“How can we pray for you” he asked across the table. The look in his eye told me that it was a sincere request and not a passing obligation; it was in fact, not even a question. My eyes darted to the other guys in the room and were met by identical looks. “Yeah, specifically, how can we pray for you” said the second. I began to outline, then stopped; where do I begin? My voice trembled as I went through topics that even now, I can’t recall. The tears provided more evidence of need than my words did anyways and these men being blessed with the gift of discernment were way ahead of me on what to pray for.
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to offer up prayer on your behalf right now”. I don’t know if I agreed or if he was already standing but through the tears I immediately felt the warm, gentle hands of three loving brothers who in that moment were the embodiment of Christ.
I was numb with confusion, paralyzed with fear and sorrowed with self-doubt. I had been going home at night wondering how I could face the trials that awaited me there; I’d go back to work in the morning sick with the fear of incompetence, failure and the painful evidence of my own foolish shortcomings waiting for me at the door. Real or imagined the affect was the same; the perception in my soul was that I’d somehow failed everyone and everything in my life.
These men, now towering above me as I sat sobbing in the chair, sheltered my broken heart in their wings. They prayed with the grace and poise that spoke of confidence and trust with the Lord, they prayed not for simple things like “dry his tears”, but for bold things like “heal Bethany, uplift Sherry, give David the ability to carry on this mission”. Through the tears I thanked each one of them. I thanked God that I’d grown to know each one of them, and most of all I resolved to learn from each one of them. This is the love needs to be shared; this is the love that will change the world.
But that’s how God works. Not only would he give me life and hope in that moment; he went on to give me life and hope more abundantly.
As I walked out of the room there was one more blessing awaiting me. A man, whom I believe has the gift of compassion and wisdom far beyond his years, met me in the hallway. As the others gently faded out of the door, his frame filled it. With a big toothy smile he extended his arms and said “brother”. I tried explaining through a big hug, the beauty of what I had just experienced. I tried but all that came were more tears. I hugged him, he hugged me tighter and right there in that narrow hallway, I cried years of anger, frustration, failure, lies, and self-righteousness – it all came out in a flood of uncontrolled tears. My final death-kick was the tear-slobbered statement, literally smeared over his charcoal grey suit coat: “I just can’t do this anymore”!
His words were comforting. His thoughts were clear. His voice; I don’t think it was really his voice. In the growing dusk, his face was obscured by the backdrop of the big windows so all I saw was the grey suit that I’d just used as a tissue; the beauty of the eastern sky in the windows behind him and the physical outline of my dear friend who’s voice was more one of divine assurance than the one I’d come to know over coffee. In that voice, He reviewed what we’d discussed over the last week. He reviewed and peacefully restated the facts. He reminded me that the effort Sherry and I are undertaking and the particular struggles we face are more than anyone should have to bear. He reminded me that God would see us through this. He reminded me that the love and compassion that we show others is a greater testament than we’d ever realize in this life. That voice, that confidence, that peaceful venue in the waning hours of a Sunday; they were to be my peaceful valley. They were to be my cool water, my rest. The quiet at the end of His sentence was a quiet that I’ve not experienced in many years. It was the quiet of my now peaceful heart.
He speaks through prophets; He speaks through wind and fire. He spoke to Moses through a cloud and he spoke to a guy named Balaam through a jackass. God’s got a sense of humor and a sense of occasion. For me on this most momentous night, He spoke to me through four brothers; brothers I’ve never had yet brothers who have taught me perhaps the most valuable lesson in life. The lesson of what love looks like.