Holy Spirit in a plain brown box: Open Me!
By: Colleen McCormick Asmus
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 lightning, 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 moved on.
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 by 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 fine.”
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 whereas 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 lightning, 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 life.
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 gets easier.
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.”
There was my reward, straight from God, and a bargain at $40.
By: Colleen McCormick Asmus