Ten years ago today was an extremely unique and life-redirecting day for me. There have been very few days since that nite in which I have not thought about this experience. Sometimes, on the anniversary, I like to share it in this medium to hopefully encourage, uplift, or assure others through what I was privileged to see, hear, and feel. And being a full decade now, how could I not?! Never do I share this lightly. Also, I just love that this took place on what is traditionally Inauguration Day, for it inaugurated in my life something more grand than any human leader could ever dream of accomplishing. I sincerely hope, in some respect, this is comforting and inspiring for you.
Coming off the very difficult year of 2010 in which my dear dad passed away, one of my Outreach kids was sentenced to 35 years in prison, my close high school friend Jeff passed away from leukemia at barely 40 years old, and Ana and I were, let’s just say, not at the high point of our marriage, I entered 2011 depressed, and at my lowest point. And then this happened.
It was January 20th, 11:45 pm. I was waiting for my very close friend Miguel to arrive at my house from Michigan for a weekend visit. I decided to lie down and rest before he got there because we inevitably stay up late catching up and laughing at all things profoundly ridiculous. I didn’t want to sleep, just rest my eyes and mind for a few minutes. And in this moment I wanted God. I wanted Him more than I’ve ever wanted Him before in my life. I felt my need for Him more than ever in my extremely low state. I knew in my soul that He was the only possible real answer to my depression from the past year. I knew nothing else would work, that there is no plan B. There is God. And so I called out to Him, this nite, in a sincerer way than ever before. Not having much capacity, I kept it simple and started praying the ancient Jesus Prayer over and over to put all my focus and yearning on Him, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I cried out to Him in earnest for comfort, for help, pleading for Him alone.
And He answered.
Suddenly, I found myself in Grand Teton National Park, sitting on a rock at a lake which was at the base of a mountain. And sitting across from me on another rock, was Jesus Himself. He looked up at the mountains around us and said, “I remember when I made this, thinking we’d be having this conversation one day.” I was reverentially awestruck, unable to speak. Mouth open, it took every ounce of my available energy to slightly nod. Then He began to speak the simplest and most affirming words to me. “Rob, I love you so much.” He spoke my name. “I’ve known you for so long.” At this, the Scripture stating that “Before you were in the womb I knew you” came to mind, as if it were downloaded into me as He spoke. “I only want what’s best for you.” There was so much affirmation going on with so few words, it was unreal. Actually, it was very real. The most real. Like experiencing real for the very first time. Then He admonished me, with penetrating love: “You never would have put Me first had you kept going down that path.” Wanting to put to rest any doubt about His complete care I still may have, He simply said, “You know I’m in control.” He then smiled at me and held up His hand. A rock flew from the ground into His hand. He was playing with me. In an instant, I felt being totally known. I felt Him knowing my sense of humor, even, I kid you not, my love of Star Wars, and He embraced it. He embraced all of it. He embraced all of me. Everything that is me, He embraced and loved in a moment. I’ve never experienced being so known and so accepted. It was the most healing experience I’d never imagined. To be fully known and be fully accepted is the height and depth of love I believe. And that is what I felt from the Person responsible for my very existence.
Continuing His play, He threw the rock into the lake and it skipped many times side to side, defying laws of physics. He was having fun with me. Finally I was able to unlock my voice enough to actually speak, and all I could get out was, “How do you do that?!?” Seems like a ridiculous question looking back, but then came His answer which was the most penetrating takeaway of my life. He stopped, looked me in the eyes, held up His right index finger, and said, “Because, I and the Father are one,” then slowly, He pointed His finger at me, “as should you be.” It was the greatest sermon I’d ever heard. Again, a slow nod took all the strength I could muster while in the presence of the Master of the universe. I skipped some rocks. It was awesome. Suddenly, He and I were walking together to “go back” and I did ask, “What about dad and Jeff?” out of utter curiosity, wondering where they were and what they were doing, I guess. “Another time,” He said gently, yet firmly, letting me know that it would be too much for me right now. I got what I needed at this point and any more would overload my circuits. Next thing I know, I was back in bed next to sleeping Ana. I sat up, completely sobered by the experience, then Miguel arrived. I let him in and told him what just happened. “Whoooa, duuuuude!” he said in his classic Cuban tone. We both felt and shared the gravity of what had just occurred.
I didn’t realize it until some time later, but this experience sent me on a trajectory to pursuing God like never before, which involved a reading and meditation frenzy. About three weeks after, I finally picked up The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, and that book started a new phase of intense study for me. I so wanted to know God. To pursue Him. To serve Him. A couple weeks later I met Dave, who would become my spiritual partner, and the next year the ministries of The Ripple Effect and IRON MEN of Oaks were birthed. And along the way, Ana and I have grown closer together through Him.
Everything good of the last ten years has been born out of that nite of calling out to Jesus from the depths of my heart and experiencing His profound, soul-shifting, Life-giving answer to my call.
Jesus heals. This I know.
Thank you, YHWH. Thank you, Ruach. Thank you, Yeshua. Thank you so much.