Updated: Feb 23
A month ago I was in a prayer meeting with members of my church when as distinctly as anything I’ve ever heard in my life came the words, “Find me before the storm hits, for a storm is coming. Anchor yourself in me and you won't get swept away.” It reminded me of the scripture in Psalms 57:1 that says,
Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.
I interpreted this rather disturbing bit of instructions to apply to my family's current situation, and began praying over aspects I thought could be affected. We also prayed for our local church. Somehow I sensed it was much bigger than us, but not wanting to be the bearer of bad news, I did not share it with the same intensity that it had come, or to a wider audience. Already we had weathered the death of my folks; effects of Covid-19 took my mom Christmas Eve 2020, and Broken Heart Syndrome took my dad eight days later. After a complicated open-heart surgery, my husband had also contracted the evil virus and ended up with what has been termed the long-haul. My studio income took a hit, as had some of the incomes of our kids. Just one family, what things had other people had to endure? "A storm is coming" was not a phrase I was excited to preach or write about!
In the midst of everything we have gone through, Jesus has proved Himself the Beautiful Saviour and Gracious Redeemer. Though at times the pain of these years has been indescribable, somehow, as His Presence becomes increasingly more real to me, even pain has taken a backseat to the Lover of my Soul. On reflection, I realize the invitation that night was not to be afraid of the storm but to find Him!
I am not one to be described as a seer. Guilty of an active imagination, at this time of writing, I have not often seen into the future or spiritual realm with the clarity of many with whom I’m acquainted. In truth, hearing from the Lord has been laborious for me from time to time. In my YWAM days, I dreaded the twice a week intercession circles we had as staff and students. We would all wait upon the Lord and afterwards share what we had heard. Most times, the only thing that would consistently fill my thoughts were song lyrics. As a musician, I found that frustrating. I refused to trust it as some sort of Divine Guidance, as ninety percent of the time I am making music in my head and out my fingers (even without an instrument). That’s just how I’m wired.
Interestingly, after all the other team members had shared their pieces, my silly songs would often contain the theme of what the others had seen or heard. Through this I came to realize that the wiring I had so easily dismissed was actually the platform the Lord used to speak to me. I wasn’t always a good listener, but Jesus, always a good communicator, chose to speak my language, the language He had wired me to hear and understand!
One day, before that epiphany had occurred, a staff member, noting my frustration, came to me and said, “Becky, I think you don’t hear God because you don’t think you can. Try using your faith.”
Wow! That was hard to receive. But on that day I made a decision to begin to trust the Lord to bring into my mind the things I needed to hear. When the songs would start to flow, I stopped editing them out and started to just go with them. This meant I had to trust Him to reveal if I heard wrong so that I could get back on track. I began approaching these times of waiting on God by praying a faith-filled prayer to receive/embrace the mind of Christ as Scripture says we can do in 1 Corinthians 2:16 and Romans 13:14. I soon began to see that the more I exercised my faith, the more varied but accurate my ability to hear Christ became.
It would be many years later that I discovered that I could also see Jesus through the eyes of my heart. Up until that time I did not realize scriptures that say, "Fix your eyes on Jesus," (Hebrews 12:1-3) and "I pray that eyes of your heart may be opened to see so that you may know” (Ephesians 1:18) were not just a use of poetic language. I did not understand that I could expect to experience God through my spiritual senses. I’m not sure how many times I sang the popular, “Open The Eyes of my Heart,” by Paul Baloche. It is such a pretty song, but what did it mean?
I’ll never forget the first time I locked eyes with Jesus. I was in a meeting where the speaker asked us to take a few minutes to sit quietly and listen for Him to answer a specific question. Years into this pursuit of hearing God's voice, I was comfortable with the idea and excitedly engaged. I did not know I was about to be hit with the surprise of my life! This time, not only did Jesus talk to me, He stood right in front of where I sat on the church pew, looked into my eyes and winked at me with a playfulness that completely undid me. I never knew Jesus could be fun!
That day I finally entered into the experience that the Apostle Paul prayed I would: I came to know by seeing!
As exciting as that was, it would be another decade before I realized that this was something I could experience on a daily basis. During times of distress, anger or other negative emotions, I still found it really hard to hear, let alone see Jesus. It was like my faith had become the old vacuum cleaner that no longer sucked, and I felt spiritually deaf and blind. Where was the abiding Presence described in John 14:20 or 17:23: the “I in you and you in Me?” Sometimes even the capacity to sense or feel was shut down!
In 2017 I had the privilege of leading worship for an Immanuel Practicum seminar led by Gaylene Neary and team at some reserves in northern BC. It was there that I was introduced to the idea that since Jesus is with me all the time, if I’m not seeing or hearing Him, it could be because of an earlier trauma still triggering me in the present. Trauma can cause us to disconnect from other people until we feel very alone, even in a crowd, surrounded by close family or dear friends, all the while wrapped in the Everlasting Arms of God.
There are many ways of dealing with trauma and my husband and I have had the wonderful opportunity to follow many approaches including Cleansing Streams by Jack Hayford, Set Free by Gord and Jan Whyte, The Divine Plumb-line by Bruce Thompson, Theophostic by Ed Smith, Elijah House by John and Paula Sanford, Derek Prince’s teaching, YWAM Counselling school, grief counselling, and others. As pastors, my husband and I were eager to try and experience it all, not only for ourselves, but to better serve our congregants. Wonderful tools, they have acted as a foot wash after walking many a dusty trail. Though we wouldn't trade any of these experiences and would recommend each of them for different reasons, our hands down, favourite approach has been found in the very simple Immanuel Practicum.
Based on the research and practice of Karl Lehman, it has a focus on developing a lifestyle of intimacy with Jesus, it emphasizes the Biblical truth that since Immanuel means that God with us, it also means He wants to be found - a pursuit we are meant to practice everyday, much like in "Practicing His Presence," by Brother Lawrence. It’s four goals have less to do with healing but everything to do with establishing a sense of secure attachment to our Saviour:
When I look for Jesus I can find Him.
When I find Him, He’s always happy to see me.
Jesus always has the answer to all my problems, for Jesus is the answer.
If we should ever get disconnected, we can easily get connected together again. (In truth, we are always connected to Him, but sometimes our relational circuits go down, not allowing us to sense or see Him.)
So what of trauma? Trauma is simply feeling overwhelmed by something, whether real or perceived. As earth dwellers, trauma is something we all experience from time to time, and can cause us to get stuck or triggered in feelings of being alone. Once we become overwhelmed by something, that something hampers our ability to see and hear others clearly and to perceive life accurately.
One might ask. “Hasn’t Jesus already delivered us from the effects of sin and the world?”