“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-14).
That’s the writer in me. Words find me. Fill me to overflow until I can no longer keep them penned up within. Instead, they call for the obedience and the outflow of my pen. Whether you find them worthy or not, well, that’s your call. On this side of a blank page, I cannot imagine their impact. I can only feel their weight. Unloading them becomes my necessary.
Thus, a Friday night tied to requirement. An evening that begins with a last evening—a Thursday night tied to a New Year’s Day.
With the younger kids safely tucked in bed and for want of anything else pressing in on our time, my husband and I left the “youngers” in the care of the “olders” and ventured to Wal-Mart in search of a movie and some snacks. Rather than driving ten miles to our local Blockbuster, we opted for the five dollar bargain bin just a mile down the road. We walked away with two movies, The Manchurian Candidate and a DVD combo that included two of our favorite movies, Glory and The Patriot. Or so we thought.
After donning our pj’s and firing up the candles for S’mores (apparently Wal-Mart also shelves the ingredients for said snacks…), my husband began to unwrap our selected movie for the night.
Apparently, Denzel was still sitting back in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart. My harried perusal of back and forth landed me with a copy of an unidentified movie. Nightjohn. A story set in the deep South about two slaves—a young girl named Sarny and a middle-aged man named John.
Rather than making the trip back to Wal-Mart, we settled on our accidental purchase, and for the better part of two hours, immersed our hearts and emotions into a story that breathed the witness of an eternal truth.
The power of the word.
Nightjohn can read, an offense often punishable by death for a slave. John enters into young Sarny’s world as a recent acquisition of her owner. When he asks her for a plug of tobacco, she insists upon a trade. He insists that he can give her something in return that man can never take away from her.
Sarny is captured by the promise of such a holding and begins to earnestly acquire her new found wealth. One letter at a time. Collected and treasured and pondered with a depth rarely exhibited in any classroom across America. Her learning is sporadic, a slow prod toward having her letters make sense. Sarny’s frustration for the finished product—for being able to read—culminates with a question to Nightjohn:
“How do you know if you be reading?”
John reassures Sarny that the day is soon to come.
That day comes for Sarny as she accompanies her owner’s family to church one Sunday. The pastor instructs the congregants to sing #152, a melodious rendition of the 23rd Psalm. As they sing, Sarny adds her own voice to the mix. The tears begin to flow as she realizes the profundity of the moment—that she, in fact, “be reading.” Nightjohn watches her awakening from the balcony above with his own mix of tears. An observant pastor also takes notice.
He leaves the pulpit, approaches Sarny, and with tenderness in his voice asks her a life-changing question:
“Child, are you saved?”
Without hesitation, she replies:
“Yes, I am. I am saved.”
And I am undone with the moment. It approached my soul with the magnitude of the kingdom—God’s kingdom. Indeed, Sarny was saved. In more ways than one. The reading of man’s words led Sarney to God’s Word and to her salvation accordingly.
The power of the Word…both in print and in the flesh, came to life and to a living heart who was hungry for the find. And while Sarny’s physical chains still bound her in the flesh, her spiritual chains had been broken, and she took to her baptism with the truth of God’s Word searing within her soul.
Indeed, something that man could never take away from her. Something that can never be taken away from you and from me if we’ve known the power of such a moment. And so I ask you tonight, with a tender urgency in my heart…
Child, are you saved?
Do you remember the day when God’s Word became real to you? When all of his kingdom letters collided with your flesh and you knew, for a fact, that you be reading the Word? Did it make you cry then? Does it still…make you cry? Not because you’re sad, but rather because the magnitude of such truth overwhelms your soul to point of release?
For all of the ways I could turn this, take this and make it into something else, nothing of greater consequence exists. Your salvation is everything. Having God’s word…his Word…collide with your chains is the stuff of everlasting significance. He shatters our shackles and deems us free. He leaves us, not as slaves, but as kings and queens of a royal throne established on our behalf because his Word has the final say in the matter.
I know that most of you reading this have experienced the power of such an awakening. Thank God tonight for your salvation. But there are others—strangers and friends, those you love and those you don’t—who need the magnitude of such a moment. Perhaps, like Nightjohn, God has allowed you a measure of influence in their lives.
Would you, on the front side and at the beginning of a New Year, be willing to bring them the brilliance and illumination of God’s living Word … one letter at a time until their collected abundance yields the eternal wealth of a Psalm 23 kind of moment? So that they, too, can be reading what you’re reading?
It is a worthy story. One of the many that fills my heart tonight. Apparently, the one that God deemed most appropriate for the pen. I’m always amazed at the finished canvas. Not because it exceeds the beauty of another’s words, but simply and profoundly because God has allowed me the privilege of its painting.
One brushstroke at a time. One letter after another, until words fill the page, and I am reminded through my tears of my own soul’s awakening. The moment that rushed upon me with the magnitude and force of God’s kingdom grace and with the brilliant illumination of his lavish and unmerited love. The moment when I knew for a fact, that I be reading the Truth.
May such remembrance find its way into your heart this day until you “know that you know” and until that knowing becomes the deepest and most cherished treasure of your heart.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of his living, eternal witness—the Holy Spirit—I shout my gratitude and sound my salvation. I am saved. I am free. Ain’t nothing that man can do to take that away from me. Amen.
Copyright © January 2009 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.
PS: Heading back to Wal-Mart tomorrow. If I can find another copy, I’ll get one for a give away. Here’s hoping for another accidental treasure. Shalom!