Firehouse Awesome by Deborah Ann Saint
Firehouse Chronicle #2
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh [the physical is merely physical], and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be surprised that I have told you, ‘You must be born again [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified].’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it is coming from and where it is going; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:6-8 AMP)
“For those who follow Jesus Christ, our message to the world must be clear. God transforms the heart and mind and we become his children and his ambassadors. Let us so live that we will never be accused of hate or indifference. But let us also know that compromising the truth is a serious blunder and ends up celebrating that which is not in the will of our Father. This is a painful tension for a believer. To be seen as rejecting a belief or a behavior is not the same as rejecting the person. But God helps us to carry that burden.” ~Ravi Zacharias
Firehouse Chronicle #2
As I was driving to a conference, I stopped for lunch at Firehouse. I was still in awe of remembering the amazing experience at the Firehouse that the Lord had orchestrated during my last road trip. I prayed, “Please do it again, what only You can do. Show up. Show me what to do or say. I sure would love to have another experience like the last time…but that is asking a lot because it would be hard to improve on that experience.” I felt like a child, looking to my trusted Father. I remembered Jesus’ encouragement to his disciples to become like little children in Matthew 18:2-3, reassuring me. I felt secured and desired to trust God. My anticipation was high for what God might do.
My sandwich was ready and paid for but I felt no leading to talk to anyone yet. Initially I thought the Lord had answered a “No.” But as I exited the building, I felt the Lord led me to a woman at the sidewalk table. I had no idea what to say to her, so I made small talk telling her of the conference I would be attending. I shared a bit about the speaker. She had heard the name of the ministry leader but was unfamiliar with her ministry. Thus, she did not seem encouraged to talk. My approach seemed to fail and it seemed we were both uncomfortable. I felt like a dunce. The awkward conversation ended, and I kindly excused myself and walked away feeling ridiculous.
Practicing God’s presence and desiring to receive guidance from Him can feel strange. It is like wading into shallow waves like a toddler unsure of each step but determined for the adventure of the big ocean that awaits. I wanted to swim in His grace and Spirit but was still learning with each step.
I got to my car and in my heart, I knew I had taken a nose dive into the sand. As I prayed in my discouragement, I felt the Spirit nudge me to go back and really talk to her. What did I have to lose? She was almost finished with her lunch. She looked at me puzzled, so first of all I wanted to assure her I was not some lunatic. Yet, I felt strange and unsure in attempting to hear and follow God’s promptings. Let’s face it, living for Jesus while living on earth seems a little crazy sometimes. Yet, the magnitude of Christ’s indwelling, His love and presence is our born-of the-Spirit reality. I am in love with Jesus so I may as well take the risks, especially when He asks me to do something that I asked Him to show me in the first place.
“I am back again. I just felt the Lord wanted me to talk to you but I’m not sure what about yet.” Embarrassed, I pressed on. I asked her if I could sit down. She said yes and that she had a few minutes before her conference call for work. I told her I had recently had an incredible experience at Firehouse on my last road trip and briefly shared what occurred. She said, “I have chills all over.” She began rubbing her arms. I shared a bit of my story and more about why I was determined to travel a long distance to hear the speaker at this ministry conference. I expressed how, in some traditional church settings, I sometimes had not found encouragement, acceptance, and understanding. At this ministry I did though, and the messages were like personalized gospel teachings I so identified with. I told her how I had come to really know and experience Jesus and his love, forgiveness, and acceptance especially after a history of tragic early childhood sexual abuse and its recovery.
That was the connection.
Her face lit up and she said, “That is why you were compelled to talk to me. Just last week our daughter (in her 20’s) told us for the first time that she had been sexually abused when she was eight years old by a family friend whom we had trusted to babysit her.” I heard the pain in her voice and words. She then opened up and shared some of her daughter’s story. The similarities of the betrayal, sexual abuse, and the fall out, especially of the hurtful responses from others, were staggering. I was surprised by but pleased with our instant understanding of each other and the unity of the Holy Spirit that we experienced in sharing these struggles from our lives. There were obvious differences too. Her daughter has been in a same sex relationship for years and almost “married her first partner” but is now in another relationship. She said her daughter had been a Christian little girl before the sexual abuse. She said, “I pray every day for her but have had to let her go.” (I think what she meant “to let her go” was to let her live the lifestyle she is living while still loving, accepting and praying for her. This mom’s unconditional love and acceptance of her daughter, to me, seemed deep and real.)
