I was standing in line at the DMV when I noticed the girl in front of me. She was dressed like a cheer leader with fishnet stockings. I wouldn’t have paid any mind, except that I had just had a dream about a warped table with a Bible where the plate belonged and a fishing net thrown over top of the whole thing. In my dream, I had started to move the Bible out of the way, but then I hesitated, thinking that whoever was going to eat would need to read while they dined. Then I heard God’s voice, saying, “What is an invitation to one is a stumbling block to another.”
As my memory drew the parallel between her fishnet stockings and the table in my dream, I began to question whether this was a God appointment. Suddenly, the young lady experienced an itch. As she reached back to scratch her neck, the collar of her shirt dropped just low enough for me to see what looked like the head of a dragon. I exhaled. Me and God and dragons… this is a thing. I bit my lip, nervously, and that poor girl just kept itching while I watched the dragon drive up and down, above and then below her collar.
“You want me to say something, don’t you,” I whispered… more of a statement than a question.
“Ask her about her tattoo,” said Holy Spirit.
So I did.
And I kept asking questions, trying to understand what God had been showing me. And a little at a time, a picture began to come together, of a girl who had been hurt and thought she should be strong, so she got a tattoo of a Korean dragon that represented strength and bravery.
“You know,” I told her, “when I need to be strong, I go to God. Do you go to church anywhere?”
She used to go with a friend, but something tragic happened to the friendship…
“Do you have a relationship with God?” I probed.
Her response was that she didn’t feel very close to God anymore.
“Why do you think that is?” I asked with genuine interest.
She chose her words carefully… “I’ve been through some difficult circumstances,” she tilted her head. “When I talked to my mom about it, she said God gives us difficulties, but he knows how much we can handle.”
And there it was. The invitation. The stumbling block. The Bible is an invitation to a relationship with God, but when we misinterpret Scripture it can become a stumbling block. I could almost feel God cry, while the woman behind the counter called her away from me to finish her business.
“Oh, God, please don’t let that be all,” I prayed, desperate for words to speak God’s heart. She thought she needed a strong, brave heart, because God was intentionally causing her heartache.
A long time ago, a wise woman taught me that there are several things that impact us:
1- Our circumstances. We all have our own set, from birth, and it is some time before we are old enough to influence them.
2- Our choices/our sin. Our choices directly impact our relationships and opportunities. When we mess up, we can cause ourselves pain.
3-Other people’s choices/their sin. We don’t have control over others’ choices, but they definitely impact us. I doubt that I need to elaborate on this. You can probably come up with lists of your own.
What we do have control over is our response to these things.
- We can choose to be content with our circumstances, and change them when it’s possible.
- We can choose to repent when we sin.
- We can choose to forgive when other people hurt us. God’s children know that trials handled in a Godly way lead to spiritual maturity (James 1). We know that no experience is wasted. But to those who are outside of Christ and are without God’s resources to deal with the challenges and the heartaches of life, the Lord says,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29, NIV
Thank God, when the cheerleader with fishnet stockings finished her business with the DMV, she stopped long enough for me to whisper to her that God isn’t out to get her by afflicting her with difficult circumstances… “but He wants to help you through them.” I held her gaze for a moment and then she nodded. “Thank you,” she said, and then she left.
Now I pray for the girl with the dragon tattoo, that God will continue to reveal His heart to her, and that she will understand that His invitation is grace that she can run into for safety, not a stumbling block to cause her pain.