Nearly three months ago an interesting journey started with man I’ll call Steve whom I now consider a good friend.
Steve and I got connected when I took him and his wife through a couples personality assement and consultation. During that meeting we connected well and he mentioned that he’d be interested to connect with me one on one.
And so we met one weekday afternoon over coffee and I asked him to tell me his story. I could tell he was nervous and a bit apprehensive. He proceeded to share normal timeline major events and some personal struggles he was currently going through. His honesty and vulnerability was admirable.
Once he finished, I knew there was much more to the story. There always is. I also felt in my heart a burning desire to know where he stood in regards to the Lord. Up to this point in the conversation he didn’t mention much about God and the issues he had brought up can only be sorted out, in my opinion, with the truth of God. So I asked him where he stood in his beliefs about God. He looked down and said “I don’t know.” I asked him if he believed in God, and his response was honest and sobering. He said, “On a good day, I’m agnostic, and on a bad day atheistic.” He then added that he grew up in a religious family and at one point earlier in life helped in his church as a youth pastor/leader. He said he’s knew the stories in the Bible but just really had so many doubts that he just didn’t know what to believe.
At this point I knew the journey was going to be long. But these longer walks are always most memorable. Having counseled and coached many people over the years I’ve realize that poking holes in a persons beliefs right off the bat doesn’t work because relational trust hasn’t been established. And so I asked if I could share with him my story of encountering God. He eagerly was interested and so I did. My hope was to immediately begin to confront lies he was hearing with subtle yet vitally important keys truths like God does exist and God does care and He is good. As I shared from my heart, Steve seemed to be really interested and engaged. At times I quoted scripture that helped direct and guide me on my personal journey.
My hope was that he would hear and see a person who was convinced of God’s existence, His love for people, and his purposelful plan in all of life’s affairs.
When I finished, there was silence. I asked if he had any questions or thoughts. He said, “I just don’t know. I want what you have…that confidence and being so sure in what you believe.” To me, this feedback was great news…because hope wasn’t dead and his desire for life that is true still had a pulse.
I asked him if he’d like to start meeting weekly and he eagerly agreed. Near the end of that time he said, “Jon, please be patient with me. ” Again my heart leapt because it was his way of communicating his fear, uncertainty, and willingness to move forward all in one.
Over the next month and a half we met and I fielded his questions about God, his character, and certain teachings that he’d received as a younger man about a Christian’s job to please God. Some keys lies had to be gently dismantled. I also gave him key things to read in Scripture from specific verses to passages. I could see the Lord moving him into a place of understanding and deepening hunger to know more, but his deep doubt remained.
Personally I just wanted to push him over his “hump” of doubt, but I remembered his request of patience. I knew the Spirit of God was at work and any extra effort on my part probably wouldn’t actually help. So I prayed and let him soak.
Each time we met, he brought up various frustrations, hurts and anger that we dealt with by finding the lies and replacing them with the truth.
I was always engaged, yet my heart was also frustrated because no amount of help or guidance by me would actually help if Steve remained apart from the Spirit of God. The baseline he needed to begin the true journey of healing and restoration was to become a follower of Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit. My ache for him deepened.
The last time we met, my day had been particularly hard and my heart was heavy from those burdens, and I felt distracted and not prepared to meet. And then it happened!
Steve again told of deep personal relational battles that seemed hopeless. He had hoped to get away for a weekend alone with God to fast and pray (which seemed odd since he was still doubting the full truth of Jesus) and hopefully find the connection he was looking for, but life got in the way and it never happened. Just like the first time we met, his doubt was king.
I sat silently and listened and prayed. I sensed the Lord moving in me. I then spoke up and said, “Steve, in your head you know that Jesus is the way, but your heart doubts. You seems to be needing an emotional experience to connect the two.” He agreed and then I dropped a little grenade. I said, “I think you need to make a decision. You need a stake in the ground moment where you “choose you this day whom you will serve”. I told him the story of Greg who drove a stake in the ground at our Reclaim base camp property. I said, “I think you have held back too much in life from making hard decisions that you know to be right and true. I think you need make a stake-in-the-ground decision about the Lord.” And the emotional connection will come.
He paused and then said, “that makes sense. Yes, I need to do that.”
I was shocked. I paused. Could it be now I wondered? Do I push a little and see if he is ready now? Where would we go? I asked him if he had a favorite park or outdoor place he visited often. “Not really,” he answered. I lived only minutes away and had the perfect stake plus lots of land. I asked if he wanted to drive to my place and do this. “Yes!”, he said. Oh my….this is happening.
We quickly left and were headed there. He was following me. I quickly phoned Todd and let him know what was happening and for him to be praying. Todd mentioned he saw or felt we should look for a giant oak stump on the property.
I had cut down some giant oak trees years earlier and decided to have him pound his stake next to one of these massive stumps. After walking through some mud, an over grown field and briars, we arrived at the spot. I took a minute to tell him that the roots of the giant oak is what allowed it to grow so big. And the stake he was about to pound into the ground is more about the depth of the rod beneath the ground than what was above it. For the depth of the stake is what would keep it solid and steady when the storms above the ground push against it. “Drive it deep.”, I told him. “Make your commitment to the Lord deep and permanent.”
I stepped back to give him room and watch. He started to pound the stake. Clank, clank, clank. The stake sunk deeper and deeper. He hit harder and harder. The stake sunk deeper. He wouldn’t stop. Before I knew it the stake was about to disappear benaeath the surface. And as he took one last big swing I heard him say through gritted teeth, “Forever!”, and the stake was fully in the earth. ”
I was shocked. I moved toward him. Said I was proud of him. I reached out to hug him and he gave me a giant bear hug and wept. We marked the spot with a stone he picked as an altar.
I left him to be with his Lord, and as I walked, I asked the Lord for a name to give him. Immediately I heard, “Overcomer”.
When he came back from the woods, I gave him another matching stake as a memorial and told him the name. I could tell he was in shock of the whole process.
And quite frankly so was I. For Steve, a new day had dawned. For me a victory was won, and new war was waged in the spiritual realm. I also know that Steve is now ‘forever’ marked. Condemnation will come. And remember and rest oh my soul, because His stake is ‘forever’ deep…and so is Steve’s. For he is rooted now in Christ Jesus!