A few nights ago I attended a Men’s Night at Bethel church. My wife and I recently relocated to Redding, CA from Arkansas, and it’s been a few years since my walk with God has included any church attendance.
So I walk into this service with the usual “outsider” feeling; the tiring voice that always tries to tell me I don’t belong. I’ve learned that my peace doesn’t come from the absence of that voice–it lies on the other side of it–so I keep walking. It is also my modus operandi to find the most inconspicuous seat, and try to hide my awkwardness. I did that, and selected an aisle seat. They play a couple of songs and I relax a bit, but then they ask us to turn to someone and say some affirming words, which I can’t remember right now, and I get tense again. The feeling of being unqualified to be here with “real” Christian men, much less speak words of affirmation to them, is very heavy. I do it though, with all the conviction I can muster–peace is on the other side, remember? I feel like an imposter.
At this point, I’m feeling pretty frustrated with myself, and a storm of self-contempt begins to brew. I desperately need to remember who I am. Finding a shred of truth, a reminder of His kindness, I ask, “Father, tell me the truth, who am I to you?” This feels like a risky question when you have a thousand voices in your head telling you you’re a disappointment to God, and you don’t belong with his people (and much worse, believe me). “Father, please validate me; give me eyes to see what’s true.”
For you have given him his heart’s desire; you have withheld nothing he requested. (Psalm 21:2)
The band starts to play the song “Yes and Amen,” and these lyrics came up on the screen:
Father of kindness
You have poured out of grace
You brought me out of darkness
You have filled me with peace
Giver of mercy you’re my help in time of need
Faithful, you are
All your promises are Yes and Amen
Beautiful savior You have brought me here
You pulled me from the ashes
You have broken every curse
Blessed redeemer You have set this captive free
I will rest in your promises
All your promises are yes and Amen!
The line “Beautiful savior you have brought me here” softened my heart, and opened my eyes. I heard that Inner Voice say “Look where you are, son.” I looked around at the men with their arms up in the air, the chairs, the stage, the big screens on either side. I remembered that just outside were gorgeous mountains–majestic Mount Shasta to the north–Mount Lassen to the East–Trinity Alps to the west–and me, right in the middle of where my wife and I asked the Father to put us. Yes, that was the memory that shook me awake.
Mere months ago Bethel music came to Arkansas, and my thought was if I could experience this more often, my heart would be full. My wife had experienced physical healing from prayer, and our desire to move to the mountains was then coupled with my desire to come to Redding and attend Bethel School to learn about these things that so fascinated me. I watched Bethel Music and Bethel TV on my computer screen from Arkansas, and now I’m here–right here–right now.
I remembered my life-changing experience with God at a Wild at Heart boot camp four years ago in Colorado. Before long I was on the work crew at one of these events, and couldn’t believe it. I was surrounded by powerful men of God–counselors, musicians, authors, and teachers–successful men. And there I was, a guy who spent most of his life immersed in depression, drug addiction, alcoholism, and various other debauchery. Uneducated, and lacking in obedience (to say the least) I said to God “these men speak so powerfully, and walk with you, and love others so well; they are amazing men…but, why am I here? I heard the Fathers kind words clearly “because you asked me to be” and my heart melted, stunned at his kindness.
It began to dawn on me how many things He has said “yes” to–how many places I’ve wanted to go that He has sent me. Realizing these things, I felt something shift in me–a desire to start praying for things that bring Him the glory He deserves–to bring His kingdom on behalf of those He is pursuing–to courageously ask, and risk boldly for these things. Yes, my spirit was awake again–I was with my brothers–and feeling the Father’s smile.
I may not be (ok, definitely not) as obedient as I should be, or know scripture as well I should, etc. But I do know the Fathers love, and that His heart for me is good. I know that I am His son, and how much is set against this true identity. I will never again doubt that He is my Father, and I belong in His family. To know who my Father is, who I am, and to live boldly as his son is the greatest honor and joy for me–an ex-orphan.
For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. (2 Cor. 1:20)