Conforming to my family tradition, I said nothing about my experience at the foothills prayer group. Not even my aunt knew I had had such an encounter. However, back in San Francisco I found a church I wanted to attend. If that indescribable event took place under the auspices of one, then maybe I would find the same thing in a church close to home. I chose the church for all the wrong reasons. It had been designed by a famous architect and therefore was quite handsome, and it had a children’s choir for which the children wore adorable robes and my children could be a part of it. However, just like there is a Master Plan, there is also a Master who cuts to the chase and meets me where I am no matter what plans I’ve made.
Every Sunday I walked my children to church, put them in the choir, and then entered the sanctuary. The minute I walked through the door I started crying, without knowing why, and I hid in a darkened corner where no one else sat and no one could see my tears. I cried through the whole service and never went forward to take communion until one Sunday which must have been written in my book in heaven.
As the three of us walked to church, I heard an audible voice. Looking around, I realized it was way too early for Cow Hollow people to be up and out on a Sunday morning, so who could have spoken to me? Therefore, when the voice said, “Marty, you have come a long way, but there is one more step you have to take,” I simply responded with, “What?” The voice said, “You must say with your mouth that I am your Lord.”
Instantly rage rose up and consumed me. I’m sure it turned my skin bright red because I could barely breathe past the boiling fury choking my throat. No one would be my Lord but me! Throughout my entire life, no one had proven themselves worthy to have any authority over me. No one had ever cared for or had my interest at heart. Therefore I ruled. I trusted in me and me alone. If there was a Lord of my life, it was me. I wasn’t about to hand over the supreme position.
That morning when I slammed through the doors to the sanctuary, I still sat in my hiding place, but there wasn’t a tear from my eyes as they ferociously shone with wrath. There was just one little problem. When I left that prayer meeting in the foothills, something went home with me. Something that talked to me and soothed me, always telling me wonderful things about myself, something that assured me of my Father God’s love for me, His infinite patience with and acceptance of me and made me feel better and better about myself. Because of whatever it was that came home with me, I no longer thought about suicide and I instinctively knew that if I would not say with my mouth that Jesus Christ was my Lord, I would lose that wonderful whatever-it-was. It would simply lift off and float away, kind of like that feather coming down to me and saying, “Stay.” If I had gone to Missouri, I would have gone on my own. The dove would have retreated and waited for another opportunity. Now I knew that what I so desperately wanted, those arms, those eyes, required something precious from me. My surrender.
When it came time for communion, I went forward for the first time in my life. I knelt at the rail, looked at the cross and said, “Okay Jesus, You are my Lord.” Something cold and nasty drained from my body and left by the bottoms of my feet. As it left, something warm and wonderful entered my body through my heart, coming from the cross, and filling me up.
At that precise moment the layman serving the wine, stopped in front of me on the other side of the altar rail and said, “Marty, the blood of Jesus shed for you.” I looked up. I’d never met this man. How did he know my name? I had never spoken to anyone in the church, never signed my name to any of their pieces of paper and today I let a stranger feed me the wine as if he were one of my intimates. Perhaps the dove spoke to him.
On my way back up the aisle, I noticed a couple I once knew. Their children had been in nursery school with mine. They adopted children late in life and had developed into rather geeky people. I considered myself part of the cool set, so I had avoided them back then. Today, however, everything was different. I could hardly wait to talk to them after church. My children were shocked that I stopped in the beautiful brick courtyard to have coffee with the other adults leaving them to play chase with their friends.
My life started that day. I don’t know what I had been doing before that day, certainly not living. One thing was certain: I was headed into uncharted territory and I’d never felt more comfortable in my life!