My (Preferred) Alter-Ego (come find me here!)

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Another Love Story -- Part 6

“God been preparing you and the one He has for you for one another like Isaac and Rebekah. Don’t accept the counterfeit. He will be a man with an apostolic anointing, but don’t put the word ‘apostolic’ in a box. You will not marry this year, but begin to look for it next year. And you will not have to fear rejection anymore.” ~Stranger in hotel, North Carolina, October, 2007

“GOD speaks my love language.”

The thought came crashing through my mind while four sets of arms reached to fold me in an embrace. Soul-wrenching sobs had swollen my eyes shut to the degree that I could barely see the man of God humbly sitting before me, much less know which friends were holding me; but I felt their love as the Lord communicated His healing to deep places in my heart through their touch.

The two years leading up to that night had been marked with hills of faith-stands and deep pockets of depression. The “God, where are You?” question gave way to a, “God, You don’t have to prove Yourself to me” statement that I believed at least occasionally. When I was honest with myself, however, I realized that a great source of pain was in the fact that I would sometimes go for weeks without any physical contact with another human.

In his book, “The Five Love Languages,” Dr. Gary Chapman explores the beautiful variety that God placed in individuals and the way we communicate. Some of us place more value on tokens of appreciation, while others look for kind and thoughtful actions. In me, God placed a deep-seated desire to express affection through hugs, pats on the back, a hand on the shoulder, etc.
Jesus demonstrated His understanding of the need for physical touch when He touched the lepers that He healed. To men and women who had lived their lives with a debilitating and ostracizing disease, that first touch was something they would always remember. However, knowing His compassion to others when He was physically on earth was a cold comfort when I returned to a silent apartment at night. I prayed so often, “God, I know You’re there, but I just can’t feel You.” I never heard a voice speaking back to me; I simply had to remind myself that God is love (1 John 4:8) and that He heard me, even when it felt like He did not.


The night that the Lord set me free had been atypical in so many ways. Some dear friends and I were at a December conference in Missouri. We had been in a powerful service that night, and the Lord had moved in a beautiful way both in us and through us.

Midnight found our group in our customary location—munching on ham, cheese, or peanut butter sandwiches on the second floor lobby of our hotel, right in front of the elevators. We were sharing our experiences from the evening when the doors to the elevators opened and a group of Korean Christians also there for the conference walked out.

The director of our group noticed how they eyed our band of sandwich-eaters with wide grins, and smiled her typical, golden smile. “Won’t you have a sandwich? We have plenty.”
All but one politely declined her offer; he asked if he could come back in just a few minutes, and she assured him we would still be there. The group rounded the corner to disperse into their respective hotel rooms, and we continued discussing the beauty of the Lord and His goodness to us at the conference.

Mr. Lee returned just around the time that I had forgotten he had ever walked by us in the first place. He sat on one of the large ottomans where we had set up camp and asked us what we thought of the conference so far. Conversation flowed as easily as if we had been dear friends for decades, and a chummy camaraderie fell among us.

Before much time had elapsed, Mr. Lee had steered the conversation toward his passion—the nation of Israel. He began speaking with authority on the Jewish people and God’s desire for their nation, and we soon exchanged our physical food for the privilege to crowd around and listen with rapt attention to the words the Lord was speaking to us through him.

Midnight passed into early morning but we gave no thought to bed, convinced that the Lord had orchestrated a divine appointment for us that evening. When Mr. Lee began to show signs that he was about to excuse himself, our director asked him to pray over us as a group. When he concluded praying, a young woman with us knelt before him and asked that he pray over her individually, and in that instant, the entire tone of the evening changed. The heavy presence of the Holy Spirit descended, and we began to physically react to Him manifesting in our midst. In me, this surfaced as an uncontrollable laughter.

I have never laughed the way I laughed that night. In truth, I had always somewhat questioned those who claimed to manifest the Holy Spirit through laughter, deciding privately (I must confess) that it was simply silliness of the flesh coming out. The sobriety of 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 appealed to me more than the thought of being perceived drunk on the Spirit as the disciples were in Acts 2:25. However, I began to shake with laughter in a manner that I knew was not normal for me, and began realizing that God was beginning to target years of grief with the restoration of His joy.

