A Break in the Clouds
Years ago I spent a Mother’s Day weekend at a prayer cabin in Wisconsin. The Wilderness Fellowship. Forty-eight hours alone with just God and the deer grazing outside my cabin window. It was amazing.
I was reminded of my Wilderness experience earlier this week when I had a breakthrough of sorts during my morning Bible reading. It was Monday—the start of the third week of our New Hope Community Church Daniel Fast. Every January our church invites its people to participate in a non-obligatory 21-day fast, an opportunity to “deny the false self and discover the true…” according to our current series of weekly sermons and daily devotionals.
The first two weeks were grueling. I’m not sure if was the spiritual battle hinted at in our “guide to fasting”—or a combination of lingering illness, coffee withdrawal, and a January nearly devoid of sunshine. Probably all of the above. What I can tell you is I spent two weeks in a weary fog of confusion, questioning all manner of personal identity and purpose for life. I carried in my gut a persistent anxiety related to my work and current season. I felt stuck.
And then on Monday the fog broke and the anxiety left and joy returned and I was free. I can tell you the exact text I was reading when it happened—
The Spirit of the Lord God is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify him.
This prophecy is the one Jesus himself selected for his shocking Sabbath announcement at the synagogue in his own hometown:
“Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.” (Luke 4:21)
I read from Isaiah, then flipped to Luke, savoring this beautiful picture of the mission of God. Which is when it happened. A breakthrough flashback to a Sunday morning, many years ago, walking the paths of a serene wood, enjoying the presence of lingering deer, and hearing clearly from the Holy Spirit.
My text that weekend was Matthew’s Gospel. Starting at the beginning on Friday afternoon, journaling thoughts, prayers, and holy whispers. And by Sunday I’d made it all the way to the twenty-fifth chapter, Jesus’ well-known teaching about the sheep and the goats. And the Spirit spoke—
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me. (Matthew 25:35-36)
Somewhere today in my upstairs library there’s likely a journal documenting the exact words I penned that day. But I know the gist of them from memory…
Bread of Life to feed the hungry
Living Water for spiritual thirst
Adoption for strangers
A White Robe for the naked
Healing for sickness deep in our souls
I wrote these words and I felt them deeply. A call of sorts—or an invitation. And yet I struggled. Wondered. Wasn’t Jesus talking about actual food and water? Didn’t this text of Matthew’s speak of tangible clothing and physical healing? Aren’t these the things He would want me to DO?
I actually argued with God.
A whole morning of this sweetest retreat wasted as I instructed myself on the true meaning of a text. And as I did I noticed something. The Spirit retreating. A sense of confusion. Fog descending…
I prayed. I asked God to show me what was happening. And I heard His answer: Trace it back.
All the way back to the Spirit’s teaching and words in a journal, and I knew…regardless.
Feed them. Clothe them. Give them my water. This was what He was saying to me.
To a fast, and a fog
And what does it mean to find the True Self in this season?
A moment of clarity. A break in the clouds. And I know in my spirit.
This is still His Holy Commission.
This call and mission of Jesus in me.