When men find out…

I locked arms with a free man who killed someone over 20 years ago. We weren’t fighting, and I was not in danger. He served 17 years and learned to tell openly about it. He shared his story, and I saw someone many saw and many feared. But I saw his transformation. He came to Christ in one of the harshest prisons in the Midwest. I knew the truth- as did he. He was no longer the man that killed an innocent to solve his anger. He was a man of God. He needed a hug and wanted to pray. How dare I tell a brother no?

He was a big man. I understood why someone would say he was intimidating. He was. But he learned along the way how not to use that “skill” to hurt someone. The man that stood before me was huge, but humble. I told him I saw my Lord in him, and he wept. This man understood the cost of transformation. In order to initiate that transformation, Someone had to die. In this man’s life, two men died before he decided to allow change to take place. Christ shines from his eyes, but for that to happen, an inconceivable price was paid.

I heard his story four times that morning. After the fourth time I approached him and simply said, “You and I are more alike than I want to admit, My Friend.” … Instead of distrust and anger, I got the brightest smile from the giant.
“You have a story people tell you not to tell, don’t you?” He asked. “Have you ever worn a number?”

I unashamedly told him I had not. We then talked about how it’s terrifying to be responsible for a testimony that revolts your loved ones and terrifies strangers. Although no one was afraid of me, I had learned what it was like to be closely linked to someone that others were afraid of, once upon a time. All the sudden when that happens, your story becomes something you fight to hide… And you don’t really care, nor consider, how many times you’ve squelched God from working through you because of it.

Through the course of the discussion, this dear man who was old enough to be my father asked me a pointed question. “Why, Cass? Why didn’t you hide? When the Master called you back, why didn’t you completely forget your (metaphorical) chains? Why do you still identify with them as a redeemed woman?”

Call it being a chicken, I turned the question back on him. “Why didn’t you?” He grinned that Santa-Clause smile again.

“I remember and talk of it because people need to know that there’s nothing too bad for redemption. If God can restore a murderer, he can restore anything. I still grieve for the hundreds of people that paid for my choice. But God restores. I will never deny the thorn in my side of grief, but someone here tonight needed proof that God can do anything.”

He hugged me again, stepped back and said, “Never deny the consequences, Sis. But never deny your story. It’s not your reputation that concerns God. It’s his glory.”

I’ve learned the hardest, most beautiful lessons from the most unlikely person.

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Never Shrink Yourself

I don’t trust well. Seriously. Most of my childhood friends walked away from their yearly school psychologist visit with a note that said, “cute kid.” I’m fairly certain by the time I was in 4th grade, my note said, “This child over analyzes things that are none of her concern. What the heck happened?”

I was that child that woke up at 11:00 at night and heard her parents use phrases like, “too much” & “how’re we gonna make this work?”… And I promptly decided it was my fault and my problem. Not kidding. You might not think that automatically evolves into trust issues but the reality is… I didn’t trust anyone else to handle problems well without my input. The fact that I was 10 years old was of no concern.

I’ve not a clue where it truly came from. I was loved as a kid… But oh my heavens was I a handful. I’m sure my parents walked away from random heart-to-heart conversations with 10year old me going, “Wait… Did I really just have to explain that to my kid?”

That being said, I’m also fairly certain I assumed I’d stop creating ulcers when I reached 18 because that meant I was an adult. So therefore, I concluded, it made sense that at 18, life in general would just… make sense. I’m 24… It hasn’t happened yet. I still don’t trust well. I still make everything my problem. And I’m still told I’m highly random and my trust issues aren’t logical.

I’ve started using the phrase, “I trust the Christ I see in you” a lot. This is supposed to be a reverse-psychology thing on myself. It’s supposed to remind me that I might not be able to trust people, but I can trust God. That’s true and all, but if y’all didn’t know this- trying to “shrink yourself” is not a recommended activity. I end up taking way too much time micro-analyzing whether I think I actually “see” Christ in a person… And forget to actually just trust Christ.. Period.

I wonder what my heart would look like if I did the most obvious thing and stopped putting a third party in that phrase. Instead of “trusting the Christ I see in (someone)” what would happen if I just simply stopped at “trusting Christ”? What if I actually started believing that God was big enough to handle my heartache without my input? What if I actually started believing that God was powerful enough to break down and reveal a person’s motives without my PhD in Psychology that I earned from the Bedside University of Sarcasm?

