Last night on the way home from the clubs, I was worshiping and praying out loud when God suddenly spoke something very clear into my heart. It was so deeply profound to me that I bust out laughing and crying all at once. "You're amazing," I kept saying. "You're so incredibly amazing!"
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me."
~Revelations 3:20 NIV 2011
Now imagine, (and here is where it gets even crazier!!) Jesus suddenly appearing in the passenger seat and rocking out with me. We're both drumming now, Him on the dashboard and me on the steering wheel. You might think He's in a pristine white robe (honestly, I thought He would be too), but that's not the case. He has on jeans with holes in them, Converse and a rock and roll T-shirt. Just for clarification, let me assure you this did NOT really happen. If it did, I would have crashed the van and been rocking right up to heaven with Him (Highway To Heaven???). But imagine it anyway. It makes this story way more exciting...
So, I am driving; dangerously, drumming with hands and feet, and Jesus suddenly quiets me. It's just a gentle little breath...a shift in the atmosphere...and everything is still and peaceful. And in my heart, I hear Him whisper, "I desperately want in those clubs, Gia. I love the people in there, with a furious longing. I can stand at the door and knock forever, but no one inside knows I am there wanting in. There is no way for me to set them free, love on them, show them how incredibly precious they are to me. But every time you open the door and go in, you let me in. You are my key...my doorkeeper."
This is when I burst out laughing. But I wasn't laughing like Sarah when the angels said she would have a baby (Genesis 18:12). I was laughing because the theme of the entire night had been keys.
Two Hours Earlier:
I was sent to a club with a team of ladies I'd never worked with before. What made me even more nervous was that my mother-in-law (who I always stick with) was going to a different club than me. I hitched a ride with the prayer warrior that would be waiting in the parking lot the entire time I was in the club. I've not gotten to speak a great deal with this awesome lady, but on the drive over, she spoke some amazing words over me. However, she also made me a little nervous when she said, "I want you to know, you're leading this team tonight." When I get nervous, I have to pee. My prayer warrior friend was lucky I didn't leave a puddle in her passenger seat when she said that to me! When she pulled into the parking lot, she took my hand and prayed over me. When she was finished, I took a deep breath...and the adventure began.
I reached the door first, and when I opened it, I was thinking that we were taking in fresh, clean air. The 'clean' air didn't last long, because the dreaded fog of cigarette smoke quickly swallowed us up (ooof, I HATE the smoke!). The ladies and I sat at a little table at the opposite end of the stage, close to the bar where I tend to feel more protected. There was one dancer on the floor. She was stretched across the bar stools, letting a male patron massage her feet. She had singles tucked in her garter, which strangely enough, is the first time I'd seen a dancer sporting her tips.
The ladies and I sat for a while, and all I could think of was, "Lord, you said I was going to lead this group...but I'm nervous, and I don't recognize any of these people." I had been praying that the bartender who had been on my heart would be there, but she wasn't, and all the ladies I had met and forged relationships with on previous visits weren't working this night.
When the man rubbing the dancer's feet stood up and moved away, I hopped into his seat and stuck my hand out to shake. Probably too brightly, I said, "Hi! I'm Gia!" She blinked and barely reached out to shake my hand. She looked completely startled. I guess I don't blame her. Her eyes cut past me to the man that'd been with her moments ago. "How was your week," I asked.
"Just like every other week...taking care of my grandma."
I tipped my head, keeping my eyes on her her's. She kept looking to her drink, to the man on the other side of the room, to the tips in her garter, and sometimes, only a quick glance at me. "You take care of your grandma? That's so sweet of you."
"Yeah...she's my world." She holds my gaze a little longer this time and I smile.
"Do you have help?"
"I have some family that helps sometimes, but I'm really all she's got."
"Does she live with you, or do you live with her?"
"I live with her."
"You must have a beautiful heart to take care of her like that. Many people wouldn't."
No music had been playing and I got the impression that the gentleman was waiting for her. She cut her eyes away, picked up her things and said, "Listen, I've got work to do." She walked away before I could say anything else.
In the meantime, I sit at the bar, the other ladies on the team only an arm reach behind me, and I sit and hope that when her dance is over she will come back over and talk some more. I sip my water and watch whatever was playing on MTV on the flatscreen over the bar. God, please don't let me home and have to say that I sat at the bar all night in this nasty club and never got to show a single woman Your smile, or speak to them Your words.
