My spiritual life has always involved images or pictures in my mind. Some people refer to this as a person’s mind’s eye.
Years ago as I was desperately seeking for God’s will in my life and trying to find that place where I would understand him and my relationship with him God painted an impressive picture in my mind.
It was a space of lake front property that one might find at a public park or house on the water. But there was never anyone else there and in the beginning it was nothing but grass, sand, and shoreline. It was my place to come and be with God. It was a way I could visualize nothing and no one in my mind which brought calm to my thoughts and allowed me to feel safe and secure amidst all the chaos that seemed to be my emotions, my job, my friends, my church, my roommates, etc. And as I would come to this place (almost running most days), I would sit in the sand or the grass depending upon my mood and just wait.
As I would wait and be still and calm I would look over the Lake. It was a vast expanse of bright red crystal clear water; that looked as if it were made from the tears of rubies in its brilliant brightness of color. When I would stare at it, God said it was Christ’s blood, the cleansing sacrifice he had made. And if I so chose I could go swimming in the lake to have all the cares and worries of the world would be taken away from me. This choice to go swimming was a symbol of my asking him for forgiveness for whatever I had done, on purpose or unintentionally.
As I swam through the lake for a time, I could see the hand of God reaching down into the water to pick me up. As his HUGE hand lifted me out of Christ’s blood, the drips of water would not even appear on his hand, but seem to remain in the lake. And I would be clothed in white and the cleansing peace of his presence would radiate around my body in his hand. He would then pull me close to himself as if embracing a child. It was in those moments, I felt so close to God and remember talking about all the things a child would talk about (well at least a very inquisitive, curious, confused child). Why is their pain and suffering? Why did you make me this way? What am I suppose to do next? Where do baby’s come from?
It was in this visual imagery that I could begin to relate to God and truly TALK to him. There was something about these steps in my mind’s eye that allowed me to move through the fear of the Almighty, HOLY, Righteous God and into a place of comfort and closeness. The knowledge from the old testament stories of how no man could even look near him but be consumed by his righteous power; I struggled with trying to find a way to connect with God. Well and Indiana Jones probably didn’t help my understanding either; I didn’t want my face to melt off. (Shiver that scene is STILL scary). For so many years I could not figure out how to talk to God because of the whole sin, fall, wrath, fear, fire, and Moses stuff. This image changed all that and finally I found a way for me to connect to God, and even though he didn’t need it to connect to me; it allowed my feelings and my guilt to fade into the background.
Then there came a rough spot in my life, some of us call it the CRISIS OF FAITH. It is a time when nothing you believe makes sense and everything you believe in is in question. I fell head first into a pile of classic Prodigal son behaviors (well its more like I dove in head first). While there were times I would find myself thinking about the park and the lake, I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to connect with God, I didn’t want to get his help or find out what he wanted me to do. I was in so much pain I couldn’t even think of walking into the park. But it was even in my depression and loneliness, that I continually heard God asking me to come to the park. As I would scream at him I don’t want to go swimming… I didn’t want to ask for forgiveness because that meant I was sorry and that meant I was gonna try to stop what I was doing. And I had no heart to be sorry and I wasn’t going to stop. But even in the face of all that defiance and rebellion, God said well just come sit at the shore. You don’t have to go swimming just come and sit in the grass, you know that always brings you peace. And just like a child who is throwing a temper tantrum but still wants ice cream came to the shore and sat arms folded, scowl on my face, stomping feet, and not wanting to be manipulated into whatever God thought he was going to GET me to do.
But the interesting thing is that God didn’t push me. He didn’t manipulate me. He didn’t try to con me into swimming or being with him or choosing to surrender; he just let me sit there. I would sit for a while and them get up and walk away. Then other times would arise and he would ask me to come back to the park… and I would but just sit on the shore line. At times I would dip my toes in the water; but that was it. No swimming, no forgiveness, no repentance, no cleansing, no closeness.
Then one day as I was sitting on the shoreline, a man appeared. He came and sat down next to me and talked to me. Just as I would talk to any of the guy friends. Engaging me in complete comfortable conversations about the weather, sports, people, the day’s events (honestly I don’t remember what we talked about… but as many of you know when I talk – it’s just like that – a dozen topics with as many directions). Over time, his presence increased and I began to share with him my problems and anxieties. Then I would find myself seeking comfort from him physically, by leaning on him, laying my head in his lap, or just hugging him so tight I would squeeze the life out of him. He became my best friend, boyfriend-like in the trust and intimacy we would share… Over time I knew he was Jesus in the form of a man, but he didn’t look like the bible illustrations, he looked as hot and solid and strong as my mind’s eye needed him to be.
It is the person I run to when I am in crisis. He is the image I see when I want a man’s comfort. This is the place I return to when I feel that I have nothing to offer and no future to live in. It is here that I see my value reflected, my self-image polished, and the holes in my self-worth are filled. This is also the place I take my mind when the chaos is too strong to manage, when the spiral of emotions will not be tamed, and when I feel I have been away too long.
As with any good location, it has changed over the years. There is a picnic bench now, swings, spinning merry-go-round, a few shady trees, and a bench or two. There is even a waterfall at its entrance and a Wall of Boulders that hides its entrance. I find myself taking my mind back to this place that has represented such peach and calm over the years. Even in those times when I believed I did not deserve to be in God’s presence, I knew I could come here and he would accept me and love me and touch me.
I swim often now, although there are times I am content to sit, lounge, and play on the shore with Christ. I do desire to be as close to God as I can and I am truly thankful for this image that has broken down all the fear and stumbling blocks that kept me from understanding God as my truly loving accepting caring nurturing father. This is the place that my mind finds a way to pause long enough for God to show me something new or remind me of his promises ones that never change – I will never leave you nor forsake you – or the ones that he has given me personally – you are my amazing woman with whom I have great plans.