After at least ten minutes of violent laughter, I was able to regain control of my emotions and sit in the comfortable haze of His presence. I was unsure at that moment of what the Holy Spirit had done in my life, but I knew that I would later mark the evening as the night that everything changed for me.

Then another young woman in our group suggested that Mr. Lee pray over me.

When I walked to kneel before the dear brother in the Lord, I had no expectation to receive anything that could compete with what God had already worked in me. I knew that He had already encountered my heart, and did not believe that Mr. Lee could communicate anything to me that would compare. Thankfully, the Lord ignored my pride and spoke to me through His servant anyway.

The first words from Mr. Lee’s mouth turned the laughter from earlier that night into tears that shook me with just as much intensity.

“The Lord says to you, daughter, you are accepted.”

The room vanished from my awareness as this man who had heard me speak no more than four sentences in the hour since he’d met me began to minister God’s healing to me. In a calm, quiet voice, he began breaking off of me the bondage to fear of man and my striving for acceptance and love. In his prayer, he began countering the sting of countless rejections with the passionate love of God for me. He repented to me on behalf of the men who had abused me, broke off the yoke of others’ expectations and accusations, and blessed me to be free of word curses that others had spoken over me. The entire time he prayed, I heaved with sobs as if I was vomiting something.

When he had finished praying over me and proclaiming the word of the Lord to me, I straightened from the fetal position in which I had curled on the floor and began to back away so that someone else could step forward for him to pray over them. As I was leaning away, Mr. Lee asked, “Could we—could we just hug her for a minute?”

In that moment, I heard the Lord reference every, “God, I can’t feel You!” prayer I had prayed and speak very clearly: I heard you. The God who placed in me the need to be touched honored the faith I had placed in Him when there was no one else around to hug me by surrounding me with love that night in the manner my heart most understood it.

After my friends released me from the hug, I moved back to allow someone else the opportunity to receive from the Lord through Mr. Lee. I leaned back—exhausted—and immediately a shoulder was there to catch me. Although I didn’t realize who it was at first, I finally became aware that I was leaning against JD. In that moment, the Lord spoke to my heart: This is where he’s always been, Chrystal. Loving you. Supporting you. Waiting to catch you when you needed someone.

That was the moment things changed for me. God supernaturally set me free to love again and then put love in my heart for this man who had offered me solid, steady friendship for months. We had a conversation three nights later about the change that had come, but did not officially declare our relationship until we could receive my father’s blessing.

Those first few months of quiet relationship remain precious to me. We were able to get to know one another without worrying about others’ opinions. Our parents knew the deepening that had come in our friendship, but we all also knew that my dad would have the final say on whether or not we could continue to pursue a relationship. He remains an excellent judge of character, and has never been wrong about the men who have come into my life. The fact that he gave an unqualified blessing on our desire to date in March, 2010 brought great peace to my heart–a peace that has marked our relationship. I see so much of him in JD.

That’s pretty much the end of “our story” (though I didn’t tell about the beautiful Christmas present he made for me last year–it involved sneaking all of my pictures off of my computer and putting together a poster-sized collage), with one notable exception: the story of him asking me to marry him last week will come soon =)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Another Love Story -- Part 5

"Isaac is coming! Isaac is on his way. You've waited long, but Isaac will come as God has promised. And the Lord says to get rid of the Ishmael." ~"Reverend T." Mississippi, Spring, 2006

"God, can I have her?"

From what he's told me, JD asked the question one day at work without really expecting an answer. Although both he and his mother had been praying for and about me for several weeks, he had grown accustomed to inscrutable silence on this particular subject. One of the things I have had to learn to trust about JD is that he genuinely hears from the Lord when he says he does; he makes it seem so easy--shutting himself in another room to pray and then coming back within ten minutes with a peace in his heart. I have a tendency to feel more like if I don't wrestle with God until daybreak, I have no business claiming to have heard His voice. Granted, most of the time I'm simply wrestling with my own doubts instead of being obedient.

