It was a good Sunday service, with communal scripture reading, worship singing, communion, quiet time for listening prayer, sharing time when a few prophets spoke or read a verse, and one gave a tongue. All the messages thus far had emphasized God’s faithfulness and love. It was time for the lesson, but the elders heard the Spirit of the Lord inviting us to linger.
After a brief moment with their heads together, they said we would not excuse the children to their classes this time. They invited the musicians to play quietly, and asked about 10 couples to stand in two rows facing each other to make a corridor, arms raised in an arch like a tunnel. They invited everyone to pass through it to experience God’s love in a communal way.
When I passed through this tunnel of blessing, I felt it, deeply. Every person in this temporary structure was filled with the Spirit of God, so that I was immersed in Him. Hands touched my shoulders and back as I passed by, some whispering blessings. An older man I know well hugged me.
When I came out on the other side, I was so overcome by what I felt, that I fell down to worship. After about a minute on the floor I struggled to get back up, but the Spirit was heavy, like a warm weighted blanket.
I heard God say, “Stop struggling and rest in Me, I’m not finished with you yet. I have been breaking you. Stop trying so hard.”
I went limp against the floor and quieted myself. As I rested in His enveloping love, I began to remember moments as a child or adult in which I felt alone and alienated.
People who have near-death experiences often report similar things. They meet with the Lord or an angel, and they recall important details from their lives, but from a different perspective that changes them profoundly.
A few minutes later, I heard God say, “You have a family.”
The family He showed was more than the people gathered together in this room. It reaches backward many centuries, and forward into eternity. The empty place in my heart where my family of origin lives filled up and ran over. I was free to get up and find my seat, but there was no hurry. The tunnel of blessing went on for nearly an hour until everyone who wanted to passed through.
Israel passed through a similar experience when they crossed the Red Sea, and again when they crossed over the Jordan at full flood stage. The walls of water rose above them, enveloping them in the Lord’s salvation as they walked across on dry ground. The Ark of His Presence was with them in the corridor as they passed through. By the time the Lord had broken them for 40+ years in the wilderness, they were no longer just related by blood.
They were the Lord’s people, not just Jacob’s descendants.
The apostles also labored upon the sea on the night after Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish, with walls of water towering over them on either side. Jesus walked out to them upon the sea, and Peter – always trying so hard to be righteous – stepped out to meet Him, but was not able to walk that far on his own. When Jesus helped him back into the boat, there was rest for them all. By the time Jesus was finished breaking them, they were no longer just God’s people.
They had a family.