During the season of Lent, we are called to reflect on the ‘intersections’ of life that shaped us. Here is a story about one of my most important moments on my journey with Jesus:
In 2014, I went from being the senior pastor of a church that was considered one of the top 25 fastest-growing United Methodist churches in the world to sitting in a waiting room at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, dealing with the liver disease that I had contracted back when I was 19 years old. My liver had gotten to the point of late, stage-three cirrhosis.
I began a new treatment. For the next two and a half years we went through 140 weeks of targeted drug therapy and then chemotherapy. Finally, it worked, and my liver was cured. But the journey to get to that point had been very hard. I remember a lot in my own soul, my own spirit trying to figure out what it all meant.
Coming out of that experience in 2017, we took a trip down to Mexico to build houses for people in need. We’d done this before (and we’ve done it since), and so much of the trip felt pretty standard. My wife, our girls, people on our ministry team, and I flew into San Diego and drove a couple hours south to Ensenada where we met with a local church there and loved on people by building homes.
But I’ll never forget this particular year. The pastor’s wife, Pastora, had a strong connection to the Spirit, and we knew her well. She and her husband had connected us over the years to people in need. But on this particular night when I got done preaching to their congregation, Pastora came up to me and told me that she had heard a word from the Lord and that she wanted to pray with me.
She invited my wife and daughters to join, and as she prayed I noticed that she motioned to a few of the young men to come up and stand around me—and I felt my stomach sink. I grew up Baptist. I love my Charismatic brothers and sisters dearly, but I could tell that Pastora wanted to heal me in the way that I thought only televangelists heal people. She was going to touch my head, and then she expected me to pass out and the young men would catch me, and that would be it. Simple, right?
I was beyond nervous. All I could think about was how much I didn’t want to embarrass her. How much I didn’t want her to realize that this thing that works for her doesn’t work for me.
I wasn’t thinking about what God could be doing. I wasn’t thinking about the possibility of a miracle. Nope, I was worried about how things would look when she failed.
And that’s the last thing I remember.
She dipped her finger in oil, touched me on the forehead, and I went completely out. The people around me would later tell me that it was as if I floated back, and then the guys there caught me.
I woke up, sitting on the ground in a way that I would never normally sit due to past hemophilia injuries, and I remember feeling as well as I’d ever felt in my life. Nothing hurt or ached, which alone seemed to be a miracle because my body always hurts, always aches. But more than that, the thing that had gotten into my soul was the fact that I kept hearing a voice while I was out. Over and over, the voice said, “It’s about me. It’s about me.”
Ten years before that, I’d had heart surgery to correct some issues that medication had caused, and when I was coming out of that surgery, I remember sitting at the end of what appeared to be a long, white hall, and a man who I believed to be Jesus sat next to me. And he kept saying to me those very same words: “It’s about me.”
To hear those words again, after having the anointing from Pastora, I knew that God was getting my attention. He wanted me to focus on something other than leading a large church or trying to be the right kind of theologian.
Jesus wanted me to really listen to what it means for Him to be in charge. And from that moment, I began to pay attention to all the ways that I’d made my faith, my vocation, my work, my relationships had kept me from Him. I’d set my life up so that everything revolved around anything but Jesus. And as I recentered my life, as I made Jesus my journey-mate rather than a regular stop along the way, the paths before me became overwhelmingly more complete.
When you examine your life, do you find yourself in the same place? Have you made the things in your life, even good things, about you and not Jesus? Jesus is ready and willing to be your journey-mate. He wants more for your relationship than just to be a stop along the way.