However, despite JD's apparent ease at hearing from God, the Lord had remained silent on the subject of dating me; which was why on this particular day when He chose to answer JD's question, he had a hard time believing it.

"Can I have her, God?"


"....wait. Yes?"

"Yes. But you're going to have to follow me with it."

The first thing God told him to do was give all of his savings to missions. Within a week of his obedience, someone who did not know him very well (and did not know of his offering) began commenting to me on how generous he was, bringing yet another facet of his personality that I found attractive to my attention.

He used to call me late at night from his parents' home when he would visit them. We would talk for hours. Physical fatigue would cause me to become less guarded and less analytical about what I was saying to him; I was also less insistent that we talk about him instead of me. JD could hear the change come in my voice, and would sometimes ask me if my walls were finally down. If I said they were, he would gently steer the conversation to asking about me--finding out my hopes and dreams, favorite things, failures, successes, heartbreaks, and joys. Half of the time, I would have a very limited or no memory of the conversation the next day. He learned a lot about me during those late-night chats, including my favorite movie ("The Princess Bride"--a love story about Buttercup and Westley).

He was armed with this knowledge and the conviction that God was leading him to pursue me when we had our first "we won't be more than friends" conversation in September. That week while he was out of town on business and we were not in communication, he found "The Princess Bride" on youtube and watched it in 10 minute installments, taking notes along the way.

The movie's plot involves a gap period in which Westley and Buttercup do not see each other for several years. When JD returned home, he wrote a story based on these notes about what happened to Westley during that gap period. He typed it with an old-fashioned font, printed it on legal paper, burned the edges of the paper and rolled the whole thing up as a scroll that he tied with string. I found it later that afternoon nestled among the plants outside my front door. My generous, God-fearing, strong, kind friend also had a thoughtful, tender side--and I just couldn't seem to pull away from him.

In the weeks that followed, I began finding other things waiting for me when I came home from work--lilies (my favorite flower), chocolate, other installments to the story.

One night, he and a friend were driving back from a road trip and he convinced his friend to stop by my apartment on the way home so that he could give me a potted parade rose. It had been a rough day, and the thing that meant the most to me about that night was the hug he gave with the rose. How I needed someone to lean on that night.

The night I realized my heart was starting to open to him was the last Wednesday night in October, 2009. A prophetic evangelist had come to minister to the house of prayer I attend, and we were having special meetings in homes every night that week. JD had started coming to the house of prayer meetings a few weeks prior, but had to be out of town on business again that week (planning to drive home on Wednesday). I told him about the special meeting Wednesday night, but did not think he would come to it because of a prior commitment to the church we both attended. However, he felt like he needed to be with our prayer group Wednesday night, and drove four hours to make it that night.

When he walked in, one of my mentors immediately stood up with a smile on her face and ran across the room to give him a hug. Suddenly, it felt like my life came into focus as I realized how much the friends I had learned to trust respected him. He wasn't some strange guy I couldn't push away despite almost rude behavior on my part (he seemed genuinely surprised later in conversations where I referenced how rude I thought I'd been to him); he was my equal. I fell asleep that night with a smile on my face, thankful for my friend and for the way he made me feel.

God allowed the final cord to my past to sever two days later. The "Isaac" I had laid on the altar two years prior had been sickly at best, but I thank God that he moved JD into my life as a support before I had to accept the "other way" that for so long I had believed was coming would never appear. My heart closed again to love and to trust.

That Sunday afternoon, JD showed up on my doorstep after church claiming to be the visitation committee because I hadn't been there that morning (my house of prayer had a ministry opportunity that afternoon and I had asked to be excused from my responsibilities that morning to prepare for the afternoon). He came in and we made awkward smalltalk until he finally said, "This is going to sound strange to you, but God told me to do it." He then asked for a bowl of water and a towel. When I brought them to him, he led me to sit on the couch.

Kneeling on the floor before me, he cradled my right foot in his hand and began to gently wash my feet. The tears began falling faster than I could wipe them away, but he simply nodded and said, "it's okay." His humble act of service touched a spot in my heart that had hurt for a long time. Together we did a quick cleanout of a box of memories that needed to be shredded and then left to join our house of prayer friends in ministry.

