Holy Spirit in a plain brown box: Open Me!
I've been a Christian all my life. I accepted Jesus
Christ as my Savior during Bible School at my grandmother's one
summer. I was so young I hardly knew what it meant, and I was crying
so hard, I couldn't even tell the minister my name.
But I was a closet Christian. I never talked about it. If someone
asked me, I didn't deny it, but I certainly didn't volunteer it.
So, I was very surprised when , as an adult, I ran into a high school
friend of mine and found her just filled to bursting with joy that she
had found Jesus Christ. It struck me for two reasons. First, I
wondered why I hadn't been the one to tell her about Jesus. And
second, I wondered why I didn't feel the same joy she felt. So I asked
God to fill me with the Holy Spirit…and guess what happened. Nothing
happened. When I didn't feel any different, I reasoned that for some
God hits like a bolt of lightening, and for others, like me, it was a
slow, steady journey. And I didn't think about it anymore.
I met Bob and got married in the Methodist Church. We had children,
and we had them baptized. We attended church sporadically, when we
could find one we liked…which wasn't often easy with the traveling we
were doing. But we were content with our lives.
We moved from an assignment in Germany to Pace. We were living in the
BOQ at Whiting while we waited to close on our house. I made an
appointment for a routine medical screening, and was shocked when they
called me back for more tests. Additional tests were inconclusive, and
it was decided that I should have a biopsy. I knew I was a goner.
There was no way that test was going to come back with anything but
the worst possible news, and I was scared to death…of death.
I just knew something was wrong with my body, but I also knew
something was wrong with my spirit. I knew as a Christian, I shouldn't
be so frightened, but I was unable to control my fear. So I made an
appointment with the chaplain on base. I walked into his office, burst
out crying, and cried through the whole appointment. He talked to me
for a long time. I think he was surprised that I knew eternal life is
a gift that cannot be earned, only accepted. He asked God to send me
the assurance that my name was written in heaven…and I left with some
things to read, feeling a little better. One of the things he gave me
to read was a tract on asking Jesus to come and live in your heart. I
asked Him, and I was pretty sure He came since I had asked Him to, but
I didn't feel any different. I received good news from my doctor, and
after a while, I didn't think about Jesus and my heart anymore.
Things went well for several years. We joined a church, and we became
active participants. I still cried a lot in church and couldn't for
the life of me figure out what that was all about, but I wrote it off
as just being tender-hearted and emotional. I bought several Bibles in
different translations and some study guides and some books by Joyce
Meyers. They looked nice sitting on the shelf, which is good, because
that's where they stayed.
I was happy. I was fine. I was busy at work, and things were going
well. It came time for my routine screenings again, which always made
me a little nervous, even though I had had three uneventful screenings
since the biopsy. I was in my car driving to work on the day of my
appointment, when for some reason I said to God…"Lord, I don't want
there to be anything wrong with me and I'm a little nervous about
today, but I will accept whatever you have in store for me."
I went to my appointment later that day and they ran the tests. As I
waited for the results, I could hear them talking in the next room. I
couldn't make out exactly what they were saying, but I definitely
heard the words "more tests". Well, I just knew they were talking
about me, and that heat that starts at your head and flashes through
the rest of your body hit me like an electric current. My heart
started pounding, and I was not surprised when the tech walked back in
the room to do more tests. I told myself to be calm, but this thought
kept flashing through my mind…"God, I know what I said this morning,
but I didn't think you'd take me seriously. I'd like to give you my
life, but if this is what you intend to do with it, the deal is off!"
And then I thought, "No, I meant what I said. I'm so tired of fighting
all my battles by myself, of the constant worrying." So I listened to
what the doctors had to say, made my appointment with the surgeon and
Now, here I'd like to give you a little advice. If you ever see a
surgeon about having a biopsy, do not ask him what the worst case
scenario is…because he will tell you. I left my surgeon's office with
the feeling that it was quite possible I was just one giant walking
tumor with about 6 minutes to live. Needless to say, I was feeling
pretty pitiful when I headed back at work.
When I arrived there, I was pleased to see an acquaintance of mine,
JD. I haven't heard JD's whole story yet, but he tells me he is
involved in the ministry and specializes in hospital and hospice
visitation. I only know that the first time I met him was when he
hollered across the parking lot to me, "I love your hair." I liked him
immediately. He is an incredibly upbeat person, always smiling and
praising God. I couldn't wait to unload my new problem on him.
But I couldn't be rude, so I said, "JD, how are you?" anxious to get
the pleasantries out of the way. To my surprise he said, "I am
terrible. Things are going so wrong in my life. The people I trusted
and tried to help are turning on me. It's so hurtful. I think I'm in
the wrong job. Maybe I should go back to being a cop." I tried to
comfort him, but what do you say when a minister is down? Finally I
said to him, "JD, if you are going to accept GOD's plan for your life,
then you have to ACCEPT God's plan for your life."
Did I say that? I was taken aback at my own words. It was like God was
using my conversation with JD to talk to me. We decided to exchange
business cards, and while he was pulling his out of his wallet, he
said, "here, you may as well have this"…and pulled out a cross with
the words faith and grace etched on the back. I didn't want to take
his cross, but he was insistent, so I took it thinking I could give it
back to him when he felt better.
His attitude was so remarkably changed from his normal joyful self
that he weighed on my mind, and that night I sat down and wrote him a
note. I said "JD, I don't read the Bible like I should, and I can't
quote you verse and scripture, but I can tell you one thing…God is
faithful. I see you are suffering and I can only tell you that you
suffer for a purpose, God's purpose, and that He loves you and me in a
way we can't even begin to understand. I think we should pray for each
other, that God's purpose for us becomes clear and that he gives us
strength to endure what we must."
