The second night, after settling into the life of our Camp Farthest Out, the Lord woke me in the middle of the night. “Get your notebook.” I quietly fetched my notebook and pen so as not to wake my aunt. He said, “Write down all the people you need to forgive.”
My pen quivered as I put John at the top of the list. After him I thought my list would only number four or five, but when I finished around noon the next day, after a tortured, sleepless night, I had over 1,000 names glaring at me from my notebook. The list included everyone, even my cherished third grade teacher who had humiliated me. Then the Lord said, “Forgive them.”
I thought He meant personally go find these people and forgive them. He relieved me by saying I just had to do it in my heart. So I started by saying, “I forgive John Delmon.” But I knew I hadn’t, so I said it again. And again. I said it over and over until there was a breaking in my soul and tears came. Each person numbered on my list produced a similar experience.
It took me the better part of the week to finish the job. When I was done, I felt clean. I felt light. I felt empty, pure, and whole. I felt filled. Jesus consumed me. I belonged to God; He belonged to me. The great I AM filled all my emptiness. John owned his own problems; they weren’t mine. God could take care of those as well as taking care of me. I floated through the remainder of the camp. The tall, raspy, redwood trees seemed to follow me like old friends, lifting me higher to the heavens. I wonder if my feet ever touched the ground.
At the final evening session, as I watched the chairman make the announcements in the rough-cut, wooden, meeting hall, the thought floated through my head, “I could be up there doing what he’s doing.” Immediately, I discarded the thought, thinking I could never stand before 300 people like that. But the next year they invited me to be on the Board. Driving to camp that following summer, with John attending for the first time, I knew I would be elected chairman.
No one proposed it to me, nor did I desire it. In fact, I complained to the Lord, saying I wasn’t capable. But in the middle of my complaint a vision came to me, and I saw myself swimming in deep water. The Lord’s arms stroked the water right alongside mine. He said on the inside of me, “You can do it. You can launch out into deep water.”
During the election, a veteran camper contested my nomination, and I said I would defer to him, but the majority overruled us both, and I was elected that year and again the next. I chaired the Christian camp, just like that thought had told me. The Lord used my chairmanship to form me. The veteran camper resisted my every move until I learned to face him and stand for what was right. The Lord also used other things.
For example, one night I heard the TV blaring in the family room. I tiptoed to the door, noting the time, 2 a.m., and saw J.J. sitting in front of the TV. On a school night! Thinking about it later, I believe the Holy Spirit orchestrated this event, because when I ordered J.J. downstairs, he didn’t speak a word, but walked back to bed like a zombie.
Just as I went to turn off the TV, a movie started, and I sat down to watch. It turned out to be a corny love story. A teenage football hero from a poor family falls in love with the high school beauty queen from a rich family. Of course never the twain shall meet, so the two run away, eloping, giving up their fame and fortune, and in the end the two families reconcile, helping the young couple get established.
Mesmerized by this grade C movie, I turned it off, and went to bed, pouting. “Lord!” I said in my spirit, “No one has ever loved me enough to give up anything for me. My mother told me she would abort me if she could do it over, because my father abandoned us before my birth. My husband just goes along for the ride of respectability. How come? It’s not fair!”
I truly wanted an answer. I wasn’t just complaining; I wanted to know why. Then the Lord asked, “Where is the love in you?”
I looked deep down in my soul and all I saw was pitch black. “I don’t see any.”
The Lord said, “Look again.”
I searched myself thoroughly and finally, in my depths, I saw a spark, a tiny, red, glowing ember and I said to the Lord, “I see it, but it’s very small.”
He said, “Blow on it; make it grow.”
And so I blew. Like a bellows on a fire, my blowing made the spark grow until my whole body burned red hot with love. Then the Lord said, “Make it grow until it covers John.”
So I blew until it covered John. It seemed the room glowed with my red-hot love. Then the Lord said, “Make it grow until it covers the whole house.”
My red-hot love covered my whole house. The Lord said, “Blow until it covers your neighborhood.”
The red glow then covered my neighborhood. And He said, “Let it cover your city.”
I covered my city. “Now,” the Lord said, “Let it cover your nation.”
I blew covering the whole United States with red, hot love.
“Let your love cover the world.”
I saw the whole world enveloped in love flowing out of me. “Now, go and love, and don’t ever worry about who loves you. I love you. You take My love to the world.”
Then I saw it. It was up to me to choose to live in the love of God that He had planted in me when I was born again, and to choose to share it. Whether John ever loves me is of little importance in comparison to the love God is and has for me and for the world.