Some New Year this would be.
I jerked a tissue from the box at my bedside and blew with gusto. Ha! Tonight’s candlelight service would just have to proceed without my sparkling flute solo. Mom tucked me in with sensible admonitions. After all, in just two days I’d be winging my way back to Pennsylvania for my final semester.
Dad, the head deacon of our tiny, fundamentalist church, didn’t ask whether his Bible school honor student might be languishing in spirit as well as in body. He tucked the notes for tonight’s Bible lesson into his briefcase and offered a quick prayer. I heard the truck doors slam, and they were off.
I was alone. I lay on my back in the dim light, my gaze tracing swirls in the textured ceiling. Ah, that was better; my stomach was settling a bit. I rolled over, switched on the bedlamp and fished for the paperback romance concealed beneath my pillow. Page one fifty-three. Would Tad motor out to his new fishing spot and catch Sarah smooching Gary in the rowboat?
Who cares? I stared at the page, suppressing a fresh onslaught of queasies. It’s New Year’s Eve. Maybe my own sad history needs some review. I closed the novel and clicked off the lamp.
Had it been nearly five years since I started working my way through school? Masculine faces swam in my memory: lean-jawed, intellectual Randall. . . sensitive, musical Cary. This fall it was Todd, the burning missionary-heart. I threw off my covers and sat up, ignoring the dizziness.
Three broken engagements. Three noble male hearts, shattered by this sham of a woman, this siren with the black hole for a heart. I longed to be someone’s one-and-only. A young man’s whispers of admiration could stir my hopes as easily as the next girl’s. But once undying affection was securely won, once promises were exchanged, Self-hatred would post himself on the ramparts of my barricaded soul, his flaming shafts cocked and aimed. Like Moses’ temple, my inner sanctuary remained veiled. No one must uncover my Empty of empties. . .
“Jesus!” I wailed. “If You are near to the brokenhearted, what hope is left for the heart-breaker? The user of souls?” I snagged a huge wad from the tissue-box, rocking the bed with wild sobs.
Where do they put people who can’t cope with life? Maybe there’s a little room somewhere, with padded walls, just for me. My limbs quivered with shame.
Without warning, my spirit slammed into another dimension, locking my lungs in a gasp of astonishment. My paperback fluttered to the floor as the ceiling peeled away and the walls of my tiny bedroom dissolved into nothingness.
Every trace of nausea, vertigo, aching fever—gone. Time collapsed into insignificance, until there was only one vast heartbeat, permeating the space around me with liquid love.
Spirit of the Living God!
I lay panting, ambushed by a tidal wave of divine affection. Every cell seemed to be singing, vibrating to melodies of unfathomable Goodness. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted. . .” Those living words were for me.
So that’s why You’re here. I am loved. Cherished, no matter what. Adored. . . by the Almighty Himself.
A shock of warmth surged through my bones, this time gripping my jaw, my tongue, loosing them to move of their own accord. Unearthly languages began to play on my lips.
A tiny spear of horror penetrated my precious bubble. Tongues—the forbidden gift: a false, frenzied ‘holy roller’ practice. Danger—losing control, losing control! The devil—how did he get in here? I clamped frantic thumbs under my jaws, willing my tongue to be still.
The irresistible ocean of love began to lift. Walls and ceiling closed in.
The Presence was gone.
No. . . Oh, Holy Spirit, don’t leave me. I didn’t mean to send You away. . . Please! Fresh grief swelled against the back of my throat. I lunged for the tissue box.
But the tears halted behind my lids, as though some tiny traffic cop stood in my eye-ducts, thrusting out a white-gloved palm. I switched on the bedlamp, transfixed with sudden knowing.
My church. My profs. Dear Dad. . .They’ve got it wrong.
The revelation would cost me—that much was clear. I hugged the goosedown pillow to my chest, rocking gently. A tremulous smile crept upward from my belly and tugged at my face.
Some New Year this would be.
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