The flowers, chocolates, and Scripture verses on my doorstep began coming again. JD was ever empathetic to the process God through which God was leading me, but he was also convinced that--now that my heart was free--it was only logical we would begin dating soon; which is why when I sat him down near the end of November and told him (more forcefully than ever before) to "Back. Off." My ultimatum: We would either be friends or we would not speak again.

<--back to part 4 on to part 6-->
<--back to the beginning

Monday, November 15, 2010

Another Love Story -- part 4

“God says that He’s preparing an Isaac for you, and that the Holy Spirit will be your Eliezer and will draw the two of you together at the appointed time.” ~”Reverend T” Mississippi, Spring, 2004

JD and I finally unofficially/officially met late one weeknight in 2009 at church. The leadership at the church had decided to construct a new platform, which required tearing out the old one and some closets on either side. Although we spent most of the night working in the same vicinity, we still did not address one another directly. During a dust-filled, exhausting evening, I learned two things about him–his name, and the fact that he was very strong.

Shortly afterwards, his face appeared in a “friends suggestions” box on Facebook. By this time, the Lord had instilled in me a love of networking. I was beginning to come out of my shy phase and to learn to appreciate making new friends and introducing them to my old. This was especially true for people who I didn’t see in the regular rotation of church activities, perhaps because I had spent so many years as the new face in churches and automatically assumed others had as hard of a time getting connected as I had. At any rate, God’s working in me gave me the boldness to send him a friend request; an uncharacteristic action for a girl who had always been the one to sit back and let the man initiate any form of friendship.

When JD accepted my friend request on June 22, 2009, he combined it with a short “hello” message thanking me for adding him and asking how I was. Over the next three days, we exchanged about ten messages centered mainly around Bible study, Jewish tradition, prophecy, and learning Hebrew. By the time he sent me his phone number on Day 3 (he was going out-of-town and did not know how much internet access he would have), I felt like we had always been friends.

I texted him my number on the way to the wedding rehearsal of a dear friend of mine. We texted back and forth throughout the evening, and I discovered that in addition to our love of diving into the Word, we also shared a similar sense of humor. After an extended season of God refining me as gold in the fire, it felt so good to laugh.

JD invited me to attend a Bible study at his house on the first Monday in July. Although I was afraid it would be somewhat awkward (I did not know any of the regular attendees very well), I agreed to go, and again found that he was a humble leader with a wonderful grasp of Scripture. I came away from the evening challenged, inspired–and slightly confused because he and his roommate had exited rapidly at the end of the study carrying a baseball bat and a hammer (I later learned that they had thought someone was trying to break into the roommate’s mother’s house). We had yet to actually talk in person, and I felt an odd mix of disappointment and relief when the night ended without a face to face conversation.

As the days continued to progress, JD and I continued exchanging texts and occasionally talking at Bible study or church. The timeline of those first few months we knew each other has blurred together in my mind like a frame bordering a few shining moments: the Wednesday night late in July when he and some friends spent a night ministering on the streets of New Orleans and the Lord sent me to lock myself in the church and pray for several hours; the following Monday when he returned from a beach trip with his family and dropped a bag of seashells he had collected for me in my lap at Bible study; the sudden pang of shyness I felt upon meeting his sister for the first time that Thursday night; the disconcerting camaraderie I felt later that night when he and I together began ministering to a mutual friend. I was wholly unprepared for the rush of emotions I felt while singing (and thus observing) on the platform the night the Lord filled him with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. My unexpected friend was slowly proving himself to be an equal partner, and it made me nervous and wildly happy all at once.

To my credit, I was very blunt with him about my desire for us to just be friends. I knew that he was beginning to look at me as more than just his friend, and while I loved talking to him and his interest flattered me, my heart was not free. I later learned that he had already spoken to his mother about me and she was praying for both of us; however, at the time he was merely another name on a list of almost two-dozen men the Lord had allowed to walk through my life in a two-year period.

