I snuck away from my duties last night at the Anaheim Harvest Crusade to watch the people pour out of their seats. After many years, I still get goosebumps and my eyes still well with tears at the sight of thousands upon thousands moved to take a step of faith…to receive Christ. It never gets old.
As I stood on the sidelines and watched the expressions on the faces before me, I wondered what drew them to stand to their feet and move. What was the one word, the one promise that bloomed in their hearts, shoving aside pride and nudging them to rise, walk, and surrender.
Was it pain? Doubt? The weariness of going it alone?
Was it the realization that on their own, they would never measure up?
Did the Holy Spirit whisper, “give up, give in, let Me?”
Perhaps for some it’s just curiosity…what’s all this God stuff about anyways?
Is it brokenness? Was the wind let out of their sails as they realized that the emptiness in the center of their hearts, that hole they can’t seem to fill with money, people, things, or habits, has a name. That crushing weight is sin and there is only one way to truly find relief from that burden.
No matter what drew those souls to come forward, they were met there by a God of love, forgiveness and grace. They did not stand alone before Him. They were shoulder to shoulder with thousands, their own burdens in tow, ready to lay them down and walk away brand new.
And as I watched them bow their heads and pray, hope nestling in their hearts, I knew having walked the path before them, that blue skies are not always on the horizon.
Letting God in is not a one way ticket to perfection. Grace and forgiveness is free, but the real work lies ahead. As they lay down their past, eyes fixed on a future with God at their side, they will be faced with difficult choices. The friends who don’t get it, the family who condemn, the temptations alive and well – the sin that still wants to creep up and ensnare.
They will have days when they are sure they have failed, they’ve messed it all up, they’ll wonder if they need to make that walk again…are they still forgiven? They will have pain and sorrow, and it won’t be all neat and tidy and they’ll ask why. Where did that high of freedom and forgiveness go?
I remember sitting in that filled stadium some 20 years ago. I remember walking away too. I remember telling the sweet boy who took me that if he thought I was going to become a Christian he was crazy. I remember clinging to my “values” and being a “good person” when a week later he told me he had to let me go and only friendship was in our future, if God wasn’t in mine.
I remember my broken heart, when God whispered, “will you give me a chance?” I didn’t walk down stadium stairs, but I walked a path to faith filled with small beginnings, while the Lord gently showed me who He was and why it was okay to let go of me and lay hold of Him.
I remember a quiet prayer weeks later, in the confines of my dark room, no stadium lights, no throngs of people, and no worship music. I remember asking Him to be mine and waking up the next morning wondering, so what now?
As I stood on the sidelines last night, watching these hearts with new life breathed into them, I prayed. Enter in church. Use us. Use me.
Look. Listen. Watch. Link arms with these precious souls and remember your small beginnings. Remember being the babe in the woods of faith, wondering what comes next. What now? What if? What happens? How?
Remember your uncertainty, embarrassment, and questions. Remember what being new feels like – when you don’t know enough to speak up and when you finally get the courage to, your convinced it’s wrong. When you wear doubt and fear like a kid on the first day of school praying you’ll be liked and accepted.
Remember your small beginnings, seasoned believer. Be that breathe of relief, love gently, hold tightly, lead, guide, and receive. Be Jesus in the flesh and do well to follow His example of loving those who were once strangers and are now your family. Love them through their small beginnings.
I was loved through mine. What God took away, He restored. That boy who tried my heart, grew into the man who for 15+ years has treasured, guarded, and guided me with a certain love. He led me through those early days in friendship (and cuz he liked me…he really, really liked me) and God saw fit to give me a best friend and the love of my life.
For his walking away with boldness in faith, I’m so thankful. He taught me what sacrificial faith is…sometimes you have to let go of the things you still really want because it’s the right thing to do. For his returning in love, I’m eternally grateful because the promise of forever, together in heaven, came as a result, a reward. For his being my constant, the calm in the midst of my storms, the voice God often uses to teach and lead me…for that and so much more, I’m in awe of what was born out of small beginnings.
Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin. (Zechariah 4:10 NLT)
Last night, a new work began in 4600 lives and God rejoices. So do I. If you rejoice too, look around and watch for that brand new heart. Then join yours, with theirs, a take these early steps together.
Love them, like Jesus will, through their small beginnings. Through their uncertainty and the trials they thought would disappear. Through their joy of realizing they aren’t alone anymore, you’re there, and God is in the midst. Through your own delight to be the one God chooses to walk with them and remind them that they are His.
The work has begun…look, listen, watch…it begins with you.
Featured image courtesy of www.harvest.org/crusades