Today, Sara and I leave for a bit of a working vacation out to Hawaii. We’ll be sharing with a fellowship in Honolulu next Sunday (April 30), but we’ll mostly be on Maui, savoring God’s work in this last season of our lives and preparing our hearts for what lies ahead.
Before we go, I wanted to leave you with this amazing dream, which can be of great encouragement when you find yourself facing one of your greatest fears. It was sent to me by a good friend, Harvey Mast, who lives in Ohio. He had this dream nearly four years ago while volunteering with a ministry helping women who had been sexually trafficked. He sent it to me recently, and it deeply touched me. It can be interpreted at so many levels and can redirect our focus to the only thing that matters in times of fear. With his permission, I’m publishing an edited version to see what Father might want to reveal to you.
(And my dear sisters, please don’t be put off by this male-as-rescuer story. I know that is a struggle for some since it can be a tiresome cliché. However, Harvey is a man, and this is his dream. I hope you can put yourself in the same place of fighting through your worst fears to help others trapped in theirs, male or female.)
I stood with a group of friends in front of a castle. This was a magical castle, but dark magic ruled inside. There, your worst fears become your reality. Two young girls had wandered into that castle decades ago, and now fear held them captive at the top of the tallest tower where it was so dark no light could penetrate except the warmth of real love.
Many well-meaning, brave young men had tried to rescue the princesses over the years, but all had failed. Entering two at a time, they went to the winding staircase with their romantic ideas of love. Eventually, their fears would overwhelm them, and their screams would echo through the castle as they made a hasty retreat.
With each failed attempt, the lowest section of the staircase would crumble to ruin. Only time would repair the stairs enough to try again, which could often take up to ten years.
As we stood at the castle entrance, time was mending the last step after another failed attempt. “Who will go now?” The question reverberated off the walls. A great silence fell on the crowd. Would anyone risk their greatest fears and another ten years in hopes of rescuing the two lost princesses? It would take two, for each girl needed a separate escort out.
I looked around for someone else to step forward and face his worst fears for the love of another. To my dismay, no one did. Tears began to form in my eyes as I thought about those two young girls trapped inside, and I couldn’t stop myself from stepping forward. “I will go,” I said and waited for another to join me on this quest. Would the love of my Father burning inside me be greater than my greatest fears? I believed it was true, but this would test that for sure.
Soon, a good friend stepped forward to go with me. We entered the castle and started climbing the staircase like many others had. The first fear that came was the fear of failure. “What if we fail and these precious little girls are lost in this hell for another ten years?” I halted at this thought, and this gripping fear weighed heavy on me. I could feel myself shrinking in size.
I continued climbing, now a bit slower. “Who am I to think I could rescue one of them?” was my next fear. I had all but stopped now, and the castle walls seemed to close in on me. “I don’t even know them; what if they are afraid of me?”
Soon I was standing still, paralyzed by these gripping fears. I could no longer see anything in the pitch-black air, not even my friend I knew was beside me. I could physically feel the darkness.
“Father, help me,” my heart whispered as fear roiled inside.
Why did I even come? Oh yes, it was his love inside my heart for those girls. I could feel that warmth again, still burning in my chest. As I paused, I looked down at my feet, hoping to see the next step. I could see it. A warm glow about my feet illuminated the step before me, and I knew this was the way forward. As I took that step, another appeared and another, and before long, we were moving upward again.
Every fear I had ever faced, and even new ones, seem came at us with a vengeance the further we progressed. My focus had shifted to the warmth of His love inside of me, and it was more significant than all the dangers surrounding us. Eventually, we could hear the girls’ voices as we approached the tower’s upper levels. We called out to them, explaining that we were coming and encouraging them to hold on to hope. As we did, this hope grew in us as well. Our pace quickened.
Soon, we reached the top of the staircase and found the room that imprisoned them. We could hear them but not see them until we ran into them in the darkness. We exchanged names, and the glow brightened slightly. I could see one was of Asian descent. She looked up into my eyes and spoke her greatest fear. “How do I know I can trust you?”
An answer came out of my mouth before I had time to filter it. “Why, it’s simple; this is where love led me. Right here.”
“You needed help, didn’t you?” Her fear receded slightly as she hugged me around my waist with her tiny arms.
But they were both still afraid to leave. Their fears had captured them and did not want to face them again in this horrible place. We tried to reason with them, assuring them we would be with them the entire way, but they were reluctant. We could only invite them, realizing we may very well be going back down alone. I don’t know how I would have been able to leave them alone in this place.
We explained that this warm light around our feet was the Father’s true love’s light coming from within us. He is the Father of Light, and he loved all of us so extravagantly. It had shown us the way step by step as we made our ascent and was always greater than our greatest fears.
Though they, too, would be facing their greatest fears as we descended the staircase, they could also have the warmth of his light. They both agreed to come with us if they could walk alongside one of us and learn to focus on love.
“Of course,” we answered.
One step at a time, we made our way downward. Fear assailed each of us unrelentingly, but we simply followed the glowing warmth until we found our way out of the castle.
The girls, whom we thought to be around ten years old when we met them, transformed to their rightful ages as they crossed the threshold into the sunlight.
Instead of being overwhelmed by the voices that scream at you from the uncertain darkness, focus on the warmth of Jesus’s love already inside you and see what next step illuminates for you. Then you, too, will discover that Father’s affection is stronger than our greatest fear. It’s a journey that will not only set you free inside from anything this life can throw at you, but it will also show you how to be a part of God’s redemptive work for others.
We all know the power of fear and how impossible it is to ignore it or manufacture more trust through our own strength. And we all need someone to go with us, not just telling us to “trust more”, but willing to sit alongside us as we learn to let love rule our hearts.
And when you need help, follow this advice from a young woman whose book I am reading at the moment, Cole Arthur Riley’s This Here Flesh:
Find those who tell you, “Do not be afraid,” yet stay close enough to tremble with you. This is a love.
It truly is…