We had our first “we will never be more than friends” conversation mid-September, just before he had to go out of town for several days with his job. For almost a week, we did not communicate at all–and I missed him terribly, but was resolved. For almost two years, I had been Abraham offering my Isaac and longing for the Lord to finally provide another way. I was determined to hold fast to faith. Meanwhile, the Lord was slowly making me Rebekah instead.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another Love Story -- Part 3

"God gave you this desire for relationship, and He cares about the feelings of loneliness that you've always faced. He is going to bring an Isaac to you." ~"Stephanie" Florida, June, 2000

I first saw JD at the church I was attending late in 2008. From my vantage point on the platform I only knew him as the guy on the back row who always came late, always left early, and never smiled. There was something about him I found instantly attractive, so I responded in my usual way--I avoided all contact with him whatsoever.

Let me digress here for a moment. God has planted in women an innate longing to be pursued, largely because He is the ultimate pursuer and loves to overwhelm our hearts. The natural bend pushed to the extreme after the fall when God told Eve that from that moment on, her desire would be for her husband and he would rule over her. What God had created to be a beautiful gift to a woman became a driving force to feel incomplete without a man.

In an oracle concerning the Day of the Lord, Isaiah 4:1 says: “And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, “We will eat our own food and wear our own apparel; only let us be called by your name, to take away our reproach.” The prophet Isaiah was foreseeing a time when the amount of violence in Jerusalem will make the ratio of marriageable women to men seven to one, and it will drive women to desperation if they have not allowed the power of the Holy Spirit to set them free from the curse of Genesis 3:16.

Relationships have always fascinated me, but I have also always had solid convictions on gender roles in the process. Genesis 2:24 puts the burden of pursuit on the man. God’s way is for a man to cleave to his wife. The Hebrew word for cleave is dabaq (Strongs H1692), which translates “stick with, follow closely, join to, overtake, catch.” [my emphasis added] Wife here is the word ishshah (Strongs H802) which the King James’ also translates as “woman” 324 times in the Old Testament. The point is that God’s version of relationships is for the man to pursue the woman, whether she is his wife or the one he is dating.

Granted, just because God calls the man to pursue does not give the woman the right to manipulate or take advantage of his pursuit. Relationships are not games, and women who play with men’s hearts are absolutely in the wrong. Song of Solomon shows that when the relationship is established, part of the beauty in the relationship is the woman with an overtaken heart running as hard toward her beloved as he is pursuing her. The same is true of our relationship with God--we chase the One who is pursuing us. However, in most cases the “liberation of woman” has merely resulted in passive-aggressive, emasculated men too afraid of rejection to pursue and in broken women masking a longing to be pursued.

Most of the reason that I always avoided men I found “interesting” (which was my word of choice when talking things over with the Lord later) was because I was intimidated—which is to say, I was more selfishly focused on wondering what they would think about me than I was interested in showing the love of Christ as a sister and a friend. However, part of my avoidance was simply to see if any would bother to chase me.

In the case of JD, it was not really that hard to do. He was almost always in and out before I left the platform, and all other times he seemed to be as intent on avoiding me as I was on avoiding him. Conversations years later, during the giddy rush of discovering, "I noticed you when..." would show that both he and I had been nursing broken hearts when he began coming to the church.

Furthermore, despite finding him “interesting,” I firmly believed the Lord had other plans for me, and I was not interested in giving JD the wrong ideas. At least, this is what I told myself. The Lord was processing me into deliverance from rejection, intimidation (which I always called “shyness”), and fearing man more than I honored Him. JD and I continued in this pattern of seeing each other but not speaking for almost a year. In fact, he had been in the fringes of my life for over six months before I even knew his name.

<--back to part 2 on to part 4-->
<--back to the beginning

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Another Love Story -- Part 2

“God, do You just not care about my feelings? I’m lonely!”

It was the fall of my senior year in high school in Asia. I was seventeen years old, all arms and eyebrows, and convinced I was invisible. My best friends both vowed I was terrified of men—mostly, I was terrified of trusting people. I had no concept of guarding my heart, and no paradigm of what it meant to casually date. I was more accustomed to sitting in a corner with a book while my parents talked to visitors from the U.S. than socially interacting with anyone.

