empty tombs, pt. 2: stories

What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn. – G.K. Chesterton on the resurrection

Acadia National Park

For almost two weeks, I traveled through Maine into New Hampshire with my father for the start of his east coast cities prayer walk. First hand, I witnessed the reality of a resurrection that has powerful, visual implications for people today, not just two thousand years ago. Everyday, individuals are faced with situations that have “death” written all over them, maybe something like the empty tomb Jesus’ followers found after his crucifixion and burial, and the disciples’ hiding in rooms for fear of encountering the same fate Jesus had on the cross.

During the trip, I had the privilege of meeting men whose lives were veering towards darkness, and possibly death; whether they were an alcoholic, heroine addict, deep in sexual sin, struggling in a marriage, homeless, in a street gang and fighting pit bulls, or a thief and criminal. One young man had been in Bible school, another elderly man an elder in a church. A few have been clean for years, one now leading a church in Ellsworth, Maine, and another leading a recovery program he himself had completed. Click here to view a video of some of their stories.

Left to right: Jeremiah, Mark, and Dennis (in the recovery program); Michael (not in the recovery program), my dad, myself; Jeremy and Paul (both in the recovery program).

The following story I share because of the profound impact it had on both my dad and I. We were driving Route 1 along the coast of Maine, through some small towns. We passed a woman along the road, probably in her 20’s, using a cane and walking with a prominent limp, as we entered a town. Immediately, we both felt an unspoken drawing towards her, and pulled into a gas station just up the road, waiting. My dad felt he should give her $5. She turned in toward the gas station (as we thought she might), and we approached her. Her name was Heidi. She stood there, unsure of us at first.

After he had asked her name, my dad began by saying, “That’s a beautiful name. You are beautiful. God loves you, and he created you. He formed you in your mother’s womb. Heidi, what do you need?”

She replied, having some difficulty of speech due to her handicap, “I want alcohol.”

“That’s not going to be good for you. What are you going to do then?” dad said gently.

“Sleep, I guess,” she said.

“What should we do?” dad asked as he turned to me. Eventually, we decided to give her the money, and she could do with it as she wanted.

Then, we started to pray for her, and as we did, tears began to well up in her eyes, and her face, her whole countenance, began to beam. We were pouring the love of God upon her. We were speaking value and worth over her.

I said, “You feel God’s love, don’t you?”

“I don’t know,” she said, smiling, different.

When we were done praying, she said, “I’m not going into the store. Can you take me back to my home?”

As I drove her back, I asked her, “You weren’t expecting this today, were you?”

“No, I wasn’t,” she replied.

I dropped her off at a large, old, rundown and depressed looking white house. I felt a strong oppression.

As we approached, I said, “You can talk to God and listen to him. He really loves it when we speak to him, and he really loves to speak to us.” As she got out I said, “God loves you. We love you.”

“Thank you,” she said, and as she was about to shut the door, quietly added, “I love you both too.”

We never even told her what to do, and she didn’t want go into the store for alcohol after we prayed for her. Something changed. Her countenance had initially been downcast when I first saw her. Although she was fairly young, her clothes and appearance were weathered. Looking at her, she had the image of one worn down and fading out, crushed under her physical handicap and the heavy darkness of life. Our hearts literally broke for her, in a way neither my father and I have rarely experienced, nor can aptly describe with words.

As we left, my dad and I wanted to weep; we prayed for her. “I just want to take her home,” he said with tears.

“Me too,” I said, choking up.

Wherever she lived, in whatever circumstances, on that day, she experienced the love of the Father. We don’t know where she comes from, if she’s ever been loved or valued. On that day, she knew she was. We are believing for a new beginning; “from this day forth,” we prayed, “she will never be the same.”

As with the empty tomb of Jesus, places of apparent death, loss, failure, and grief, can become the starting point for new life.

“He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.”

One response to “empty tombs, pt. 2: stories”

  1. I was touched by your experience and sharing to this woman. What a gift to be walking together and touching
    each person you meet with God’s love. Marilyn Ebel

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