The heat was wet, forming tiny droplets of moisture on my arms and legs, on my face. The smells in the air were thick, acrid aromas of smoke, waste, and animals, cut periodically by the rich tropical sent of flowers and lush vegetation as the breezes opened up through the tiny courtyard. The smooth cement beneath me was slowly loosing its cool, as the sun continued to climb through this tiny village at the top of whatever mountain we were on, in Bali, Indonesia.
I sat in the shade of a covered porch, a long wide outdoor hallway that connected rooms to a small chapel. The porch had three cement steps down into a dirt yard that was home to two wooden outbuildings and an fire pit between them, where breakfast had been prepared. I had been in the last room, at the end of the outdoor hallway, during breakfast. That is where the toilet – a neatly tiled hole on a neatly tiled cement block- was located. I’d dined on charcoal pills and cipero, instead of the rice soup with greens the rest of my outreach team had eaten. I was the only one left in this tiny compound now, everyone else had gone out to meet villagers and encourage the local pastors in a few of the surrounding villages. It was quiet, the silence heavy with the heat. I leaned into another breeze as it passed through, welcoming the break from everyone, even if it had meant snuggling the tiled hole in the ground the night before.
So far things were not turning out as I had imagined. I was in Indonesia co-leading an outreach team with a girl not much older than I was. Our team was small, but most of them were older than both of us, all of them were older than me. It had been rough, and emotionally I was spent and just a little bit broken. My heart cried out for comfort, for peace within me. For the stillness of the heat in the air to be the same stillness within me. The loneliness ached deep, and I begged for relief.
For that, you need to know Me.
I knew that voice. It was familiar, an inner thought, like a whisper, rising up out of within. Surprised by the words I asked, but I do know You, don’t I?
Yes. But, what you’re asking requires a closer knowledge. One that comes from intimacy.
I hadn’t thought about that. I was only 19, and though I hoped to marry one day, I wasn’t ready yet. I had only thought about intimacy as something between married couples. I hadn’t thought much beyond that. Intimacy with God? I asked, what does that look like?
Why don’t you marry me, and lets find out?
It was a startling idea in my mind. I sat there, watching the villagers walking past the fence on the road beyond for a few minutes. Another breeze pulled through, and I leaned forward into it, catching the sent of a frangipani tree somewhere near by. It was kinda romantic, in a sense. And I felt a peace settling through me. Ok, I thought, why not?
Come into the chapel and pick up the flowers at the alter. I’ll walk you down the isle and then we’ll talk.
Sure enough, there were plastic flowers in a plastic vase I hadn’t noticed before, at the wooden alter. I picked them up, and hiked up my sagging shorts. My sick-thinned body was dripping in sweat and I was barefooted, but I walked to the back of the church, which was where the door opened up to the street. There were open widows all along the walls, and curious brown heads craned their brown necks to see what the white girl was doing. But suddenly I felt His presence. I couldn’t see Him, but I could easily imagine His eyes- soft, kind, full of love, gentle and gleaming with joy and anticipation, like He was about to get a gift He’s been longing for, for a while. Felt the air shift, open up and become clearer. As I moved up the isle toward the alter, I started humming a praise song. I felt loved.
When I got to the alter, I heard words almost audibly, Today I promise to love you unconditionally, to pursue you relentlessly, to carry you unwaveringly, to never leave you, to honor and protect you, to cherish you and give you every good thing. I promise to take every opportunity to prove Myself to you, to show you how much I love you, and I promise to renew my intentions toward you and love for you daily. If you accept Me today, all I ask in return is that you give Me a chance every day.
I couldn’t stand. The weight of love I felt was overwhelming and left me weak-kneed and feeling faint. My skin was hot, but dry, a heat that was piercing, and cooling all at once. I sat down in front of the alter.
Do you accept?
The voice was sweet, longing, hoping, soft… close.
That’s all you want from me? To give you a chance? How can that be enough? I don’t understand… I was heartbroken in the tenderness around me. My mind couldn’t comprehend what was taking place.
Will you accept?
Yes, my entire being screamed, yes! With all my heart, yes. All I could do was sit slumped over weeping. A breeze filtered through the small space, and I felt like a hand was stroking my hair.
Then today, this is My covenant with you, My covenant from which all other relationships in your life will grow.
I felt strength fill my body, my legs and arms suddenly light and almost weightless. I stood up and danced. Physically I was alone, but in some real way I was in His arms being led in a dance before an audience. And it wasn’t long before I had an audience of brown heads and brown eyes peering in through the windows, some laughingly, some apprehensively. I felt total and complete joy. My soul felt a restfulness and fullness I hadn’t ever felt before, and I just waived at all the faces.
Waved and smiled, and danced.