A few years before, I had returned to the United States and home-schooled, living with various aunts and grandmothers while my parents continued their ministry work. I often would spend the night with a cousin a year-and-a-half younger than I was, and would try to fall asleep listening to her on the other side of the bed talking on the phone to the latest boy clamoring for her attention. Most of the time, however, she would fall asleep first and I would stare into the dark and wonder what it would be like to be her. For as long as I could remember—even during the self-avowed “boys are creepy” season—my biggest dream was to find my best friend. Moving as many times as we had, and living among friends whose addresses were as subject to frequent change as ours was, I had grown accustomed to saying goodbye.

The Lord and I talked about relationships frequently—or rather I talked. For the most part, He seemed to stay distant. Obviously, the truth of God’s intimate concern over our weaknesses and fears had not become reality to me at that point. So when He chose to answer me on this particular day, it took me by surprise.

A few months earlier, I had gotten my first personal email address and had subscribed to a Scripture-of-the-day email service. Many times I did not even read what the verse was before deleting the message, but I opened this one and felt the Lord’s tender words washing over me:

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to
persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he
has promised. For in just a very little while, ‘He who is coming will come and
will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back
will not be pleased with him’.” (Heb. 10:35-38)

I made verse 35 the screensaver on my computer, and turned my attention onto other things. Context or no context, I was comforted for the moment in the belief that after I had done God’s will, He was going to send me the right man. Hebrews 10:35-38 became my life-verse. At the time, though, I had no paradigm to fully understand God’s heart behind this promise.


To what confidence is the writer of Hebrews referring in chapter 10? Simply this—we have confidence in our right to enter the Most Holy Place (total intimacy with God) by the blood of Jesus. God desired—and still desires—intimacy with us, but that intimacy could only come at the cost of His only Son’s life. We run to relationship because we see the depth of His love for us.

Can you imagine how it must have been to live in Israel during their 40 years in the desert? How would it feel to know that God Himself was separated from you only by a couple of curtains? God—the passionate, crazy-in-love-with-you, I-want-you-so-much-I’d-rather-die-than-live-without-you Father; the One who made all those rules only because He wanted some way to let us be near Him; the One who took the burden of making things right on Himself even though we were the ones who messed it all up—tangibly, visibly just a breath away. And then I think of Adam, and remember that curtains weren’t in the original design.

The push that begins growing in my spirit when I start thinking about how closely with us God wants to walk often lasts for days. Nevertheless, apathy is a formidable enemy. It is often easier to remain passionate about walking with God when faced with persecution than when faced with ease. The writer of Hebrews exhorted his Christian brothers and sisters to remember the persecution they had faced in the beginning, and to cling to their passion for intimacy in light of the joy in which they suffered. In this mindset they were to hold fast to their confidence that God desires relationship, even when we don’t feel we need Him as much. “Don’t fall back into legalistic doctrine” (Hebrews 10:1). “Don’t stop going to church” (Hebrews 10:18). “Be unswerving, full of love, and as zealous as you always were.”

In His kindness, God allowed the pastor of JD’s family church touch briefly on Hebrews 10:35 the weekend I met his parents. I sat between JD and his mother, already overwhelmed by the kindness and genuine love I had experienced the entire weekend. When I heard my favorite verse from the pulpit, tears sprang into my eyes; it was as if God had whispered a little secret only He and I would get at that moment. It was the crowning glory on a perfect weekend, and yet another confirmation for me that He was actively involved in bringing JD and me together (more on that coming in future installments).

However, I am grateful that my appreciation for Hebrews 10:35 is not bound up in JD. It remains my life verse because it remains a challenge to me to daily deny tradition and trade spiritual “comfortableness” for active relationship. God really, really, really, really likes us—it’s not just a matter of love by obligation. He likes being with us and He likes it when we chase after Him. He sends His love and His mercy to follow you all of the days of your life if you walk in relationship with Him. May you pursue Him with the same abandon.

Another Love Story -- Part 1

I was unprepared for the mix of emotions that would surface the night that I met JD’s parents. Panic met dread and spiraled into a desperate hunger for love that belied the affection-lavished childhood I had received. Although that spring night was not my first time to meeting the parents of a significant other, on every other occasion something always felt wrong. Despite their kindness, I always felt I was the outsider breaking into the family circle and trying to pretend I was someone who, in my heart, I felt I was not.

