Leslie Marie and I have more in common than our middle name. We share a love for all things old that give us the opportunity to create something new. Who knew that one of her lovely antique treasures, the unique piece that caught my eye and wouldn’t let me go, would be the method by which God would begin a conversation, a connection that would culminate into something much more valuable than its $48.00 price tag? Old metal to new life. Ridiculous, right?
If by ridiculous we mean miraculous, then yes, it absolutely is.
Because after today, after the past four days, I am more convinced than ever that God’s hands are busy at work in sometimes the strangest of ways. And while we may be looking in one direction, our eyes focused on just that way, God is often at work in a way off of our line of vision’s beaten path. Weaving together details that would boggle our minds, intimately crafting an answer beyond what we could ever have imagined. His fingers are busy with just the right time (though not what we expected), just the right place (though not the most obvious) with just the right people (most often those we would least suspect).
He is too creative to be confined to the boxes my mind too often sets up for Him. He is too big, too good, too wise to ever limit Himself to my measly expectations. And if His power was somehow reliant on the size of my faith, then most times nothing at all would happen.
“Collide”, my word for the year, showed up this week in a brilliant, breathtaking way. Old, little faith colliding with new, huge faith, and exploding into showers of “aha” and sheer awe. What I know colliding with how LITTLE I know and combining to create a new hunger to know more. The collision of heaven touching earth and bringing back with it a new soul. I saw the threat of death crash into the promise of life and leave only hope and light in its wake.
How do you describe the tiniest glimpse of eternity with mere mortal words? What adjectives could possibly grab hold of and stick to the reality of the spiritual awakening of a soul that has been searching?
The handiwork of God. Beautiful beyond description. Pursuing a heart, revealing Himself in ways that can’t be ignored or explained away. Irresistible grace at its finest showing up in the most peculiar places. A sort of peek-a-boo before the final reveal.
After hearing all of Leslie’s story of God’s gentle pursuit of her heart that grew into an urgent plea, only one image came to mind. Seeds were planted throughout her life. Seeds of curiosity and questions about faith and God and eternity. Those seeds sprouted into a seedling that would eventually become the tree of her life, nourished by the input and care of friends and family around her. God’s watering can causing her to grow and ask more questions. People who came alongside her shared their faith with her through their lives and conversations.
And about the time that she received her diagnosis, God surrounded her with people in the most bizarre ways whose message became more specific, more urgent and intentional. Her soul was at stake and God was placing on the hearts of others the depth of His love for her. The need for her to accept His gift of life through Jesus that would demolish any fear that Stage IV pancreatic and liver cancer can bring. His heart longing for hers.
Something began to happen at the end of the branches on that tree of her life. Bulbous fruit began to form, tiny and green at first, but heading toward full maturity and the perfect ripeness. All the work of God and people he so strategically placed in her life, both friends and strangers.
And on Sunday morning, just a regular Sunday morning, in the middle of a sermon Jesus tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Want to see something beautiful? Something beautiful I’ve been working on for a very long time?”
How could I possibly say no to such an invitation? I didn’t know how, but He made it possible through miraculous circumstances and amazing people. And He brought me to that tree. That tree of Leslie’s life. And He said, “Look up!” My gaze took in the sight of a beautiful peace of fruit, obviously ripe, ready for the picking. But how could I possibly reach that high? How could I just walk up to a tree I didn’t know, didn’t water, didn’t nurture all these years and suppose that I could be the one to pick its fruit.
And then He surprised me. He told me that He had no intention of me picking it. He merely wanted me to stand with Him and watch it gracefully fall from the branches above, untied from what had held it until this moment. To see Him harvest what others had poured into this tree of Leslie’s life.
I was just there to observe the glory of the crowning moment when eternity touches earth. When a person’s spirit is awakened by the Kiss of Life itself and everything, every iota of a person’s life and eternity changes forever. This is that place where words miserably fail me.
I have the strongest suspicion that Ruth and I were not the only ones yesterday who stood in awe of an event so holy. So many of you were praying, encouraging, waiting to hear how the story would play out. People all over the WORLD grabbed hands in prayer over this woman’s soul. I know that you were affected by the power of God’s extravagant love and ways. This, too, the profound beauty of this bonding of the body of Christ for the soul of another leaves me dumbfounded. THIS was a glimpse of heaven, the “saints” praying and then singing in unison, in harmony, at the top of their lungs at the spiritual birth of a new sister.
THIS is how we were meant to live. Passionately locking arms in God’s loving pursuit of souls. May this experience change us all, make us more aware, more urgent about our mission on this earth. May we not forget the beauty of this moment and may we not miss all the opportunities around us to see such moments happen again and again…
Acts 17:26-27 – From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
Mark 16:15 – And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
Acts 8:26-31 – But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah…Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.