Wrecked. I remember the day it happened. It was the night before the Call DC in September of 2000. My small band of a dozen teenagers and I arrived at a welcoming church that offered us lodging. We were all excited about being at such a historic event of prayer and fasting for the nation.
In main sanctuary that evening I found a corner to settle down and rest. My mind flooded with concerns about the future, the ministry, broken relationships, and lacking finances. I had served as youth pastor for about two years and grown weary with every aspect of ministry. I considered resigning, finishing my college degree and then launching into a more profitable career. I knew I had a calling on my life, but the constant battles of ministry were wearing on me.
In the corner of that sanctuary I soaked in the sounds of worship. As I whispered the familiar lyrics, “Lord, I give you my heart. I give you my soul. I live for you alone,” tears of exhaustion trickled down my face. In frustration I dealt with my inability to go on. I thought, “God, I’m such a failure, what am I doing here?” I gazed upward at the rectangular ceiling tiles. Then from a place of deep hurt within, I began to cry. I couldn’t hide or deny my brokenness anymore. In the shadows of the room, I wearily began to pray. Then suddenly the sounds of worship became distant and I literally felt like I left my body. I was between two worlds. Without realizing what was happening, I looked up to see the ceiling of that little church roll back like a scroll. I felt God’s presence immediately permeate every part of me. Then Jesus stood above me, larger and greater than I had ever imagined Him to be. With a compassionate and authoritative voice he said, “Stephen, before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I called you and ordained you to be a prophet to the nations.” The intensity of His power overwhelmed me and terror struck my heart. When He said, “I ordained you to be a prophet to the nations,” I saw for a moment the entire world. Then a small, white streak of light moved from one location on it to another. I understood it was my mandate. I was to go to the nations and preach His gospel. I looked down and for a moment thought to crawl under the frail church pew behind me. I could not move. I could feel Him around me and within me. It was like my imagination and every thought was fully awakened to Him. I struggled to look at Him because of His brightness. His eyes were an indescribable burning fire. I couldn’t see His form; His brilliance was impossible to fully capture. I was at a complete loss of words and thoughts. Then He said, “Stephen, before your death, you will look me in the eyes.” With all the strength I had I pushed my head upward to glance at Him again. I saw Him and then as quickly as the encounter began, it ended. The “window” closed and I was staring again at a white ceiling. I laid on my face feeling like I had been in His presence for hours. It probably was only a few minutes. My whole body was shaking. I couldn’t talk. I wobbled upward and made my way toward my group. My friend Dan looked at me and immediately knew what had happened. I was wrecked.
I’ve been wrecked ever since that day. I need to see Him again. I go from country to country hoping to catch another glimpse of His face. It’s more than an addiction; it is my life’s hope and I cannot be dissuaded to settle for a lesser joy. A week after that experience I read this passage from Acts 7:55-56 on Stephen’s death.
“But he (Stephen), being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
I’ve seen Him and I am wrecked. What other hope is there in this life than to gaze at Him and be fully changed? There is no other hope that can compare. But it’s not only about me seeing Him again. I am pursuing the day when an entire community can see Him.