Tires crunched on gravel as JD pulled off the main highway onto the road that led to his family home and I exhaled slowly. He chuckled. “Nervous much?”

I flashed him a quick smile and shook my head, even though both of us knew I was lying.

“I told you, they’re gonna love you.” He had been telling me that almost once a week for the past couple of months; and then almost once every half hour during the four-hour car trip.

“So you said.” I ran my fingers through my hair one more time, inwardly groaning at the stringy, limp mass hanging by my face. I should have washed it this morning.

I followed him to the garage door, trying to match the spring in his step. He was home, but I was wishing we could both return to the car and just keep driving for another few hours. “My dad just closed the refrigerator door,” he observed, peering through the bay window into the kitchen. I barely registered the comment, my eyes sliding over the front porch that showcased a large sign advertising his father’s photography business. Brilliant yellow flowers bloomed in front of the house; and a sturdy playhouse invited attention to my right.

I had seen all of these things already—months before when I secretly clicked through pictures of JD and his family over the years. The one of JD sitting on the playhouse slide and “acting cool” had made me laugh many times; and I often felt a sense of yearning when I looked at group shots of their family wearing matching black-and-denim. It had been a long time since I had felt like I was part of a unit like that. Seeing the setting in which JD’s father had taken many of the photos I had seen gave a strange sense of familiar and unfamiliar all at once.


Sometimes I wonder if the Lord’s return to the earth or our first step into Heaven will feel like a “meet-the-parents.” Jesus said that He was going to prepare a place for us in His Father’s house, following the Jewish custom that when a man pledged to marry a woman, he would return to his father’s home and build a room for them to live there. His ascension after the Spirit of God raised Him from the dead carried a two-fold promise: He would prepare a place for us to join Him, and He would send the Holy Spirit to comfort us in the meantime.

We tend to fall into a mindset of “someday,” relegating the promise of His return to a heightened spiritual “somewhere out there” and neglecting to realize that the coming kingdom is more reality than the breath of time we have on the earth as we know it. The truth is that the God who is coming to earth will usher in a reality lasting far longer and making more sense than the hazy day-to-day of life now. Paul recognized this when he said, “Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).

How will it feel to finally see what we now have to believe blindly? Will it be a jarring clash of familiar and unfamiliar as we realize that we pictured a few things right and a lot of things wrong? What will we think when we meet the Father face-to-face?

The beautiful kindness of the Lord is that we have the opportunity now to prepare for what is to come. Often we fall into the deception that our current life has no bearing upon our future existence in the New Jerusalem other than that Jesus will reward us for our good deeds. Fortunately, this simply is not true. The character we build in our lives today will be the character that guides us in good decision making when we rule with Christ during the Millennial Kingdom. Notice again what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13—we will know fully, even as we are fully known. When we take on a glorified body upon the return of Jesus to the earth, we do not become entirely different people; our personalities, though refined and purified, will remain largely the same. Our friends and families will know us for who we are. And we will recognize and know them too.

When we believe that our work on earth carries over into the person we will become, then we also must believe that the time we spend learning the personality of the Lord will stay with us when we see Him. Therefore, the more we invest ourselves in discovering the fullness of who He is now, the easier our transition into His home. We do not seek to be led by the Spirit on earth simply for the power, signs, and wonders that come with a Spirit-led life. Jesus promised that these things would follow those who believed, but that cannot be our ultimate goal. Instead, we seek the Spirit’s leadership in our lives to become one with the heart of the Father.

When Jesus rebuked Satan speaking through Peter in Matthew 16, He made a distinction between the thoughts of God and those of men. “Out of my sight, Satan!” He said. “You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matt. 16:23). We must long to develop a hunger for the thoughts of God, to seek to know Him in a greater measure, praying like the man whom Jesus healed from blindness, “Who is he, sir? Tell me that I may believe in him” (John 9:36). The Holy Spirit comes to facilitate a divine romance, revealing to us the heart and thoughts of a God who passionately loves us. Our role is to seek Him even as He seeks us, knowing: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your hearts” (Jer. 29:13).