We watched on with a mixture of awe and wonderment as the old woman cavorted gleefully just in front of us. She was short, round, gray haired…..and today she was beautiful. The silver hair on her head and her chin testified of a long life, a life that had known hardship – perhaps more than her fair share. We knew a holy moment was upon us. So we played, and she danced, her feet, belying her age, keeping time with the upbeat tune, her face radiant, her joy unhindered.
She was in love with God, and He with her.
It was somewhere on the North Island of New Zealand and we had come to share worship and ministry with a house full of hungry hearted, hurting disciples at various stages of their journeys out of woundedness. Later we learned her story. Her father had badly wanted a son, but instead a daughter had been born. As a result he had rejected her and most of her life had been lived in the dark shadow of that rejection. As she grew older, whiskers had appeared on her chin – some said a reflection of her need for her father’s acceptance. Her disgrace multiplied, she hid away in shame. Until, that is, she found rest in the arms of Jesus and discovered she had a Father who was proud to call her ‘daughter’.
This day she was dancing all the way out of that shame. This day angels would hush and demons would tremble as her dancing feet bore witness that Her Lord is risen and shame is defeated.
And we heard the Spirit whisper ‘go with Me on this’, and so we played our guitars and sang out Christ’s praise for as long as our Lord and her dancing feet desired.
The soft, unfamiliar sound made its way into my consciousness once more. For three days I had been teaching a school on prophetic intercession and had periodically become aware of a mysterious sound rising and falling somewhere in the room, but then had forgotten it as the noise of worship and fellowship grew stronger.
On the third day I saw him. A man, a very ordinary looking, middle aged man, laying prostrate on the floor weeping softly and profusely into the carpet. There was nothing remarkable about his appearance, nothing to distinguish him in a crowded room. The floor around him was saturated with three days’ worth of salty tears.
They told me he would come each day, lay face down at the back of the room, and begin to softly weep. There he would remain, leaving at the end of the day’s teaching without explanation.
So before he could slip away again, I spoke with him. I needed to understand what might be wrong, or if perhaps he needed prayer. No, none of the above. Quietly he shared with me that the Lord had sent him to intercede. With.Tears. So, as the word was taught, the Holy Spirit would burden him with intercessory groanings too deep to be uttered, and he would weep without ceasing, like some modern Jeremiah. Daily He wept for the hard-heartedness of God’s people, for his nation and for the lost.
And again, I knew I had stumbled into holy territory. And the Spirit said “go with Me on this”. And I asked no more questions.
The line of people wanting prayer was long. We moved to each one, laying on hands, listening to the Spirit, sharing words of knowledge and comfort as we were enabled. These people had been traumatized by years of persecution, war and poverty. We knew we had no personal understanding of the trials they encountered on a daily basis, but we wanted them to know we loved them and counted them as our precious brothers and sisters in the Lord.
A girl, in her teens, stepped into view. She was nervous, unsure if she should really be in this prayer line. I smiled at her, trying to find some welcoming light in her eyes, but she kept them downcast. I knew asking her what her need was would be of little help. Her English was limited and my Burmese was nonexistent. Somehow I sensed whatever I said would be unfruitful. “Help me here, Lord”.
“Just go with Me on this.”
Without a further thought I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her to me. There was no inner debate – it happened as simply as if I had stepped aside and Jesus had physically slipped into my place. She stiffened, rigid, passively resisting the embrace as if such intimate nearness of another human being could only bring pain and trauma. So I waited without words, my arms locked tightly around her, unwilling to let her pass back into whatever deep darkness had been tormenting her.
And as I held her, Jesus loved her.
It was not me who loved her. But I went with Him, because a long time ago I said yes, I will go with this Man (Gen. 24:58). In that moment He didn’t need to ask, and I didn’t need to decide. It was already done.
That beloved young woman was healed that day. As Eternal Love flowed through her she surrendered into His everlasting arms and walked away whole. I saw her later, laughing contagiously with her friends, her entire demeanor transformed. Where shame had lurked and fear had crippled, freedom now reigned. Brown eyes once downcast now gazed into the faces of those around her with joy and love. Radiant Light had replaced darkness. She bore within herself the witness that Christ lives, and I know it will never be taken from her. And again I understood she and I, together, had experienced something profoundly holy.
If we are to inhabit this earth as the Bride of Jesus Christ, to occupy until He comes, we need to understand that we have just one primary calling:
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8
Christ is risen. His Life, manifested in us, is the living, tangible witness we carry in body, soul and spirit. This witness-bearing Bride is exceedingly beautiful, but not with the temporary attractiveness that passes for beauty in this world. She is not, as we like to portray her, young and pearly skinned, with long fair tresses and sparkling blue eyes, adorned in a white satin wedding gown gazing heavenward.
Let’s imagine for a moment that her skin colour might be something other than ours, and that she may just possibly be middle aged, balding and developing a paunch. Wait for it……she may even have chin hair! Not the same, is it? But isn’t it time we aligned our image of the Bride with Christ’s?
And isn’t it time we agreed with Him also on exactly what it means to be His bearers of witness? We may not like to hear the simplicity of it, but He doesn’t keep us here to give the world a lesson in morality, to rebuke the lost, to condemn those who are already condemned, to push the agenda of our chosen political party or denomination, or even to righteously sprout out our opinions on everything from gay marriage to the economy.
Bearing is carrying. It’s not about words. It is about being. It is not about convincing the world how good it is to be a Christian. They have good reason not to believe us on that. The Western church has largely forfeited her credibility as a voice of leadership and bastion of righteousness on too many important issues.
We are way too full of words and way too empty of living witness.
The world does not need our noise. It needs our Christ-Life.
That kind of witness requires a laying down of our lives. That kind of witness demonstrates a Love beyond what the world calls love. That kind of witness can only be borne by a Bride led and empowered by the Spirit of Christ. That kind of witness can and will get us into trouble, but if we’re going to be on the receiving end of trouble, (and we are), let it be because of the Resurrected Life we bear and not of our own making.
This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Acts 2:32
Let’s go with Him on this.
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.