I was comfortably seated in an armless chair, not under distress, hands unbound, eyes closed. The chair was in the middle of a dark, damp room. I was sitting with what I believed to be intention, listening for God to tell me what I was to do. What plans He had for me.
I had been sitting for a long time. I grew frustrated. I cried out, eyes still closed,” Hello, am I doing this right?” passive-aggressively challenging the God of the Universe, “Am I missing something?”
“Quiet.” a patient voice answered from the darkness.
I opened my eyes.
I saw a dim light emanating from an opening at the end of the room. The walls of the cave were bright red. I slammed my eyes shut. “Sorry, I got distracted.”
I sat still for another moment until I heard the gentle, familiar scrape of pen on paper.
It wasn’t working anyway, so I opened my eyes. I had subconsciously traversed the distance between the chair and the half-opened door. I entered quietly, ducking because the door was small and the ceilings were low, even for me.
A single lantern lit the room. It was sitting on a handmade writing desk. The desk had four legs and a two-inch-thick top with visible knots and ridges below the smooth epoxy finish, as a constant reminder that it was once alive. It took an embarrassingly long time for me to notice the man working at the desk. He was writing with a quill, which was odd considering there was no ink well on the desk and pens exist. He reached above his head, scraping the ceiling with the utensil, and continued writing.
“Sir, what are you doing?” I asked shamelessly, “What are you working on?”
Without looking up, he pointed to a stack of unopened letters on the corner of the desk. I took the envelopes in my hand and began examining them. I saw that they were each addressed to me, some marked urgent, some dated years ago. There was another, far more comfortable chair in the corner, with a floor lamp set behind it, the bulb stretching overtop the chair. I fumbled around for the lamp cord and sat down, only then feeling my back aching from being folded over the desk all that time.
I opened the oldest letter, dated May 31, 1997, my birthdate.
You are exactly as I designed. I am delighted to know you. You are going to do great things in My name. Follow Me always, and remember who you are.
I love you,
I dropped the letter and laughed nervously, feeling a few different things at once. Disbelief was the chief amongst emotional responses, quickly followed and overtaken by a feeling of uneasiness as I glanced at the remaining stack of letters on my lap. The rest of the letters would certainly take a less hopeful tone after the thoughts and actions that littered the life I’d lived since that first letter was written.
Suddenly, I heard scampering feet and the spray of an aerosol can. The smell of paint filled the room. The man at the desk quietly stood up, picking up the lantern in one hand and a wash-bucket with the other. His ease of movement quickly calmed my discomfort and I stood up to assist, grateful to delay the reading of the letters now scattered on the floor. As the man approached the wall with the lantern, I could see intricate paneling, like pipes built into the wall. On the wall was hastily scribbled in broad strokes.
The man handed me the lantern and began scrubbing the wall. I thought for sure I’d been holding the lantern still but, it must have been swinging because the light brightened and dimmed to the rhythm of a steady drum. I held the light with both hands to ensure it wouldn’t swing, but the pulsing continued. When I realized that the wall itself was pounding, I fell backward.
The man laughed. No, he cackled. The kind of laugh that can’t be spelled with two letters, or any really. The kind of laugh that was too loud, too high-pitched for the somber man who beheld it. He placed the bucket and scrub brush down, picking up a paintbrush in its stead. “You always know how to make me laugh,” he said as he painted in the dark. I stood up from the seat I’d taken in my shock to see what he was painting. He wrote:
I felt the blush of embarrassment leave my cheeks only to return just as pink in the form of delight.
“So we’re in… a heart?” I blurted.
“We’re in your heart,” was his response.
He snickered and reached out his hand, I shook it and really looked at him for the first time. It was me, but not me. He was sure of himself and quiet, and I certainly don’t laugh like that.
“I am who you are, I am your identity in Christ, I’ve been called many names. Breath of the Almighty being your favorite. Read what is written for you, it may answer some of your questions.”
For reasons unknown to me, I simply listened and sat down. I opened letter after letter, shocked by what I read. Every piece of paper was riddled with words of encouragement.
“You are strong and wise, I am so proud of you.”
“You are a great writer, I can’t wait for you to share your gift.”
He didn’t address missed opportunities, places in my life where I failed to listen to Him, or times when I consciously avoided Him. He spoke only to who I am, never to what I had done. I put down the letters and looked up. I was alone.
I took the lantern and walked the perimeter of the room. Everything written in the letters was carved into the walls. Who I am, was now chiseled into my heart. In large letters and etched slightly deeper than the rest, was written, “Beloved Son.”
Don’t mistake what you’ve done for who you are.
Don’t mistake a lack of identity for humility. Failing to acknowledge who you are and what you are capable of will result in failure to obtain or even pursue what you are called to do.
“God watches, smiling, patiently waiting for me to follow his command.
Knowing the world is ready for what I have to offer.
Yet I sit quietly alone, and keep my gift to myself in an act not of selfishness but of doubt.”
-The first entry in my journal from over two years ago
What is written on your heart? Who are you?