I feel like I’m sharing an Easter treasure today, from my family to yours. I believe you won’t look at my dad’s painting (not a watercolor) in the same way after you read his story of transformation.
“Before God did major work in my life I was cheap – afraid to spend money because we had been so poor as a child; without friends – I couldn’t really talk to friends or relatives; afraid of authority at work; terrified to give a talk or lead a discussion; too self-conscious to sing in church; one who rarely prayed; dependent on tobacco; with an instinctive fear of and even hate for strangers; often anxious and worried; one with a great fear of death – mine or someone in our family.”
But for my dad in his mid-thirties, God began to change all of that. “It started with a dream. In it I was at a retreat, and most of the people there were strangers to me. I did see one man whom I knew a little in high school. For some reason we knew that this was going to be a very special retreat. So we gathered in a large group and each of us was given a sheet of paper with a short prayer on the top, followed by a long list of our faults. We were going to find out the one thing on that long list of faults that was our major problem in life, which the Lord would completely fix. This problem was the one thing that most kept us coming closer to Christ.
“I didn’t even read the prayer on the top of my paper but noticed immediately that the third item was printed in bold type with large letters: SCARECROW = AFRAID OF PEOPLE! I felt sure that others could see this, and wanted to hide the sheet of paper. But I knew that after we prayed together that the Lord would completely fix this problem.
“Then the radio on our alarm clock came on and instead of this wonderful experience, I had to get up and go to work. But the amazing thing about this dream was that I knew how fast and easy it would be to make a very major change.”
The new pastor at my parents’ church played a crucial role in my dad’s transformation. “Father Tony introduced a new Sunday-night course called the Christian Life series. He adapted the ‘Life in the Spirit’ seminar from the Catholic Pentecostals along with material from the Cursillo movement. He also included material from the evangelicals, like the four spiritual laws – we needed to renounce our sins. The music and songs were from the Southern Baptists. This was all in the context of a Catholic mass.
“What we were learning is that God was not just a judge, judging us, but that he loves us and that we need to respond to his love on a daily basis. During one of the sessions we prayed to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, when we asked the Holy Spirit to fill us completely so that we would be immersed in the presence of God.
A couple of weeks after my dad’s dream, while at church, he experienced a vision. “I saw Jesus like a huge light, and we all were like small lights around him – think of the sun, with us as stars. We were all the very best friends and knew everything about each other, even our faults. But Jesus was forgiving all those faults and our sins, and we were all so happy. We were saying to each other, ‘Isn’t he wonderful! Isn’t Jesus wonderful!’ I cannot put into words how amazing it was.
“And even our sins and faults were being redeemed by the Lord, with beautiful shades of color shining out of everyone. To get an idea of this communion of friends, think of your very best friend – perhaps someone you have known for many years. Think of having complete transparency with this person; you know their good and bad points but are totally accepting, and the reverse is true. Now imagine a third person, a fourth, and so forth – all in this intense communion of mind and heart. Finally, imagine being in a crowd of hundreds of thousands, all who are being loved and redeemed. That’s what it was like. After that half-second vision, I was no longer afraid of people. I couldn’t be because I could see how Jesus loves and forgives all of us.”
As my dad ruminated on the vision, he realized that it hearkens to the mystical communion of the saints: “This is the connection between people that goes on all the time although we don’t see it; we’ll see it after our death.” After this vision, he was released from his fear of people. And his view of God changed. “God within us is like a star. He is always polishing us, taking off the dark so that light can shine through us. And the light comes out in various beautiful colors, a different set for each person.”