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I never said "no" to God. But I never said "yes" either. Transformation was-no more maybe.
Turning Point – No More Maybe

By the time Monty and I were standing toe to toe looking into each other’s eyes, I was thoroughly broken. The image that I had nurtured of myself for over thirty years, had been demolished. People, known and unknown in an encounter group, overhauled my self-esteem and ego with razor-words so vivid and cruel that after two and a half days, I felt like a thief, a liar and a dog. Monty too had been brutalized, but his confidence in God towered above everyone in the group, and in this moment, looking into his gentle eyes, I could not fathom how I could begin to tell him from my heart how God honestly saw him. I felt like a coward.

The bare hardwood walls hummed with the sound of other pairs of people engaged in this simple exercise. The ceiling above us domed into a bell that echoed the humming of the walls and the aroma of incense burned by the priests who normally worshiped in this hall was stale, abusive.

“God loves you,” I said, cautious. I knew this was true. Not just because scripturaly it was so, but because Monty was alive when he should have been dead - after taking the Gospel into the communist regions of Laos and Cambodia. On his return to America, after a year of being held prisoner in some mountain compound, he became the pastor of one of the largest churches in Tallahassee, Florida. I could see the tender love of Jesus in his eyes as he listened to the feeble tone of my voice.

“Jesus loves you,” I said. Again, no stretch of the facts here, but a tear fell on his weathered cheek anyway. “He is blessing you with new opportunities,” I ventured. A nearby coach, rose from a cherry wood deacon’s chair and came quickly to my side. He was strident in his intervention. “Just tell Monty what God sees in him,” the coach admonished.

“Okay,” I said. “God sees your strength, your wisdom and your devotion to service.” Monty shook his head no and the tears stopped. His face grew red and he looked at the floor. “He sees you as a warrior of light and truth, invincible, loving and compassionate.” The coach floated away satisfied that I was doing the exercise correctly. “Monty, he sees you as a great pastor…a leader in the body of Christ.” He raised his eyes slowly to meet mine again and there was the slightest hint of a smile on his face. We were to not touch each other in this exercise, but suddenly his hands were gripping my shoulders.

“These words, your words, they are for you too Ken,” he said gently.

“No,” I said and tried to look away. “But there is more my son, I have called you to be a pastor and a leader and because I love you, I cannot bear to see you continually run away from what I have called you to. I know what you have seen and I know your pain, but nevertheless, I desire for you to take your place and fulfill the call I put on your life.”

“No,” I said, “They will hurt me. They will destroy me.” I could feel the shadowy forms around me more than see them. My heart beat could have been heard by the souls within those forms, if the music from an ancient sound system had not been so annoyingly loud.

“You don’t know that,” the Lord said through Monty. “I am with you. I am with you always.”

“Were you with Pastor Wiley,” I shouted. The hum from the walls stopped. I listened to the rotten music, not wanting to hear an answer.

“I am always with those I call. Of course I was with him.”

“No you weren’t . And you won’t be with me. You are never with me. You will let them take me down.”

I stomped my feet and Monty pulled me close. I felt a surge of terror, anger, and rage rise up through my soul and the words came out in sobs.

“I won’t do it. I can’t do it.”

Monty’s eyes brightened and he gritted his teeth as he pressed forward. With his own words now: “You are just like me. I would trust you and love you. I would give you a church.” One of the fans that had been dead for two days suddenly found life and pushed stale air into my face.

“Don’t do it,” I said, “I would betray you and leave you with nothing. Don’t ever put your trust in me. I will hurt you.”

“I see it Ken. The same call that is on my life is on your life. Say yes to the Lord, he will be faithful to do it. Give yourself to his plan…”

“No!” I screamed in agony, as though someone was crushing my body with a boulder nine times my size.

“No!,” I cried it out at a volume that pierced the shadowy forms around me and their humming tones turned to gasping sighs and mournful static. I melted into a pool on the thin carpet. My clutching fingers sought a handhold in the gritty nap. I sobbed out my no’s from my belly, while Monty held me and prayed for peace to come into my soul.

Time stopped. All sounds faded away. Some new form of life rose from inside me and a peace overtook my tormented soul. I felt a peace I had never experienced before. My conspiracy was over. I had said "no" to God. On my terms I had rejected with full force the “pastoral call” I had received when I was a youth leader in my church. That was just three years before Pastor Wiley and his family was publicly humiliated by the elder board in front of every member of our family’s church.

I made a vow on that day that I would never be a pastor. No matter what I had agreed to before. Later I would respond to thoughts of being a pastor with a simple thought, “someday.” Never a “yes” or a “no.” It was always more of a sorrowful “maybe.”

I was drained from my days and hours spent in this group of believers, trying to get our life kinks worked out. I continued to cry through to the end of the night’s work, though with each tear there came an amazing amount of relief. It didn’t matter to me what had been said. Hurtful words no longer hurt so bad. That was all lost in the conviction that I had told God exactly how I felt and somehow I knew more than ever that he loved me. If he did love me I reasoned, then maybe I would not die because of the hateful words Christians can say to one another. After all, hadn’t I just endured two and half days of shredding, hateful feedback? …from my friends? The end of the exercise was to come when I got home. There I wrote out my experience from this third day of a long retreat. As I did, I saw the future in a new light.

My "aha" at that moment in time, one that changed my life forever, was that I can say “yes” to God and live. And as I said “yes” I received immediate affirmation from His Holy Spirit. I was at last fulfilling the call he had put on my life. I wrote out a commitment to my Father God. In it I declared that I would proclaim His truth all the days of my life and that I would be worship and shine forth in adoration of him to his honor and glory. I committed to be a continual service to his people. As a result of this commitment I would , in time, bring peace and contentment to all of those around me.

My friends were gathered the next morning, solemnly seated in consecrated cherry wood chairs arranged in a perfect arch. I sensed their brokenness and hostility and suspicion, but I preached my commitment to them anyway. It was my testimony of wrestling with God and finding new life. They were at peace as I spoke and seemed to pull me towards them with each carefully chosen word. As I closed my talk, every person rose from their seat, standing to affirm my commitment. From then until now, with Jesus as my savior and power to "be", I would never say "maybe" to God again.
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