Steve's Story: Zoom, Zoom
Excerpt from Rescued from Hell, Chapter 6: Back on Planet Earth
It's time to get back on our bikes for a motorcycle tour of the unfolding years. The purpose of this book is not to tell all the stories of my life in Christ. There have been many spiritual lessons and adventures, many fascinating people encountered, many sightings of our Illusive Quarry on this quest to know our God. Some of the funniest can be seen as short videos on our Youtube channel; others have been salted throughout our workbook, Matters of the Heart; still more wind up on Facebook as anecdotes or on our website as blog posts.
I have written as much as I have of the beginning of my journey for two reasons. First, for non-Christians it will have given you some idea of how truly radical and unsettling a genuine conversion to Christ can be—it turns everything upside down! Second, for Christians, especially those who are trying to fly with broken wings, I pray it will give you hope that if you keep pressing in to know the Lord, He will be able to lead you just as He has me. Not without mistakes of course. Never without pain and problems. But inevitably and purposefully. So an extended beginning was necessary to set the stage. What I really want to take you into is the amazing journey of healing that the Lord took me through. In a sense that has been the purpose of this whole book.
With that in mind, let's take a quick spin around the track so you can have a feel for the timeline. I came to faith on the evening of September 29, 1982 at the age of thirty-three. Within a month I was baptized in water; within two months I was baptized in the Spirit. After a year we had become Episcopalians; after two years I was completing my undergraduate degree in preparation for seminary, and after three years I was "in the process" as a postulant for ordination to the priesthood. That process hit a roadblock when I was told to wait a year before continuing—they apparently thought I needed more time to test the calling. So, during that time, June and I looked to the mission field to make the most of the delay. By the spring of 1985 we had sold our business, sold our home, sold our vehicles and were heading off with our kids (we didn't sell them) to missionary training with the South American Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church (SAMS-USA). Our assignment? Honduras. When we were asked if we wanted to go there to work with an orphanage, we exclaimed, "Perfect!," then raced off to get our hands on a map so we could find out where in the world Honduras was!
For an unforgettable, life-changing year, we lived and worked in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, from late August 1985 to early June 1986. It was not all sweetness and light, however. Shortly after arrival June sank into culture shock and deep depression, one that hounded her for decades. Then near the end of our term, I almost died of typhoid fever which crippled my health for years afterwards. We were both broken wide open by these experiences. Although they ultimately carried us into places inside ourselves and upwards into God that we might never have known without them, the initial effect greatly reduced our capacity to enjoy life and pursue the Lord. I believe this was the season of "breaking" that Eddy and Dr. Stanley tried to prepare me for during that unsettling descent from Montreat. Honduras in Spanish means "the depths": It certainly became that for us.
Even though I had led all but one of my students to the Lord, I still came back feeling like a failure, especially for not having been able to spare June her suffering. This took me into my unhealed depths. I pulled back from many of my previous pursuits and sought the Lord for a deeper healing than Bible studies and deliverance sessions had so far been able to produce in me. I was dead certain that June and I were not alone in being dragged down into spiritual ineffectiveness due to our pre-Christian wounds. I began to be gently haunted by Jeremiah's warning to shepherds who "healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, Peace, peace when there is no peace" (Jeremiah 6:14). I wanted to make sure that I had strong medicine in the Lord with which to help others, and that meant I was going to have to find it and take it myself. I told a friend who was concerned about my withdrawal that I was convinced that the Lord "didn't intend to serve this wine until it's time." It seemed clever; I hoped it was also true.
In the fall of 1986 I moved us to Greenville, NC, and enrolled at East Carolina University for training as a high school teacher. The door was still closed to seminary, closed even more firmly now that both June and my Episcopal priest were saying "No-Never!" to the idea. I thought that being trained as a teacher would help train me in things I would need as a priest. It was also something positive to be doing while I waited for that journey to begin. Apparently I thought wrong. While fasting and praying one week, the Lord spoke to me almost out loud, What are you doing here? "The doors are all closed back home." I told you to stay there and wait. I will open them. We returned to the coast and waited. Three years later, without any effort on my part, all the doors swung open and away we went.
Seminary like Honduras could almost be a book in itself—it certainly still speaks volumes to me. However, in keeping with this "motorcycle tour" outline of the journey, let's just say that upon arrival at seminary all but one of the professors voted against the idea of ordaining me; but by graduation, all but one professor voted in favor of ordaining me. I tried to learn all that I could from the classrooms, but in retrospect, it was the "school of the Holy Spirit" which played the key role in my formation as a priest. The Lord has His own program for instruction and it is often widely at variance with our ideas about how things should go. "Sneaky" God, remember? Upon graduation we landed on our feet with an offer for me to work as an Assistant Rector at the "Mother Church" of Georgia, Christ Church in Savannah. Usually a new priest only stays in his or her first parish for a year or two, at the most, before moving on to an assignment that "fits" better. We stayed for thirteen and a half years! It was a very good fit right from the beginning.
Too comfortable a fit, however, can be the enemy of the spiritual life. The Lord, who is Himself the God of All Comfort, seems to take a pretty dim view of His people resting "on the lees" and turning aside from the ever-challenging task of pressing in to know Him and serve Him at levels beyond their comfort zones. I always knew that the Lord had not shaped me and formed me for parish service, but had placed me in it to "learn the ropes," while He was readying me for some kind of "out of the box" ministry. I began earnestly seeking Him for direction and timing. One day in the late spring of 2005 I distinctly heard Him say, "I'm calling you out." I looked Him in the eye so to speak and said, "You don't have to say that twice!" That afternoon I broke the news to June who was surprisingly all on board with the idea of launching a healing ministry. We fasted and prayed, sought the wisdom of our closest friends, received further vision, quit a perfectly good paying job and stepped way out there in faith. Healing Streams was born.
Are You Curious for More?
You can read most of the book just by following the arrows...