to be known by our Love by our Fruits. That what Jesus said, will make us different from the world.
I am not perfected in this yet. But I will always make sure that Love is at the center of my life, my ideologies and theology. I have to remind myself everyday of this. If it's not, if it's more about what I oppose than what I love, I should probably go back and recalculate because I'm sure I've missed a big calculation and put myself in the equation somewhere. Let's pick back up our Spiritual Authority by loving others unconditionally!!