THE POWER OF AN EMBRACE
by Ron Marinari
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Not long ago I was ministering out of the state. The church that I was a guest at was filled to capacity that Sunday evening. I had just finished my message and invited people to come up and receive prayer. Often times, people will respond to such an invitation, but this certain evening was different. About 90% of the people stood to their feet. An hour an a half later, I was finally able to see the end of the line. As the last twenty or so people approached me, a young lady tearfully and fearfully drew near. She was in her late 20s. Tall, fit and fairly attractive, she signaled for me to give her my ear. As I leaned over to hear her prayer request, she said hesitantly and ashamed, “I recently gave my heart to Christ … I know that He has forgiven my sins, yet I have a terrible problem still”. I assured her that there was nothing that she could do to separate her from the love of God (Romans 8). She cowered back and said,
“You don’t understand, just pray for me anyway”. I didn’t feel comfortable “not understanding”. I’m a pastor … my job is to try and “understand” people. So I pushed back on her. I grabbed her hands and said, “Sweetheart, help me to understand … I want to help you”. She dropped her head with shame. I knew that there was something quite deep here. My mind raced through the possibilities. Everything from domestic violence to rape to prostitution to abortion … I prepared my response to be one of comfort and grace. I took my hand and placed it upon her chin and raised her head. As I stared into her eyes I readied myself to attempt to respond as Jesus would. Again I prodded, “You can tell me … let me help you”. Finally her response came. With a broken and awkward timidity, she said, “I was born a hermaphrodite and I’m more confused than ever”. Having known people personally who lived with the confusion of this anomaly, I wasn’t taken off guard. I knew that she probably needed to say more. I asked, “Tell me about the confusion, is there a gender that you are feeling more comfortable with”? She said, “It’s too late … I wish I were a man”! Putting two and two together, I knew exactly what she had meant. In the next seconds my brain raced with thoughts of unpreparedness. Then something quickly happened. I thought of those that poorly represented my faith … the most critical and judgmental Christians that I knew. Their faces began to scroll before my eyes like a rolodex. I could almost hear their voices, their laughs, their judgments of condemnation, their language of self-righteousness, and their theological wrong answers. “What would they say”, I thought. What possible solution could the Bible bring to this horrible abnormality? Then it all stopped and I knew what I had to do. I placed my arms around her and held her as tight as I could. I felt that it was a Jesus moment for me. She froze and she began to shriek with her face buried in my chest. I held her tightly for moments that seemed like hours. After about 3 minutes of sobbing I let her go and she fell limp to the ground. I reached out for her with a nearby usher and we laid her down upon the floor. Screaming again uncontrollably and hiding her face, I knelt down next to her and read her Psalm 139.
King David said,
“For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from Thee, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them”. (Psalm 139:13-16)
What I tried to bring quietness to suddenly became even louder . The scripture that I read seemed to open something up that was bandaged - like an infected wound that was never treated, only covered up. I thought of the story of Lazarus - once resurrected, Christ commanded His disciples to unravel his grave-clothes. This girl had been raised from the dead (spiritually), but no one had loosed her from the garments of her past. She began to heave and moan like she was in pain. All I could do was pray in the spirit. After about fifteen minutes it subsided. I then stood and a female counselor came and knelt with her for the remainder of the service. I finished praying for remaining people and was then escorted into the pastor’s lounge where I freshened up and got changed.
As we were leaving the building, the pastor grabbed my hand and said, “That was Jackie … use to be Jack … she told me to give you this note”. I took the letter and placed it inside my jacket pocket. Later that evening I read it. The following is the abbreviated version.
I wanted to apologize for the scene that I created tonight. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable by the way that I reacted. All I can say is thank you! Something happened this evening that I can’t explain. It was as if something came out of my soul that had been trapped and stuck there for my entire life. I can’t explain the feeling I now have - except that I feel like I’m free, loved, and accepted by God to be whoever I have chosen to be. Thank you so much for accepting me and praying for me like you did. And thank you most of all for embracing me when most have shunned me away.
Let’s never underestimate the power of a “touch and an embrace”. When we have no words, no theological answers, no logical explanations … don’t talk, just embrace and allow the love of God to channel through you.
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