…your old men will dream dreams… Joel 2:28
I sat there staring at the sky, trying to wrap my head around it. It was definitely blue, brilliant and stunning, but a blue unlike any I had ever seen before.
And the water—well, that was a whole other story. From my vantage point atop the cliff it could have been a sheet of glass stretching to the horizon; crystal clear, a little deeper blue than the sky. Sort of. Or maybe it was just reflecting the sky.
The people who name paint colors would have had a field day with what I was seeing.
Whatever the hue, it took my breath away. When I finally breathed in again, I caught the faintest scent of… something beautiful… like…
I chuckled. “I give up,” I muttered to myself. What I was seeing was vaguely familiar, but I wasn’t prepared for how intense it was. It wasn’t disconcerting—nothing had ever felt so concerting.
So I sat there—peaceful, content, oblivious to time—waiting for Him. He would come; He was why I was there. That much I knew.
I had dreamed of being here so many times, sometimes with such longing it brought tears to my eyes. Good tears, though—tears of joy. How could the tears not be joyful? I thought, as I looked out over the water as far as I could see. All this, and…
“What is it with you and this cliff?” He said, walking up the rise to where I was sitting.
Forget the shades of blue and the intoxicating scent of the breeze. Him… All this and Him.
I stood up to greet Him, the words to “I Stand Amazed in the Presence” running through my head.
And then they came…
He stopped as He reached the top of promontory. “Whoa—you know what Clapton said: ‘There’ll be no more tears in Heaven.’”
That caught me off guard and I snorted a little. Did the Creator of the universe just quote a rock-n-roller? Then I laughed as I wiped my eyes.
“That’s better,” He said.
I wasn’t sure what would be appropriate, so I stuck out my hand. Apparently, though, the stiff, formal, earth-bound customs I was accustomed to weren’t going to fly here. He grabbed my hand and pulled me into a hug. It was kind of a cross between a bear hug and the kind of hug my mother would give me—a “love that will not let me go” kind of hug; which was OK, since I was going to be His bride one day. (Let that sink in.)
Who knows how long it lasted; time had a funny way of not being time-ish there.
One last squeeze, then He stepped back, put his hands on my shoulders, and looked me square in the eyes. “I’m so glad to see you.” I knew what He meant—and I knew He meant it. Then he grinned. “Talk about waiting ‘til the last minute.”
“I know, right? I hear the odds of that happening at such an advanced age are so slim it’s scary.” Now that we were finally face-to-face, I could thank Him for never giving up on me. “About that…I want to thank you.” You’re a wordsmith—you can do better than that. “I mean,” I babbled on, “I’m eternally grateful for what you did on Calvary and for your patience and…”
He rescued me—as He did often: “You’re welcome—it was my pleasure.”
“Why did I…? Why did it take me so long? All those wasted years.”
“They weren’t wasted. Remember that thing you say in your writing about ‘the mysterious intersection of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will’? In a way that I can’t really explain to you yet, you needed to wait that long, to go through what you went through. That made you understand the magnitude of grace in a way that most people—most Christians—don’t. Plus, it made you a much more compassionate and vulnerable writer.” And in His best surfer-dude voice He added, “So, it was, like, totally worth the wait. Fer shure.”
He kept making me laugh, which, although none of the Gospel writers gave that impression, was kinda what I always expected. And He was nothing like the Warner Sallman painting, with the European face, long wavy hair, and white robes timidly knocking on that door; He was more like a member of the Israeli Defense Force (minus the Uzi and camo uniform). He looked like the guy who always brings chips and salsa to the cookout, even though He could create dinner for thousands out of a couple Filet-O-Fish sandwiches; the one in jeans and a t-shirt anyone would want to hang out with.
And obviously He knew what I was thinking…
“I was gonna wear the Superman t-shirt, you know, from ‘Godspell’? But I thought that was a little too obvious. I can change, if you’d like.”
I laughed again. “No—it’s good. You know what Billy Joel said: ‘Don’t go changin’ to try and please me.’”
Now He laughed. He plopped down on the grass and motioned to the view from the promontory. “So what do you think?”
I sat down beside Him and looked out over the scene I still couldn’t come to terms with. “I think it’s perfect.”
“Yeah—you have a pretty good imagination. Just wait ‘til you see the real thing, though.”
“Wait—so this isn’t…?”
“Umm… Yes and no—it’s complicated. Think of it like the old hymn says: ‘Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine.’ This is that place you always imagine your ‘mansion over the hilltop’ will overlook. I thought you’d get a kick out of it.”
“So I’m dreaming?”