What if… I stopped believing my spiritual gift of discernment was something for my own gain? What if I just stopped trying to control even the smallest things and quite simply shut up and stood before my Savior; knowing full well His presence is all I need in order to learn how to trust?

What if I stopped blaming my feminine ability to drive God nuts with my input and my pointed question… And realized that at times, the only thing to blame is my unwillingness to remember God is not confined to humanity, so therefore despite it all… I can trust Him.

Yep… I’d make a fantastic shrink, I think.

The Deaf God

I haven’t posted here much in the past couple weeks mainly because in order to post you must have time to breathe. I forgot that’s not something I’m allowed to expect in this adventure. Between classes, work, and college life -Homecoming is important for the first time in 13 years – I’m seeing straight. But barely.

I have started working with a team of people that visit a group home of sorts twice a week. There happens to be a deaf individual in the group for a certain amount of time. Because sign language is seen as my primary language, I was asked to come and interpret so he could be a part of the services. Fantastic! I love my times with this man… It’s sweet to watch his eyes light up because all the sudden… someone actually understands. It’s worth the 6am wake up call.

I had forgotten however, what it’s like to sign with a deaf individual outside of Alaska. Just as any hearing person can tell if you’re from Texas or Maine… Deaf people know accents in sign language. The very first thing *John said to me after the typical deaf greeting was, “Woman, you sign funny!”
Yes. Yes, I do, Sweetheart.

Added to my “Alaskan Accent” is the fact that my cerebral palsy effects my ability to sign with complete accuracy. I’m still understandable, but the first 5minutes with a new audience is filled with crazy laughter as they learn the way my hands work and I learn their speed. When I signed the word, “forgiven” to *John, he took off on a litany of questions that all came down to the same question, “Why would you learn to sign that so weird?!” … Regardless of the culture shock to us both, *John and I have a blast.

One of the pangs to my heart is *John hasn’t received much communication in some time. Because of that, for the first week that I was with him, I let the service become second priority and just let him talk. This ranged from discussing how he got placed in the group to asking me if I had any children. The man was relentless, but one thing was clear. He just wanted information!

Today while I was with him, I asked him to clarify what “believing in Jesus” meant. None of my team knew his story, so in typical me-mode I just got down to the stuff that mattered. *John answered my question beautifully. His eyes filled with tears as he explained that the blood of Christ covered his sins and that because of Jesus’ dying on the cross, *John knew that he had been given eternal life.

Wow… I don’t know how many of you know what it’s like to hear the Gospel in your native language, but it takes your breath away. Both he and I struggle with English (he more than I -obviously) but we were both having so much fun seeing the comprehension in each other’s eyes. God is good.

When we finally agreed on a sign for forgiveness, *John’s simplicity of God’s grace took my breath away. Theologically, Charles Spurgeon would take issue with the way it got left in the end.. But *John gave more passion behind clinging to Grace and the power of the resurrected Son of God than I’ve seen in a very, very long time.

And then, I messed the beauty up. I brought up the topic of praying daily. Along with that I approached the fact that confession of sins is a daily thing- even for believers. *John’s tears came hard, and they came fast. The joy was gone from his eyes as he changed the subject and started telling me about taking a test for his GED.

In fairly typical ASL-way, I interrupted him and drew him back to the original subject and forced out the questions, “Why you hurt?” “What tears mean?” I think the only other time my heart hurt that badly for understanding was… Well, never. What he said next broke me to the core.

“Cassie, I can’t hear. I allowed pray once.. Jesus forgive me then. He not understand me again. How I know what he think if he can’t understand me?”

God gave me the ability to simplify the truth in a way I never thought possible. *John knows he can still communicate with God despite what he assume(d) was a barrier. He doesn’t understand how it’s possible, but he made sure I knew he’d believe it because he trusted my opinion. (This is where the ability to make a person laugh quickly helped a ton.. God knew what he was doing! )

I walked away from today begging God for the one thing most of America sees as a curse. I begged God to prove to *John that God is a deaf God. That somehow, He would be deaf in front of *John.

Hallelujah, God is not hindered by whether the rest of the world understands what He’s doing. When God says He will go to the ends of the earth for anyone… Maybe he meant, “To the deaf, I am deaf, but my love is heard.”