Sunlight on greens
One of the hardest things about getting down to those last three items on my body and being unable to give them over to Jesus was that it meant we just stood there and stared at each other, neither of us moving, for what seemed like forever. Occasionally, I would bend my elbows and lift my palms in an attempt to indicate my desire to surrender, but that was all I could do.
He just kept looking at me, and I just kept looking at him.
I never felt shame from his gaze. Rather, his gaze held truth. He looked at me and knew the full truth of me. He wasn't pushing or prodding me to do anything differently or be anything different, but he also wasn't hiding from the truth of who I was. We both knew the next step that was needed, but he was content to wait with me until I was fully ready to take it.
I loved that in his gaze, I never felt pressure or shame or disappointment, just truth and love and infinite patience. I had experienced that same reality about him in the woods earlier in the journey, such as when I didn't want to leave my cohort group to venture into the woods with God, or when I encountered the three humiliations that landed me on the ground and in the grave for five days. It wasn't just in the hard places that I experienced that infinite patience of his, either. It was also found in the moments I wanted to savor great joy and love inside me, such as when I stood up from the grave and basked in the sunlight and the fact of my love for him.
With Jesus, there is always time for whatever needs to happen. No rush or hurry, ever. I love that so much.
Ivy crawling the fence
So as I stood before Jesus in my eyelet slip dress that day, my wedding ring on my finger and the sapphire and diamond earrings in my ears, I saw him just continuing to hold the space and gaze at me with eyes of truth and patience and love.
I felt disappointed in myself, though. As I shared earlier in this story, I drove down to Captiva Beach with my love for Jesus overflowing and overwhelming my heart. I desired to give him everything. I thought nothing stood between me and that desire coming to life.
But that was clearly not true. And I didn't know what to do next because it seemed I could not move. I felt stuck and helpless.
I love that light green wandering vine, don't you?
When I spoke to my retreat director on that Wednesday morning that I could not get out of bed, she helped me talk to Jesus a bit more about what was happening. I told him I felt helpless and didn't know what to do. I told him I was embarrassed. I told him I needed his help.
And I can't even explain how the next thing happened. All I know is that we were standing in the woods, facing each other, neither of us moving, and the next thing I knew, we were sitting next to each other on a low, beige brick wall in the sunshine. The woods were nowhere to be seen. Rather, it was like we were sitting on a wall outside the yellow house where I was staying that week.
Our knees were turned toward each other, and Jesus was looking at me with the biggest smile on his face I'd ever seen. His eyes danced as he looked at me, and it was like perpetual laughter and enjoyment and playfulness emanated from his being continually toward me.
Again, there was no shame. Only enjoyment and welcome.
I could hardly believe this change of environment. It was like he knew I was stuck in the woods and needed a completely different scene to disarm all that was stuck. I was back in my outfit of a purple corduroy skirt and small blue jacket. My hair was back on my head, long and curly like it had been years ago.
I felt like I was seeing my true self, the way he sees me all the time, totally and completely loved and free.
I just wanted to savor that image for a long, long time, so when I hung up the phone with my retreat director, I got out of bed and went to sit on the couch in the front room of the house.
I sat there for six hours.
All that mattered to me the entire rest of the day was sitting and holding that image with Jesus. At first we just sat in pure enjoyment of the moment and each other, him laughing and smiling at me. I could feel there was no pressure to do anything or say anything at all. We could just be together. But I felt so comfortable with him on that wall in the sunshine that I shyly asked, pretty soon after that image emerged, if he wanted to talk about the earrings . . . and the ring . . . and the slip.
He stopped laughing and held my question with seriousness, knowing it was a big step for me to broach the subject. And then he said yes.
And so slowly, slowly, over the course of those next six hours, we talked about each one of those objects. And in the next installment, I'll tell you what was said . . .