“Let’s just call it that. It’s kind of like the other Joel—the prophet, not the piano man—said.”
I knew exactly which verse He was referring to. “Are you calling me old?” I said, feigning indignation.
“Who am I to call anybody old?”
We both sat there looking out over the water, comfortable with the silence that happens between long-time friends. And He was my friend; He was so much more than that, but He was also my friend.
Since I was pretty sure we weren’t there just to take in the view, after a moment I turned to Him. “I guess I need to ask you why I’m here.”
“Good question. Why do you think you’re here?”
“I don’t know. I mean, I’m sure I have questions I always thought about asking you when I saw you, but most of them are just off-the-wall stuff I think about when I’m studying my Bible. I figure they’re pretty unimportant in the scheme of things.”
“Yea—some definitely are,” He said, laughing. “But let’s see—from your ‘I can’t wait to meet so-and-so’ list I will tell you that you will love Mary Magdalene—you, especially, will never get tired of hearing her tell the story about that Sunday morning. Oh, and your description of Luke in the story you wrote? Spot on. He does look a lot like your friend Greg.”
“Lucky guess—they’re both doctors. How ‘bout Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’?”
“You’ll have to ask him when you see him.”
“The timing of the rapture, I’m guessing, is off limits?”
“To quote me, ‘I am coming soon.’”
“‘Soon,’ as in a-day-is-like-a-thousand-years kind of soon or ‘soon,’ as in soon soon?”
“Then what can you tell me? I’m afraid I’ll wake up at any moment.”
“Not until we’re finished. So back to my question: Why do you think you’re here?”
Then it hit me. “This is about the fork-in-the-road thing, isn’t it? That’s why I’m here.”
He smiled at me. “Ding, ding, ding—we have a winner.” (I don’t know how to write that so that it doesn’t make Him sound sarcastic—He was always warm and gentle, even when He was picking at me.)
He looked out over the water. “So—the fork-in-the-road ‘thing’…the next level of your walk with me…letting go of some of the busyness and distractions…devoting your time to using the gift I’ve given you to write about what I’ve done for you…being all in, heart, soul, mind, and strength…” He turned back to me. “THAT thing. Now that you’ve made that choice, how’s that working for you?”
“Well, I’ve set aside more regular time to write, more time to just ‘be still and know’. I’ve pulled the book manuscript out of mothballs and am making myself put finishing touches on it, trying to get it ready for publication.”
When the Way, the Truth, and the Life asks “But…?” it isn’t because He doesn’t know the answer—it’s because He wants me to know the answer, to hear it coming from my own lips.
So I talked to Him, openly and honestly, like I had done so many times during Prayer Time.
“It’s not as easy as I thought it was going to be,” I said. “I thought when I chose the path You wanted me to take I would experience some sort of instantaneous renewed passion for writing about you, where all the pieces would fall into place and my computer and I would suddenly be ‘as one,’ joyfully pounding out testimony after testimony of your goodness and mercy and grace.”
“But it still feels like a chore, doesn’t it?” He said. “Something you’re ‘making yourself’ do instead of something you can’t wait to do.”
Yes. “What am I missing?”
Let me pause here and tell you that I can’t adequately put into words what it was like to have this conversation with Him. For the first time ever I was in the presence of someone who wanted nothing more than to listen to me; someone who had all the time in the world—eternity, if that’s what it took; someone who wasn’t already thinking of the next thing He was going to say; someone with whom I didn’t need to present a carefully-crafted façade or worry I was going to say something stupid (He had heard plenty of that from me); someone who knew all there was to know about me and still wanted to sit there atop that promontory and nurture my relationship with Him.
There’s only one “someone” like that—and He was about to teach me what it means to truly surrender. You see, up until now I haven’t really understood how to surrender. It’s always seemed like a catch 22: I want to, because I know the end result; but I’m afraid to…because I know the end result…
“Since you like puzzles,” He said, “let’s see if you can figure out what you’re missing. In 2010 you gave me your soul. By the way, there was such a celebration in heaven when that finally happened. Handel led everybody in the Hallelujah Chorus.”
He just laughed. “Just kidding. I mean, He would have, but heavenly rejoicing puts even Handel’s work to shame.” (I’m such a sucker.) “Moving on… Then after you gave me your soul, almost immediately you developed a voracious appetite to read and study—the Bible, books by Christian authors, sermons, commentaries. Anything you could get your hands on.”
Ahh… Luke 10:27. “OK, so that’s ‘soul’ and ‘mind’ so far, right?”
“Very good. Then you dove into any and every opportunity to serve me—that took strength.”
