During my depression, some friends from St. Louis called. We’d known them from our first apartment building in San Francisco before they moved back home. Pam asked if they could come for a visit, re-new old times and re-visit San Francisco. I warned her I was depressed. She wanted answers, but I dodged her questions, and she concluded, “Marty, you need something for yourself. We’ve got just the thing. Invite some of your friends over and let us show everybody this exciting stuff.” I hadn’t entertained in years, and when I invited about six or eight of my closest friends, they thought I must have revived. They came expecting a good time.
Pam and Scott brought four suitcases. I thought that a lot, but then people travel in different ways. We spent the week like slap-happy tourists, even renting roller skates, dashing around the wharves. Then Friday night arrived, and out came the suitcases. Their ‘exciting stuff’ was a multi-level marketing plan! My friends were not impressed. No one signed up; no one bought. Pam whined, “We brought $150 worth of samples out here.” So I bought the samples and signed up. After all, depression has no sense of discernment.
After putting them back on the plane, I thought to myself, ‘Who on earth can I get to sign up for this?’ Aha! My Aunt Deborah. Leaving the kids with friends, I drove into the foothills to spend the night with her. I told her about the company right away, having learned what not to do from my St. Louis friends, and she said, “Oh, sure. I’ll sign up, but first I have a prayer meeting to go to tonight, and we can talk about all that when we get home.” Naturally, she expected me to go with her. Depression also has no strength to say no.
Normally, the foothills of northern California have no need of air conditioning, but members set the chairs in the parking lot because the church was insufferably hot. I’d never been to a prayer meeting before, so where it took place made no difference to me, I just wondered what happened there. I’d thrown prayers at heaven throughout my life, prayers like “Please God, let me have that job.” Or “Please don’t let that cop give me a ticket!” But I never, ever entertained the thought that I could wait for an answer.
Ten or twelve of us sat in a circle. I was the newcomer, so everyone said their name. The minute the names were said, I forgot them, and I don’t think I ever registered anything the Pastor said as I was too busy wondering how a Pastor could wear jeans. But a strange thing happened. When I closed my eyes, I realized I was willing. I was too depressed to form a question, but I was willing to hear from God.
With my eyes closed, in the center of the circle I saw a bright, white light, larger than the size of a man, emitting such heat I thought my skin would burn, and such wind that it felt like my hair had been plastered to my head. My logical mind said that the sun was setting and that a wind had come up. I opened one eye and saw that the sun had already set, and there wasn’t even a breeze in the trees, so I closed my eye again. Still in front of me, I continued to watch the light. Out stepped the classic form of Jesus who spread His arms and said, “Come to Me.”
I was about to get out of my chair to go to Him when the Pastor said, “Amen.” Socially obligated to open my eyes, the apparition disappeared. Distressed when the others stood up ready to leave I asked myself, “Two minutes? They only pray for two minutes?” But then I looked at my watch and realized I had been entranced by Jesus for over two hours!
His eyes mesmerized me. The color could not be described because light streamed from them like being jettisoned from millions of facets of a diamond. Perhaps that’s why they are sometimes said to be blue, like the impression of blue that a pure diamond can give. All I know is those eyes had a depth that made me feel I could swim into them and discover a whole new world. There was wisdom I had never encountered on this earth and an understanding that turned the knowledge of this world upside down. There was no doubt in my mind. I wanted to go to Him. I wanted to be embraced by those arms and submerge myself into His world and see my world through His eyes.
Even so, as I walked away from that circle and we drove away from the church, the vast insight I had faded away, leaving me only with the intense desire to get it back. How could I find it again? But I soon learned, it wasn’t up to me to find it. It was up to me to receive it, because something did go home with me that night, something that did not leave me alone, something that spoke kindly to me, words of love, words of encouragement. I greedily received everything it had to say—whatever ‘it’ was.