Some of the devastation, pain, and heartache this mother felt for her daughter and the pain and sorrow both she and her husband have endured was shared. She said she felt nothing but judgment from their spiritual community. She expressed how hurt and betrayed she felt by the words and attitudes from many loved ones, even in their church family. She shared how it was worsened by the fact that at one time they had been very close knit with and supported by this group. She shared how as a mother of an only child she felt like a failure and how she blamed and shamed herself for her daughter’s situation. Feelings of inadequacy, deep pain, and a desire for relief and support were expressed.
She talked of giving up attending church and how her faith had been impacted due to the onslaught of negativity and wounding. She shared freely and openly as I had done. I shared about God’s love and forgiveness. I hoped my words would be helpful supports and hopeful encouragements to her. I felt that we had a very special fellowship and that God had been honored. It seemed we both went away blessed by the interaction.
Free of masks, it was a true gospel moment. God had answered my prayer.
We parted ways, and I was awed, rejoicing and glad I had obeyed the promptings I had received. I kept thinking of what I would have missed if I hadn’t obeyed.
It felt like redemption. For God to use the worst events of my life to help others is like a seal of approval for me that the Lord is bringing about and confirming the ministry He has for me with post sexual-abuse families. The Lord was showing me His gospel works for every soul. I had been so stuck for so long, but as I have believed and lived in Christ’s forgiveness, I have been getting spiritually healed. He is allowing me the opportunities to reach out and help those burdened and wounded by the judgments of others, like I was and sometimes still am.
Some things that I have learned since that interaction that may have been helpful to this mother: 1. There are many articles and statistics linking sexual abuse with the LGBTQ rate of increase. (See Endnote #25) The information in the book referenced in Endnote #24 could have been hopeful to her. 2. References/referrals can be beneficial.
Victims and their families need help in the recovery from abuse. I would have liked to have assured her more of the good job she was doing: of continuing to show her daughter unconditional love and support. I did share with her the sorrow (and need for repentance in many churches) for the treatment she, her husband and daughter have received from “Christians”. It is so sad her family and daughter experienced such unlove, judgments, rejections, self-righteousness, etc. At the time of their greatest need of love, understanding, compassion and supportive acceptance they received just the opposite and they were sorely wounded. This seems to be the case and true of many in similar situations that interface with “Christians”. It was often the case in my life. How are we representing Jesus Christ?
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13 NIV).
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14 NIV).
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:15-17 NIV).
LORD, help us love others as you have loved us. Teach us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Help us bear with each other and forgive one another. Help us put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:12-14). Please help us be supportive and without judgment or criticism towards a parent like this mom and a daughter like this daughter. Help us live with caring, thoughtful consideration, insight and love in helping others bear the burdens they carry (Galatians 6:1-2). Help us live the Gospel to families struggling to help someone who has suffered sexual abuse, and all associated wounds, pains and sorrows. Help us recognize that many are cumbered with a load of care. Help us take others to the Lord in prayer. Help us provide resources and referrals and LISTEN with CARE and LOVE to comfort and uphold others. When hearts are fragile and sometimes broken please help us to infuse hope, encouragement and strength. Help us to really pray…love unconditionally…know when to speak and when to be quiet and pray. Help us be patient and not push or bully in any way. May God’s wisdom in every communication and contact be evident. Help us love people where they are and seek to understand their feelings and heartaches in caring, kindness and compassion. Lord, help us to be patient and to be led by the Holy Spirit. May we be passionate to proclaim the extraordinary message of Your rescue. Help us trust You more and share You and Your Truth to bring people to understand how precious Jesus is and how He knows and cares. Help our past be in line with the future Jesus offers us through His resurrection. We are truly made-new creations. Help us be willing to live new and true to Christ. Help us proclaim and live John 3:16-17 more effectively please, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen.