By Brian Barlow
On a recent trip to San Diego, I was given an unexpected gift for my birthday. My bride Nichole had been planning this trip for several weeks. We dropped the boys off at grandparents and arrived at our new waterfront hotel in downtown San Diego.
San Diego held for me many memories from my sexually disoriented past. We walked the streets together and I saw familiar sites which evoked that past. I found my heart growing heavier as the night progressed. Once seated for dinner at a Mexican restaurant, I began to share with Nichole my regrets over unhappy relationships with guys I had met in San Diego years earlier.
I hadn’t expected our trip to produce raw and melancholy emotions about my past. Thank God our marriage is secure enough for us to bear each other burdens related to past sins and hurts. Still, it was awkward, especially when the host greeted us and engaged in conversation. His ‘gay’ persona left me sober. It wasn’t offensive or flagrant, just familiar. I pondered and quietly asked the Lord: ‘What is this? Am I feeling regret? Am I digressing? If so, how can I stay present? You have transformed my life by giving me a wife and family, a gift I once thought impossible when I wandered these familiar streets alone many years ago…’
Then the Holy Spirit whispered: ‘I have come to redeem that past.’ I sighed then realized that was a moment when the “there and then” could be healed in the “here and now.” But how? I felt grief and shame over the life I once lived. I regretted how I hurt good people. Then I felt the Lord redirect my thoughts back to our host: ‘He is a man in the “here and now” whom you can choose to love rightly, a man created to reflect My image. He needs to know I AM his Fighting Father still fighting for his life.’
When our meal was finished the host returned to the table. In that moment, the Lord prompted me to ask a question: ‘What’s your name? How are you?’ “Nicholas” seemed perplexed and gave a simple response to which I asked again: ‘Is there anything you would like us to pray about for you? Anything in your life that you need? Financial? Life in general?’
His face sobered and he responded, ‘I really want to keep this job! I just started two weeks ago and I really like it.’ He responded in earnest this time I asked if we could pray; Nichole and I each held a hand. In the moments that followed the man seemed renewed. Though we can never know the sum of this man’s life, three people entered into a holy moment of healing in that restaurant. We who each reflect the image of God portrayed the glory of God together.
We are created by the Father who made us to live in right relationship with others. Throughout the years that original portrait might be misused, discarded, stolen and hidden for fear of being reclaimed by the rightful owner. Sound familiar? Life can mare and disfigure our portrait to the point of becoming unrecognizable. It would take the “Artist Himself” to reclaim and restore the image to its original state.
That is what the three of us shared together in a Mexican restaurant. By reaching through the pleasantries and calling him by name, we gave Nicholas a moment to pause and be known. Even more so, he was reminded that he has a Heavenly Father who sees him and who has not forgotten him. As Nichole and I prayed over Nicholas, we experienced the Living God embrace us. ‘Thank you, what a gift!’ responded Nicholas. ‘Can I give you a hug?’ He then reached for Nichole. Joy replaced heaviness.
Brian Barlow is our amazing regional coordinator for Southern CA. Come and hear Nichole and Brian at our daylong conference in Pasadena CA on August 20th. Sign up now!