Urbana update 3

“Does. Your. Heart. Belong. To. Jesus?” 

I squeal like a schoolgirl when I realize it’s David Platt standing on the podium and chortle as he reads to us excerpts of a (quite hilarious and adorably awkward) letter he wrote to his girlfriend (now wife) at the time. But, the audience sobers immediately when he asks if we view Jesus in the same way we view our significant other (or crush, I figure if you don’t have one). “Adoration, respect, worship, yearning, desire, etc. Do you have those things for Jesus?” 

I examine my own heart and pray, pray, pray; “Jesus do you truly have my heart? If not, then take it, please, because I don’t know what more I can do to give it up to you.”

He initiates an alter call and invites those who wish to give their heart to Jesus to stand up and accept glow sticks from the ushers, symbolizing the light that has come into them with their acceptance of Christ. A galaxy of lights glitter the dark stage and stadium seats and my heart leaps with joy. So many brothers and sisters welcomed into the kingdom today; rejoice, rejoice, rejoice! Thank you, Jesus, for capturing our hearts; you are so, so beautiful.

“We’re halfway through Urbana…and you’re probably getting tired but don’t let your guard down. There is still much Jesus will do in the last half of this conference so don’t relax just yet.” Our coach for the week reminds us to be wary and alert for the rest of the conference and I shoot Jesus a mental prayer; “oh, Jesus, I am half dead on my feet but if there’s more for you to give me, please allow me to receive it.”

Sleep deprivation takes its toll on me and throughout the day, I find myself becoming more indifferent to what is happening around me as I struggle to stay awake. After spending an hour and a half with my prayer minister, I thank her for the time she spent on me, patiently guiding me through prayer and helping me discern the will of God. “You must be exhausted,” she comments and I crack a smile. Yeah…but it’s worth it.

At the end of the night, I still find myself staying up way later than I need to but how can I bear to sleep when I’m in the presence of such good companionship? I am on the brink of succumbing to doubt and despair as my exhaustion and toils (or fruits?) of the day wear me down but when we meet together for our roommate huddle, I feel something in my heart start to shift. We share more pieces of ourselves with each other and Jesus reminds me of how broken we are as a human race but how redeeming He is in our lives and suddenly, joy is abundant in my heart again. As I talk with my roommates, the Spirit brings clarity and affirmation to the things I struggled with throughout the day and by the end of our extended conversation, peace in my heart is restored.

I see Jesus kneeling by the bed, His hand on my unconcious mother. “What is He doing?” The prayer minister asks.

A scoff escapes my throat. “I think it’s obvious. He’s saving my ma. He’s healing her.” 

The prayer minister “mmhs” in agreement and asks me if there’s anything that’s stopping me from going to Jesus in the memory. I start to shake. “He’s too close to my ma…I’m scared to be near her – I don’t want to see her like that.” 

“Okay, can you tell Him to step out of the room and come to you?”

I ask Him to. He doesn’t come out. Instead, He swivels around to look at me and then opens up His arms in an invitation. “He wants me to go to Him.”

“Can you go to Him?” 

“…I’m scared.”

“Jesus, we just pray that you would shield Rebecca from whatever she is fearful of, that you would let her know that you can and will protect her, that you will enable her to come to you.”

My memory changes; I am no longer in the room; Jesus and I are alone in the dark but I see Him illuminated in a soft, yellow light. His arms are still open, one knee on the ground as He holds his kneeling position. “Come.” I go to Him and He embraces me and I know that I am safe.

Two minutes after I leave the prayer room do I understand what He is trying to tell me:

“I am right in the midst of suffering; I immerse myself in it. And unless you immerse yourself in this suffering as well, I cannot comfort you. You have to come to me to be held by me but you must face the waves of suffering and not let it scare you away. Step out onto the waves, child, because that is where I am and I promise I will protect you so come; let me show you.”

“Jesus met you,” my prayer minister affirms me. 

You don’t encounter Jesus and stay the same.

Tomorrow marks the last day of 2015. I don’t think I will enter 2016 the same and I have Jesus to thank for that. Joy, joy, joy.