Then, like a breath of air, I felt my spirit grow calm. Be patient...sit still. I have a plan.
Suddenly, a huge man approached me. "Can I borrow your lighter, Sweetheart?" he asked.
"Sure, go ahead. That's not mine. It was sitting there already." My skin prickled. Ooof...Lord, what are you doing?
He picked it up and lit his cigarette. I had noticed this man watching me since we walked in. He smiled once or twice, and I knew that he wasn't someone I wanted hanging around me for very long. "How are you? You having a good time tonight?" he asks.
I don't know if he is smiling at me, or what. I just know that he is uncomfortably close. I never looked up at him, just tipped my head and said, "I'm fabulous, thanks!" Since I didn't look up at him and say anything else, I think he got the idea, because he stood there a few more seconds and backed away. When he was gone, I realized I couldn't sit at the bar alone, even if my team was only two feet away. I stood up, and sat back down at the table with the ladies. And I just sat there, making small talk with the team. I was trying not to be discouraged. God said to be patient, so I held on to that. In the meantime, I told that ladies that I was learning drums. We talked about that for a second. Then one of them asked about the key I was wearing around my neck. My hands went to it and I smiled. "My husband made this for me. A long time ago, someone prayed over us and said that by our unique way of loving others would be like the love of Jesus (this ability were our keys). We would use keys He had given to us to unlock broken, hurting people from their bondage. When that happens, He can, and WILL, bring healing to the broken." I also told them that my husband releases his keys when he leads people in worship...
And that's when the bartender walked into the club. I had asked God, "Please let her be there. If she is there, I will know I'm in the right place." As she walked across the club, God whispered...keys.
"Excuse me," a make voice broke in, startling me from my thoughts.
I turned around to find a big man standing near our table. He seemed a bit shy. "Are you ladies good? Can I get you more water?"
"Oh, thank you, but we're good." My teammate answers. "Do you work here?"
He shakes his head. And then, all of a sudden, he kneels down by our table. "I've been feeling convicted the whole time you ladies have been here. You see, I've got trouble with the wife at home, so I thought I needed to get outta there....and I left and walked over here. But I'm not here for the--" he motions towards the stage.
The ladies on my team (they are older than me) begin to talk to him. Without any prompting, he begins to spill out his brokenness. It was such an anointed time, so powerful, that the conversation seems like a blur now. I remember thinking, Lord, do you know this is a man? Don't you know I'm in here for ladies?
But there was that breath again. Peace.
It turns out that this man was an artist who specialized in faces. "Really?" I gasped. "Me too! That's so crazy! It's hard to find other artists that can draw people's faces." I dug out my phone and said, "Let me show you this. I've been thinking about it all day...and I want to share it with you. I think you might appreciate the story behind it..."
"This is a charcoal reproduction I did of another girl's painting. You see," I say, "she was just a little girl when this man started visiting her in her dreams."
He is beaming. "That's Jesus!"
"Exactly. And what's amazing is that she didn't know a thing about Jesus. Her family were agnostic...but she painted this man and started to tell her family about her dreams." He took my phone and stared at the picture for a long time. "I read this book called Heaven If For Real and in it, the little boy goes to heaven during surgery. When he told his family about Jesus, they searched for all kinds of pictures of Jesus to see which one was closest to the real Jesus. Nothing ever matched...but when this image clicked up on the screen, the boy said, 'That's Him! That's Jesus!'"
"Do you paint?" I ask.
"I can't paint. It makes me so mad that I can't when I desperately want to be able to. But the first painting I really did...well, let me show it to you," I say, clicking through the photos on my phone.
"Here she is."
"Wow!" He takes the phone from me. "She's beautiful. I love the colors!"
"Pretty neat, huh? But it was all God. I had no idea what I was doing, but as I painted this woman, He told me what she represented. You see, at the time, I was in the middle of a storm. My husband lost his job. We were losing the house. I was terrified. So the sadness and fear causes this woman to cast her eyes down. But at the same time, she looks peaceful, doesn't she?" He nods. I point to the colors. "The beautiful colors are His peace...it's all Him. In the middle of our brokenness, He is faithful to calm our fears and hearts even though the oceans rage. Kinda like you, right? You're in the middle of a storm...brokenness?"
He nods. "I am. Yeah...I am." He looks back at the painting.