“Soul, mind, and strength…” I said, ticking them off on my fingers. I waited for Him to continue…
After a few seconds, I realized the game was over. You got three out of four—thanks for playing.
He knew I had figured it out; even if He wasn’t omniscient, I’m sure my face gave it away.
My heart—the missing piece of the puzzle.
“Jeremiah said, ’You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’ All of it—not just the parts you don’t mind letting go of.”
Again with that kind, compassionate smile. “It’s not just you—most people are like that.”
That didn’t make me feel any better. Even if the 180° about-face in my own life was all I knew, it should have been enough to cause me to totally abandon myself to Him. But that wasn’t all I knew—I had seen so many other lives transformed by Him as well.
“You’re afraid to trust me with every area of your life, so you’re holding on to some things—some fears, some personal strongholds, your comfort zone.”
How was it possible that six years in I was still holding back?
“Why can’t I just let it all go, hand it over to You? I’m holding on to ‘self,’ as if that’s something worth hanging on to; there’re things I don’t want to totally give up, as if any of it is satisfying; I’m afraid—afraid the ideas will dry up, or that no one will read what I write.” I caught His gaze again. “I’m afraid if I go all in…I’ll let you down.”
“Don’t make me start quoting the ‘do not fear’ scriptures on you; you know there’re about a million of those in the Bible.” I just sat there looking at the ground. He leaned over and nudged me. “And by the way, you let me down every day.”
This just keeps getting better. “Can I wake up now?”
He chuckled. “But you also honor me and bring me glory every day. Some days the victories outweigh the failures; some days it’s just one big ‘fail.’ But I never stop loving you. I’m not winking at the failures—they break my heart. But I know who you can be—who you will be—so here I sit, offering you more of me.”
That’s the end result of surrender: more of Him.
“If you want more of me—and trust me when I tell you you do—if you want me to be Lord of every bit of your life, then I have to have every bit of your life: every shred of self, every fear, every stronghold, every self-conscious moment—all of it.
And that’s also the end result of surrender: none of me.
“David prayed for ‘an undivided heart.’ That’s what I want from you. Not just the labor, but the desire to labor; not making yourself work on the book, but dying to get it out there so you can share what I’ve given you with others. Paul said, no matter what you do, work at it with all your heart, just like you’re working for the Lord, not for people. ‘Cause you are; after all, it’s me you’re serving.”
“You paraphrased that a little.”
He broke into a big grin. “Yep—I can do that. So—what’s it going to be?”
I’m sitting there beside Him, wanting to want all of Him as much as He wanted all of me. I don’t know if that’s even possible, but I’m going to find out. It was time to stop standing at that fork and take a step.
There was really only one answer. “More of you; none of me.”
“Ding, ding, ding… I can promise you it’s not going to be easy; it’s a journey. But it will definitely be worth it. And don’t worry—I’ll never leave you, I’ll never forsake you, Lo I am with you always, etc., etc., yadda, yadda.” That broke my somber mood. “Seriously, though—through the Holy Spirit, I’m always right here.” He tapped on my chest as He said that.
“If you had done the voice and the lit up finger, that would have totally been E.T.” (I made Jesus laugh, I made Jesus laugh.) “You know I’m going to have to write about this.”
“Of course I do. And I’ll make sure the people who need to read it, read it—just like I always do.”
“What do I tell them?”
“Just what I told you: I need them to surrender it all—soul, mind, strength, and heart. Undivided. And tell them I love them. For those who don’t know me, tell them how amazing it is, that I’m the only hope they have—the only hope they need.” He smiled. “You’ll make it sound good.” Then he stood up. “It’s time.”
“I don’t suppose any amount of begging or whining or sad puppy face would prolong this, would it?”
He reached down to pull me up. “Nope. My work here is done—at least for now.” He turned to go.
“What—no goodbye hug?”
He stopped and turned around. “Man, you’re needy.” He gave me another one of those hugs. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love you, my brother.”
“I love you, too, Lord—soul, mind, strength…and heart.”
“What I came to hear.”
And He was gone.
• • •
I don’t know how long I stood there. Eventually it all faded away.
I do know that the journey toward total surrender began at that moment. But the good news is it’s not one I have to take alone—I have the perfect guide and companion to walk with me every step of the way.
He promised me Himself…
• • •
Click here or on the Facebook logo below to see how I pictured Jesus during all this. And while you’re there, like and follow my page.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. Luke 10:27 NIV
Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. Hebrews 2:11 NIV
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 2 Peter 3:8 NIV
Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Psalm 86:11 NIV
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24 NIV
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26
And, lo, I am with you always… Matthew 28:20 KJV
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 NIV