Every Tuesday night, we have a special meal for members of our church. We call it an 'Agape' meal (agape being the Greek work for divine love that is used by the writers of the New Testament); I've written about the Agape meal before on this blog.
Recently, we've been lighting a candle on our Agape dining table. Nothing very unusual about that, perhaps - candle on a meal table - adds a bit of atmosphere. But this candle was lit for a purpose beyond just creating the right ambience. We lit it for a person; a person we love and have been praying for.
He's been coming to one of our Wednesday night cell groups for the best part of a year. Fiercely atheistic, but always up for a good debate, he got on well and became part of the furniture in the group. It was from this that some of us began to long for him to find faith in Christ, and to experience the power of His love.
And so a few weeks ago we lit the candle, deciding that we would have it on our table every Agape meal as a silent prayer for him to belong, with us, to God. He was part of the family - we longed for him to be with us at the table of Christ.
And last Sunday night - it happened. Another friend and I had an opportunity to pray with him. It was awesomely beautiful to behold. His spirit opened up, slowly, like a flower in the morning sun. Sorry if you think that's a bit over-poetic, but it was truly moving. I had tears in my eyes. As we prayed that God would reveal Himself, our friend's face - eyes closed, waiting, open - became lighter, uplifted. A peace came over him. He began to slowly lift up his hands. Faith unfurled in him. God met him.
Afterwards, he was without words to describe what had happened. (The New Testament supplies some - like being 'called' or 'regenerated' or 'born again'.) But he knew that he was changed. Fathered by God; he had become a Christian.
The candle prayer had been answered.
It was a long journey from the desert of atheism to the flowing waters of faith. First his mind was opened, through our discussions at cell group, to the fact that Christian faith was not, in fact, just irrational nonsense. It brought him a cetain agnostic openness, but couldn't bring him all the way into faith. Then, as he spent more time among the family of God, the church, he found his heart drawn to the love that we have. ('You can feel the love' - it may be a cliché, but yes, he said it.) Faith had made the two foot journey of a lifetime from his head to his heart. There remained one final leg of the journey - to his spirit. And on Sunday night, God made his spirit alive.
Next Sunday, we intend to baptise him in water to complete his beginnings as a Christian.
Thank God. Now the real journey begins. he can head for the horizon. The view is awesome. The Son is shining.