I knew of the reality and power and glory of God long before I let His love near. I knew it was there. I saw His love in many.  But it’s coming near was another thing…something I feared.

It was fall of my second year of college,  the ministry I was a part of went on retreat to North Carolina. I remember the pumpkins. They were vivid in the still green fields. It was cold, unseasonably cold. When we finally got out of the car, we could see our breath.

It was crowded…I think more folks came than there were bunks. My friends and I  pulled some extra mattresses out into a wooden floored gym, adjacent to the bunk rooms. The high ceiling room held an abundance of un-perfumed air.  This was the eighties and fluorocarbon flowed freely. The large space was a sanctuary.

We had teaching sessions in this long rectangular room with huge windows all along the walls.  You could look out and see the foothills about us, mountains just beyond.  Tuck, one of the leaders, was speaking on some truth.  We nearly always talked about truth. I really liked truth, it’s emotionally safe stuff.

I was sitting on the floor, like everyone. There was a row of people leaning against the back wall.  I sat a little in front of their outstretched legs. Friends were scattered all around me. I knew most of the people on the trip by name. But even after years with this ministry, only my sent friends (another story) knew me fairly well.

It was cold on the floor, cold in the room…Tuck was talking  about some principle; I was taking notes, but for once, I was not mesmerized by the knowledge that I was receiving. I felt cold, in my soul. And I felt something rise in me that was unfamiliar, a deep desire for love, to feel it.

Earlier at lunch or sometime, I had talked briefly with a few girls that I didn’t know so well; they were older. I saw something in them, especially one of them, the dancer, that my heart now ached to have, something that scared me, for sure, but that I wanted, nonetheless.

As I sat staring out the window, not really listening to Tuck, but to my heart’s ache, Dana, the dancer, did something radical and right. In this somewhat stiff crowd of note taking notables, Dana, who sat on the wall right behind me, leaned forward, scooped her arms under mine and fluidly pulled me all the way back into her arms. I was there before I knew it, there before any protest could be made. Before anyone had a chance to even acknowledge God’s shifting, I was there. And instantly, I could not have cared less about what any teacher or leader or fellow pharisee thought. The love of God surrounded, subdued, nearly overwhelmed me. Dana did not say a word, I remember her gray sweatshirt about me.  The smell of her shampoo, her long hair against the side of my face. Time sort of stopped. I think it was the first time in my life that I ever felt relaxed, safe, not on guard in some small way. It was like being underwater or in space, totally foreign, totally fantastic.

I don’t know how much longer we all sat there…not long enough.  When Tuck stopped talking, I slowly stood up. Dana didn’t force or even encourage me to, but I stood and turned around; her posture was casual, her eyes, reassuring.

I wish I had ignored the crowd altogether. Not stood, not moved away at all. She would have held me on until the crowds departed,  until the tears that needed to fall, fell. I know what I passed on, as I stood.  I know it now. It was there – healing and wholeness that I long craved and yet evaded. I should have drunk deeply. I wanted to…but I stood.

I have had other Dana’s arrive from time to time.  Dana’s come my way, draw me close without warning, and do not let go until I move away. God’s good to me like that. He knows I won’t ask for what I so need. So He sends me brave, strong souls who do not ask my permission, but pull me into them/Him until I can stand it no more.  This year, I learned how to ask God Himself for such. And with or without my willing arms, HE comes to me, speaks tenderly to me, holds me close until I can stand no more…

In the last year the Holy Spirit has often brought Dana to mind. This last week she came to my spirit again and again. So I looked her up and everything came back clearer than ever.  So I could be reminded… and tell you.

And, oh…you have to see the videos…to look at Dana’s life…it’s fruit…it’s richness…its influence…the healing and wholeness it brings to so many… You are going to see why I so admire and love these people…I was once young with. See why I tear up when I think of them and all they have become in Christ to this world. These are your examples…and mine.


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