"But the amazing this about this...is the woman's beauty. He will bring us out of our storms, and If we rest in Him when the earth shakes...we will come out of it more beautiful than when we went it."
"Because it's our brokenness, right? He makes us beautiful from our brokenness?"
I smile at him. "That's right. And you know what? He made something beautiful out of what my husband went through."
He talks a lot more...about his art...about the Lord...about his family. The ladies and I speak good things over him. When he speaks about his son, his eyes shinning, we tell him he is a good father. Carefully, we sow truths that the Lord is whispering to us about this man:
You are a good man...a wonderful father.
I can see that your heart is good.
You have a plan and purpose for your life.
A plan that won't harm you.
And by the time it starts to get late and we know we have to be going, this man asks us if we will pray for him, right there in the middle of the strip club--a woman barely clothed in anything but a thong dancing onstage. There are people within ear shot, but we take his hands and begin to pray one at a time. The words that come out of our mouths were powerful, good...uplifting and encouraging. And when we said 'amen' he tugged our hands and began to pray over us. "Thank you, Father," he said with deep emotion, "for sending these women in here and the conviction You placed in my heart." He simply thanked the Lord that we were there...
And when he was finished, my teammate smiled at him and said, "You're too good a man to be here. Go home to your wife. Start over." He had tears in his eyes as he gathered up his things.
The ladies put on their coats and picked up their purses, but I still hadn't forgotten about the bartender. "Just a second," I said, turning and walking to the bar. The bartender smiled at me and walked over...
"You ladies leaving?"
"Yeah...but...I have something for you." My heart started thundering. "Listen, this might sound weird, but since the first night I met you, I've admired you. You have an amazing heart."
I don't think she was expecting those words to come from my mouth, because her entire countenance fell. Her chin trembled and tears flooded her eyes. She snatched me up in a hug. When she pulled away, I took the key necklace off. "My husband made this for me. A long time ago, God told us we had keys...and we used them in the way we loved others, people hard to love, and that the way we loved them would cause them to see Jesus. And these keys, when we use them, they release these people of their burdens...their chains...bondage. When that happens, He can set them free and heal them completely."
I thought this part was going to scare her, but she kept nodding, more and more tears gathering in her eyes.
I pressed the key into her hand and said quietly, "The Lord told me you have these keys too...and as strange as it might sound, you're in the right place. You have keys for these ladies. So I want you to keep this and always remember how very important you are to The Lord."
Again, she squeezed me in a hug. By now, tears were in my eyes too.
"You have no idea," she was saying....
Turns out, God had already been speaking to her about keys through ways I feel are too personal to share with readers. But trust me, God spoke the words she needed most right in that moment. He reminded her of her amazing worth, and her ability to allow Him to use her for mighty good.
"I know it can't be easy for you to work her," I said. "But I see that your heart loves these girls and you want to try to help them and keep them safe."
"And I think you're amazing for that," I smiled.
"I was just telling my children about you the other day," she laughs. "I was telling them about the story you told me when I first met you; about what happened when the lady broke into you house."
I laughed. "Oh really? Did they think I was crazy?"
"No, they asked what you did, and I told them...well, she made the woman coffee, held her hand, and took care of her. And they said, 'Mom! That sounds like you!'"
I could have fallen over, so overwhelmed by God's perfect plan. But instead, I swallowed a huge lump of tears and said, "Sounds like are hearts look alike."
As I was walking out of the club, I bumped fist with the giant bouncer The Lord has given me a heart for. He laughed and shook his head when I tried to walk with 'swag'. I think I amuse him. The bartender says his heart is like ours too...and I believe her. There's just some people that you meet and you can see their goodness shining despite what the world has tried to do to snuff it out.
I don't know how the bartender and bouncer ended up working in one of the worst clubs I've ever been in, but I know that God is in this...and one day, will be in them...
There's no doubt in my mind.
Now back to the scene where I'm driving home:
So, there I was, smelling like smoke, tears in my eyes, with Jesus in the passenger seat. "Doorkeeper, huh?" I say out loud...still giggling. "You do know, that you could just waltz right in, don't you? You don't need me. You can do anything."
And guess what? Jesus giggled too (totally did too, dude!). And He said, "Yeah...but you're the one that's got my keys. I gave them to you, remember?"
So Jesus doesn't have to stand and knock. I'll dig out His keys, unlock the doors, and together, we'll just walk right in.