Mrs. C knew the Scriptures, and she knew how to listen to the Holy Spirit. It was a powerful combination, but would something get lost in translation as she attempted to minister to someone like me, who came from a different faith tradition?
For months, I felt as though I’d gotten stuck spiritually, up to my hubcaps in mud, and my own best efforts to get some traction had only succeeded in digging me deeper into the quagmire in which I’d landed. A friend suggested I meet with the mild-mannered, gray-haired grandmother who’d been a mentor to her.
My friend told me Mrs. C was Charismatic, and had a prophetic gifting, but assured me she wasn’t anything like those glitzy, emotional, over-the-top characters I’d seen on late-night TV. I steeled myself for the meeting, resolving to stay “Evangelical calm and rational”, the lane in which I’d been nurtured as a young Christian, during my conversation with her.
As our conversation flowed toward the subject of God’s forgiveness, my resolve crumpled as Mrs. C’s gentle words exposed the nature of my spiritual quagmire. “How am I ever going to wear a white wedding dress?” I asked through my tears. I had never before talked to anyone about the shame I felt about my promiscuous behavior prior to coming to faith in Christ – including Him. I knew all the Bible verses about God’s forgiveness, but I’d been living as though those verses didn’t apply to my particular set of sins. Whenever I thought about who I’d been, I felt a sense of deep shame. Better not to feel that shame and try to march forward like a good Christian soldier, I thought. I didn’t understand that this good soldier strategy was the cause of my spiritual quagmire.
Mrs. C began to speak, in very specific terms, to what had been my unvoiced, un-prayed thoughts. “What you did with those boys, one after another, has become a place in your heart where you’ve been unable to receive God’s forgiveness. You’ve allowed your sense of unworthiness to become greater than his mercy toward you.”
Yikes. How did she know about the “one after another” part? All I did was ask a question about a white wedding dress. Cynics may think that my question broadcast my issue to Mrs. C. Perhaps it did. But there was a God-given revelatory specificity in the way she responded to me that went far beyond what I presented to her. Her words moved me into my Great Physician’s operating room, where he used the willing Mrs. C as his scalpel, cutting away toxic belief from my healthy faith. She spoke directly to the shame I’d worked so hard to hide, then prayed one Scripture passage after another over me, healing balm to my open wounds.
Only later did I realize that shame wasn’t the only thing keeping me stuck in that spiritual swamp. Pride, disguised as insistence in doing things the “calm and rational way”, held me back from receiving Christ’s forgiveness from a messenger who spoke kingdom language with clarity and love – though she had a different accent than I was used to hearing.
Have you ever been ministered to in a deep, transformational way by someone from a different stream than the one in which you are most familiar/comfortable?
What was most challenging about the experience for you? How did it change you?
Michelle is a contributor to Christianity Today's Her.meneutics blog. She is the author of two books about the parables of Christ, and has contributed to several devotional projects as well. You can find a list of her recently-published credits here: http://michellevanloon.com/published-works/. She is involved in mentoring and discipleship relationships, and is in the early stages of a discernment process about pursuing further formal training in the area of spiritual direction.