A Testimony of an Event of 3/23/97
by Philip McPherson Rudisill
For a long time I actively hated a certain woman who lives and exercises a good bit of power in my condo complex (and hated not entirely for selfish reasons). I awakened one day recently and realized that I was descending imperceptibly into a pit of mutual destruction and hate. Very troubled about this, I began to ask God to help me escape, and other Christians to pray for my soul's state. I resolved to become different with regard to this enemy and tried very hard. I disengaged myself from active opposition to her; and I sought to temper my speech about her to reflect the love of Christ. To no apparent avail however; for even planned conversations with or about her inevitably deteriorated into an attempt to get the "last word" and to leave her looking bad. Each "good" word was accompanied with a cutting edge.
I recently went so far as to try to trick my body into a genuine and spontaneous prayer for this person by positioning her name and picture in and amongst the names and images of those whom I love by natural and moral affection in order to pray for her sincerely as I prayed for these others whom I truly love; but I caught myself in this attempt at self deception (for the sake of the gospel) and cried out from the depths of my soul: "but it's a lie; for I really resent her having prosperity and good fortune, and while I can truly hope for, and rejoice over, the good fortune of the others, I cannot do so for her." And I had to admit that I simply was not going to be able to love this person except with reluctance and continued force of will, i.e., merely formally. I cried out in desperation to God for salvation from this consuming hate!
On the morning of 3/23/97 about 5:10 AM, I was participant in a miracle. I had suddenly begun to look upon this my nemesis as caught in her own evil plotting and doings, even as I was caught in my own hatred of her, and how she would spend eternity looking at others with her own hatred and suspicion; and this picture of hell so moved me to pity that I suddenly and spontaneously began weeping for her, and indeed convulsively so. I willingly and easily prayed that neither she nor I might end up in such a state, and that God would touch her even as he was now touching me. I further and gladly resolved to act with genuine and deliberate and intelligent compassion to remove the barriers that stood between us (and between her and others), even to the extent of humbling myself in her eyes and asking her for a favor (which I recently discovered to be mildly desirable, but which pride had kept me from uttering to her), and which would enable her to have the last word.
And thusly was my prayer to God answered and my soul transformed, and thusly also do I say with John Wesley: what the gospel promises has been (or at least is being) accomplished in my soul, for my flesh has been quickened to weep for a hated enemy. "And I cry with joy unspeakable: thou art my Lord, my God!"
"Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature's night.
'Thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke; the dungeon flamed with light.
"My chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth, and followed Thee."
PS The details of this experience in real time as it happened to me can be found on my web site listing of my journal for 3/23/97 at 5:10 AM.
PPS To get a word in for Wesley, the elements of sanctifying faith are three fold:
1. believe that the scriptures promise perfection, and
2. believe that God can provide what the scriptures promise, and
3. believe that he can do it now.
PPPS. This episode, in my opinion, is merely another of the myriad cases of the transformation of the flesh (the body and the ego) into a likeness of Christ. We Wesleyans assert that salvation means this transformation and that this transformation will in fact occur to every believer, although it is possible that time will be too short for it to be manifested in the flesh and we will not recognize it until the life to come. The models of contrast are Zacchaeus, who had time and opportunity for his transformation to be manifested in multiple good deeds and generosity, while the thief on the cross was limited and could not see the changes in his own flesh as a result of his encounter, but which would have resulted in loving actions had he been able to live long enough for the opportunity to arise. Both men were transformed, but with only one was it clear to the eyes of the flesh.
In fact I am even now wondering if this is not the Witness of the Spirit that Paul refers to. My own spirit testifies to my desire to love this woman properly, and of my abject inability to do so. Thus in my weakness (which must always be my greatest strength, i.e., the application of my greatest power and not a feigned weakness) the strength of God is manifested, and here indeed by a transformation of my flesh. What greater evidence could there be of the power of the Spirit of God that the flesh itself be quickened into life, as indeed we begin to celebrate next Sunday the power of this same Spirit in the resurrection of our Lord's own body.
"Spirit of Faith, come down; reveal the things of God;
"Make to us the Godhead known, and witness with the blood;
"'Tis thine the blood to apply, and give us eyes to see:
"Who did for every sinner die, hath surely died for me!"