Dr. Stephen Phinney & Xulon Press
He whispered in my sleep. He called me by name. I awakened as the voice gradually became stronger and whirled around my subconscious. I gazed around my bedroom, expecting to discover the presence of the one calling my name.
I jumped from my bed in desperation. The voice spoke again, Come unto Me. My heart began to race. I was fronted with darkness that took the air from my soul. I am alone. The darkness pulled me deeper and deeper into a passage likened to a vortex of despair. Within moments, I was swiftly ushered into a world of nothingness. I lost touch with the world around me. The silence was torturous pain, presenting itself as permissible suffocation. I stood still. Froozen in time. I heard the noises of darkness. Silence screamed the sounds of evil. This place seemed all too familiar.
As I strained to look through the darkness, I saw the morbid entrance to a cave. A small light flicked within. I was compelled to enter. The air turned cold, comfortless, and chillingly isolated. As I stood in the cave, the voice whispered again. I have called you into the darkness to see the light. I frantically looked around the cave to see who was speaking. While no soul was found, I immediately saw pictures meticulously framed in gold and silver. Within each frame were horrid snapshots revealing deplorable deeds I committed throughout my life. Shame consumed my soul. I squeezed my eyes tightly and began to weep uncontrollably.
As sadness rolled over my heart and mind, the voice whispered. Open your eyes. Cast your eyes upon each picture, for I am about to reveal the Truth. I obeyed. I tried to lift my feet but found them stuck to the cave’s floor. It was like thick honey was binding them. As I laboriously clopped around, I stood before each picture, studying each as if my life depended upon it. Guilt flooded my soul. I wanted to hide, but I knew there was no passageway back to my conscious world. I was trapped.
As each picture suddenly came alive, pleasure, fear, and disappointment were rooted in my soul. It was like watching a movie. I heard the words and saw the deeds as if they were unfolding in my presence. On the one hand, I wanted to watch; on the other hand, I wanted to destroy the picture. The fight within my mind was overwhelmingly tiresome. I began to feel like a depleted, defeated warrior on a battlefield. I smelled the stench of my evil deeds. I became sick. I could not vomit. The sickness rolled around in my body until I began to faint. Then, my worst fear fronted me – I began to suffocate. I couldn’t breathe. I noticed the flickering light speed up, like a strobe. Then, lights out.
As I stood in the cave, the darkness blinded me. The silence was deafening. The presence of evil rolled in like a dark storm. I heard the laughter of demons, rushing by my ears like the winds of chaos. Suddenly, one of those dark spirits spoke the words my soul fought. See, you are nothing but a failure. You are a loser, and nobody cares about your anguish. Now you must pay for your sins.
These messages seemed to go on for hours. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t hide. I was stuck to the floor by the sweetness of my sins. I was held in bondage to the memories of my past, suffocating in the darkness I created. I thought I was in Hell.
The next thing I knew, I was standing in my office - exhausted. The next two months, I suffered a foreign mental torment. Cold sweat nightmares plagued me. Questions, doubts, and fears ruled my mind throughout each day. I concluded that I was a lost soul going to Hell, minimally a massive disappointment to God.
Again, the voice summoned me in a deep sleep. This time, the voice was deep and commanding. Stephen, come forth. I leaped from my bed and said Here I am, Lord. Again, I was pulled into this vortex of darkness. I found myself back in the cave succumbing to defeat. Suddenly, a brilliant blue light burst through the cave’s entrance. In the center of this magnificent light stood a man dressed in white. His face was radiant, with fire in His eyes, a drawn sword, and a gentle smile. Then, He spoke.
Stephen, My Redeemed. I have taken you to the depths of darkness and despair. I called you to cast your eyes upon what you were. I have revealed your madness of framing your past with My cherished metals of gold and silver. No longer visit this dark place in your mind. Use the sword I imparted to you to fight against the creatures of this dark domain. I have set you apart to proclaim who I Am, not who you were. I have given you a new name and identity and called you to walk a less traveled road. Go now, and never return to this dark cave again. Stephen, you are My Redeemed.
Who I was is no more. He is all the more. While I had known the principles of the believer’s identity in Christ for many years, this true-to-life experience shifted me into a level of the Deeper Life in Christ I believe few have come to know. Today, I refer to this experience as my “Garden of Gethsemane.” Yes. It was dark, very dark. It was torturous. But, both the Lord and I know that I discovered the light and Life of Jesus Christ in a way that empowers me to draw the sword of the Spirit during those once defeating temptations of visiting the dark cave of my past.
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