Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”
- Isaiah 6:8
I learned something this last weekend. I am active in a men’s ministry here where I live in Indiana. The Father has used this ministry to touch my heart and speak healing into my life so I love what these men do, the war we wage for the heart of men, for the Kingdom. So, I went to this retreat this last weekend as a small group leader. Now, my job as the ‘platoon leader’ is merely to facilitate, ask questions and draw out conversation. As I arrived, I spent some time talking to the Father. I said, “Lord, I just want to be with You. I don’t want to take your place in these men’s hearts. I just want to be a vessel. Use me as You will.”
So, the men arrive and the weekend kicks off. This is a powerful message we bring to these men. We bring a message of freedom in Christ, real life in Him, healing for wounds and what it means to be a son of God. To say that powerful things happen is seriously minimizing it. We know that He will be there, we just have to show up and listen to what He has to say. We have to accept His healing, His love and His direction. This is not always easy for men.
I want to tell you the story of James. He was a man in my platoon this last weekend. James is a few years older than me. James’ wife paid for him to come this last weekend because she could see that he needed his heart back. So, James came. Like a lot of the men who show up, they know they’re fine, they don’t have any wounds. It’s all good in their world, ya know? James told me later that, when he first met me, he didn’t like what he saw. He thought I was a punk with way too many tattoos and that I had nothing to say to him. James was right in one sense. I had nothing to say to him.
But Jesus had a couple of things to say to James.
I watched on Thursday and Friday as Jesus came crashing into the wall James had built around his heart. I watched as the love of Jesus took down that wall, brick by brick. James had a lot of darkness in his past, some deep deep wounds. James was chained to his past, a slave to guilt and shame. I could see that as clearly as I see the screen of my computer. I watched as James wept his sorrow. I also watched as James refused to talk about the deepest darkness in his heart. He couldn’t go there, he wouldn’t go there.
See, the deepest darkest corners of our hearts are often ugly. It is dark and cold there. It is painful to pull that out, put some light on it and face it. Satan has told us that our hearts are dark, we are nothing but filthy sinners who deserve to be in pain. What a lie!
Saturday night, James and I sat on the porch of our cabin and talked into the night. I was able to share a part of my story with him so that he would understand me a bit, where I was coming from, how dark my own heart had been, how wounded I had been. I wanted him to know that there is Freedom from the pain, there is Life for the taking. James looked right into my eyes and was able to speak some deep truths into my own heart. It was a good conversation. As we realized it was getting late, I stood up to go to bed. I heard His whisper in my heart, “Speak to your brother James of his pain. Tell him to lay it down.” So, I did. I said, “James, I know you don’t want to talk about some things in your past and I get that. But, one day, you must lay this down if you are to experience real peace. God has already forgiven you but you have to forgive yourself and let it go.”
The response was not what I expected. James literally emotionally imploded right before my eyes. He began to weep uncontrollably, sobbing and shaking. He could barely speak out of the pain in his heart but I could hear him saying, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this.” God showed up in that moment. We sat and talked some more and James confessed his pain, spoke of the burden he had carried for many, many years. I asked him, “James, do you want to be free from this? Do you want to be healed? He is here and He wants to heal you, to take this for you. You can’t carry this, let Him.” He looked at me with tears streaming down his face and said, “Yes, with all my heart, I want this.” I was honored to lay hands on him and lead him in a prayer of healing. I watched as God made a new man that night.
I have chills even now recounting the story. Never doubt the power of the moment you are in, my friends. Listen to the voice of God and He will speak. I witnessed the new birth of a man and it was awesome.
Sunday rolled around and we were wrapping up the retreat so we could return to our own individual battlefields. There was another man at the retreat who wanted to be baptized into a new life of freedom so down to the water we went. After he was baptized, Mike (our leader) looked into the crowd of us standing beside the pond and said, “I’m already wet. Who else?” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw James start taking his shoes and shirt off. As he walked to the edge of the pond, he was crying and said to Mike, “I am free. I want to be raised into new life.” Mike smiled at him and said, “Well, come on then.” Then, something happened that even now moves me to tears. James pointed at me standing in the front row and said, “I want you to do it.” Before I could even think, I realized I was taking my shoes off. I walked to the edge of the pond and James wrapped me up in a big hug. I have to admit, I had some tears in my eyes as well. Into the water we went. I don’t remember exactly what I said to James before Mike and I baptized him. There were words about slavery, freedom and healing. I don’t remember thinking about what I was saying, it just came out of somewhere inside me, from Someone inside me.
To describe that moment is impossible to do in words. This story is about James but it’s about me as well. When James came up out of the water, I felt something that I cannot describe. I felt not only James’ embrace but I felt the embrace of the Father on my heart. In the smile of James, God smiled at me and said, “Thanks for being available.”
Know this. Wherever you are, He wants to use you. He will use you, if only you will be available. And, if you’re not there but if you are like James, drowning in your pain and darkness, lay it down. Come back to the Light and He will set you free. There is no pain He cannot heal, no darkness He cannot bring light to. Lay it down at His feet. He will carry it for you.