The following Monday morning, JD showed up at my office, and this is
what he said to me. "You have changed my life!" He said, "when I got
your note and knew that someone cared enough about me to write to me,
it changed everything. If you ever need anything, anything at all, I
will be there for you, I will pray for you always."
I was shocked. I am just me, Biblically inept, not one to say anything
to anyone about God, and here this minister stood in my office telling
me I had changed his life. The feeling was incredible, not that I had
suddenly been endowed with great wisdom and knowledge, but that God
could use a plain ordinary person like me in such a remarkable way. I
asked him to pray for me since my biopsy was fast approaching, and I
was having a difficult time leaving everything in God's hands.
There is a woman I work with who is also full of Christian joy and
love, and she was good enough to put my mom on her church's prayer
list when she was facing her biopsy. So I took her into my confidence
and asked her to add my name to that list. She said," I'll do better
than that", and we went into my office and prayed right then and
there. In that prayer, she thanked God for what he had already done
for me, and those words stuck in my mind. God already knew what I
needed, and He had already taken care of it. I loved that thought. She
brought me a book of prayers by Iyanla Vanzant and told me I would
find my prayer in there. I did. Part of it says,
"Remind me that with faith in You, I may not know what You will do,
but as long as I know what You can do, as long as I have faith that
You will do your perfect will in the perfect way, I will be just
I began to internalize that, but something still nagged at me. So in
the car driving one day I said to God, "Let's just be crystal clear
about this. I do not want to be sick. I do not want to have cancer. I
do not want a single thing wrong to be found in this biopsy. That is
what I want. But, I am prepared to serve You, and I accept whatever
you have in store for me. In fact, I thank you for it, because I know
whatever it is, it is the right thing for me. I know You will be with
me all the way, and that I have nothing to fear." There, now God knew
what I wanted beyond a doubt, and if the worst was to be, I knew
beyond a doubt that it was what He intended for me. For the first time
since this whole ordeal began, I felt some peace. And for the first
time in my entire life, I felt the Holy Spirit move in my heart.
On the morning of my biopsy I went in to work for a short time first,
and my friend came and prayed with me again. I couldn't stop the
tears, and a co-worker I have had some professional problems with in
the past couldn't help but notice. Saying nothing, he came up and put
his arm around me, and walked with me to the door. He never said a
word, and I will never forget his kindness to me.
So the process began. I went to the hospital where as a first step a
marker had to be placed to identify the problem area. The radiologist
was one I had not seen before, but she was calm and reassuring and
seemed determined that I should experience no discomfort whatsoever. I
thanked her when she was done for caring so much, and she said to me,
"I'm going to pray for you." I have never had a doctor say that to me
in any circumstance, and I was so incredibly touched.
Everything went well and I was fine. The results of my biopsy were
good, and I was able to go forward with my plans to attend my
brother's wedding in upstate New York. I was excited about attending
the wedding, but absolutely petrified that I had to fly to get there.
There just wasn't any alternative, and believe me, I looked and
looked. At least I had been able to make plans with another brother to
meet in Atlanta so we could fly the rest of the way together. I love
my brother, and he is a very spiritual person, even more so than I had
realized. Even so, I found myself approaching panic sitting beside him
on that plane wondering how in the world I was going to be able to
endure this 3 hour flight. And suddenly I felt compelled to take out
the cross that JD had given to me, the one I had dropped in my purse
at the last minute while I was packing. I took it out and held it in
my palm where I could see the words Faith and Grace, and I told myself
that God was holding me like that, just so, in the palm of his hand,
and no harm would come to me that wasn't part of His plan for my life.
I had to say it over and over again in my mind, God is holding me,
holding me, holding me in His hands, like a mantra, but it got me to
New York and home again.
Why have I told you this story with all this detail? They say the
devil is in the details. I don't know what that means, exactly, but I
believe sometimes God is in the details. What happened to me seemed
orchestrated, choreographed, all the right people in the right places
at the right time, saying the right things. I choose not to believe it
was all coincidence. And I choose to believe that the reason I am
telling you this story is because God wanted me to, because there may
be people out there who are just like I was, waiting for the Holy
Spirit to show up in their lives.
All my life I had waited for the gift of the Holy Spirit. I envisioned
it coming in a bright and shiny box, the wrapping as precious as the
gift. I waited for thunderbolts and lightening, pomp and circumstance,
and the instantaneous release from all my problems and concerns. And
while I waited, it sat right in front of me, in a plain brown box
without adornment, two words written on the side…Open Me.
Open me by not letting what you don't know about God keep you from
telling others what you do know. Be willing to open your mouth. God
will supply the words.
Open me by investing as much time learning about God's word as you do
finding out who Demi Moore is dating now. The Bible has more stories
than 1000 issues of People Magazine, with much more relevance to your
Open me by accepting God's plan for your life, the good, the bad, and
the ugly. God is the architect of your good times, and your strength
in the bad. Let Him have it all, the whole enchilada. It won't make
your life perfect, but it will make your life peaceful.
My life is not perfect by any means. I still have my demons, and I
still struggle. But I have a new heart, and with that, the struggle
Bob and I were in Sam's the other day and ran up a $400 bill. When I
got home and went over the receipt to make sure I wasn't overcharged,
it became clear to me that the cashier had undercharged me by $40. I
tried for a few days to rationalize that away…to find the excuse that
made it okay for me to keep that $40. But I knew I had to offer to
pay, and thought maybe Sam's would decline payment to reward me for my
honesty. I went to the customer service desk and explained the
situation to them, asking what they thought would be the best way to
handle it. They thought the best way to handle it would be for me to
pay them right then and there. So I did, a little begrudgingly, and
when I did, the woman in line next to me turned to me and said, "Now
that's integrity. God is pleased with what you did today."
my reward, straight from God, and a bargain at $40.