I couldn’t ignore it even if I had wanted to. The sign was so obviously for me. I knew my name would be there.
Have you ever asked God to send you a sign? And followed up with, “And please, God, make it an unmistakeable one?” The movie “Bruce Almighty” has a scene that speaks to any of us who have ever asked God for a clear signal of what we should do. I can relate to Bruce begging for a sign from God and then ignoring the very clear signs He sends. Here’s a clip, just in case you haven’t seen the movie.
I attended She Speaks this past weekend, a fantastic conference for Christian women who want to write or speak or develop a women’s ministry to share God’s messages of love, hope and healing to the world.
I had prayed and prayed and prayed some more, and my friends and family had surrounded me in prayer leading up to the conference, too. I hadn’t especially prayed for any signs, though. But God still smacked me upside the head with one anyway. Unlike Bruce Almighty, I didn’t miss it. I couldn’t. In the prayer room, God reminded me of the task left undone
Each year leading up to the conference, the conference organizers pray over each attendee and prepare a prayer room. This room is an oasis of calm and quiet and serenity in the midst of a dizzying amount of hustle and bustle. In this hushed place, tables line the walls, and on the tables are sheets of paper with different names for God. And on each paper, the conference organizers have taped attendees’ names.
As the weekend progresses, you’ll hear women asking each other if they’ve visited the prayer room yet to find their names, followed up by a question about which name of God their name was attached to. This task feels important, because we know the organizers are women of powerful prayer and that their placement of our name must hold a kernel of a message from God.
It can take some time to walk along the tables’ edges, looking for your name on a small slip of paper among the 650+ other names there. Plus, it’s a lovely meditation to read all of the names of God listed there and to find your friends’ names among the strangers.
As soon as I walked into the room and my eyes grew accustomed to the gentle light, I smiled (a wry or perhaps chagrined smile). Why? Because I knew exactly where I’d find my name, and it had nothing to do with the papers holding God’s name on them.
In addition to the papers scattered on the tables this year, someone had taken metal word sculptures (Amen, Blessing, etc.) and placed them along the tables as decoration. On one corner of one table sat the word “Forgive,” staring me down. I went straight to it, and here’s what I found:
|My name, pointing up to the word “Forgive”|
For those of you who have been following my blog, you know this has been a year of struggling to forgive. I’ve had a hard time even wanting to forgive, but God so clearly wants me to forgive. Not only has He sent me to Bible verses about the necessity of forgiveness, but now he has sent me to a literal sign in a holy place at a conference.
After that first post about forgiveness, my mother sent me a note about something Corrie Ten Boom wrote (thanks, Mom!). In her book Tramp for the Lord, she speaks of our deliverance and relates the grip of our past mistakes to the clanging of a bell that eventually dies down to faint echoes. I think it’s a perfect way to think of our deliverance from those things and people we need to forgive, too:
These are the dings and dongs of our past life. When we hear them
we need to remember that through Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary, Satan
can no longer pull the rope in our life. We may be tempted. We may
even fall back occasionally, but we have been delivered from the
bondage of sin, and even though the vibrations may still sound in
our lives, they will grow less and less and eventually stop completely.
Isn’t that a lovely way to think of how forgiveness can work? I have people I need to forgive, and the anger or resentment that the devil tries to keep stirred up in me can eventually become a less and less urgent clanging in my mind.
Saturday night, I wrote on a slip of paper the names of people I want to forgive and prayed those names at the table that held my name. And, ever so slightly, the bells began to diminish. And for me, it was a holy experience.
A holy experience
Saturday night also held a different sort of holy experience for me, hearing Ann Voskamp speak. Don’t know her? She’s the author of One Thousand Gifts, a New York Times bestseller. She speaks in a haunting quiet and elegance and beauty. If you want a parcel of quiet beauty and elegance in your life, I encourage you to visit her site: aholyexperience.com. Her book is on its way to my door. I can’t wait.
You see, I have witnessed more than one thousand gifts from God in my life. His urging me to forgive is simply the latest in a long line of His gentle blessings.