A Painful childhood memory becomes a door to faith and the knowledge of the healing love of God.
Note: This story was taken from a letter written by an attendee of the Sonship Week conference for pastors and their wives.
The Holy Spirit really dealt with my husband and me at the Sonship Week conference in answer to many prayers. As good as theology and teaching technique are, it is the Holy Spirit alone who goes down deep inside. He tears down the idols and pride and replants the simplicity of faith in Christ. I don’t know whether we really believed that God meant what He said when He made all His promises, but I am sure I still wouldn’t have begun to believe how near, willing, and able the Spirit is to meet us and transform us, if I hadn’t experienced His coming to me last week.
I was so helpless to respond to what you and Jeff, our counselor, were saying. Really, I still am. But I’m beginning to understand our fellowship — our partnership with God through the Holy Spirit — that He wants to help me live for Him. In fact to want to go it alone grieves Him and treats as insignificant the One who Jesus said He’d send so we would not be orphans. I realized that my greatest sin was unbelief and so lightly esteeming all God has given me in Christ.
When I was very young my older sister was hanging up my father’s white business shirts on the clothesline to dry. I was suddenly filled with the urge to hang up one of my daddy’s white shirts. I’m not sure I can explain my motive. He was my daddy too, and I was his daughter. I loved him in my childlike way and wanted to express it. I couldn’t reach the clothesline — it was too high, but I saw a wheel barrow in the yard and its handles were just the right height for me. I didn’t notice how rusty it was and I rather joyfully clothes pinned the wet shirt to the handles.
When my dad got home and saw the shirt on the wheel barrow he became very angry with me and punished me severely for ruining his shirt.
I hadn’t realized the impact that event and others like it had made on me. But as I was repeatedly convicted during the Sonship conference for not believing God concerning His delight in me and in the gracious nature of my relationship with Him now that He has put me into Christ, this memory returned to me. Now, you can’t get through 24 hours of a Sonship conference without realizing that your own heart is as murderous as anyone else’s — so I wasn’t primarily focusing on only being the innocent victim of my father’s cruel anger.
As I remembered these scenes from the past I saw that through the years I had not been believing that my Father in heaven was any different than my earthly father. I hadn’t been, listening when He described Himself. In short, I hadn’t been believing the Gospel, that by faith in Christ and His perfect atoning sacrifice, now He loves me and is forever for me and delighted in me. In Christ He has made me beautiful and pleasing to Him forever.
So the next morning I told our counselor, Jeff, that I thought I was beginning to understand. I told him the memory and said that I guess if the Father saw me standing next to the wheel barrow with the ruined shirt on it, He would forget the shirt and hug me. “You still don’t understand fully,” he said, “God would not overlook the shirt, but take it, put it on, and wear it to work. And when someone commented on the rust marks, He would say, ‘Let me tell you about my little girl and how much she loves me.
I was overwhelmed with that realization.
I am beginning to realize that my Christian life has been a continual effort to earn God’s pleasure by getting “the shirts hung up right.” God would answer if my prayer was “right.” God would smile upon me if my theology was correct. And since I knew how I had failed day by day in my works, I sort of snuck them up on the line and tried to be away when God got home, so to speak. Someone at the conference had said something that really seems to apply here. He said: “God will not despise the tainted love-gifts of the sinner who looks to Jesus.” My entire Christian life had been oppressive. I did not know how to live day by day without an overwhelming sense of failure to perform up to what I thought God demanded. With that came a sense of God being disappointed and even disgusted with me.
How overpowering it is now to realize that because of Christ, I can experience a daily freedom to move out into people’s lives. I can love others, I can obey God with my heart because I don’t fear that He will be furious with me if I get the shirt “a bit rusty.” There is a freedom to love that I haven’t known since the moments before my father got home that day long ago.