Dry leaves crackled underfoot as I followed Ian down a narrow path through the dense woods at the north end of campus. I began to fret aloud, afraid that Rob’s accusations were at least partly true.
We reached a fallen tree, and Ian motioned for me to sit. He knelt in front of me and took my hand.
“I want you to stop talking to yourself like that, Giselle,” he said gently.
“But it’s all true, isn’t it?” Was that the first time he’d ever used my real name in conversation?
“Not necessarily. No one’s perfect. We have an Advocate, Jesus Christ, who defends us before the Father against all the Enemy’s slanders and accusations.”
I sniffled and wiped away a tear that slid down my cheek. “I know that sounds right, but I still feel so awful. How can I be sure that God’s not really angry with me?” I asked.
“You really want to know what He thinks of you?”
“Well then, just ask Him.”
“Yes, now. Why don’t you ask God what he thinks about you and just listen for the answer? Scripture says that the Spirit will testify to our spirit that we are his children. I think you could use that assurance right now, don’t you?”
“It sure wouldn’t hurt. It’s worth a try, I guess. How will I know what the answer is? Will I hear a voice?”
“Maybe, or maybe just an impression, or an image. Something so different from what you think about yourself and the way you look at things, that you know it’s gotta be from Him.”
Ian stood and moved behind me, placing one hand on my head and one on my shoulder. When he finished praying, he squeezed my shoulder. I cleared my throat, hesitating. I rarely prayed aloud, and never in front of others. What should I say? Was I praying to the Father, Son or Holy Spirit?
“God,” I stammered at last, “I’m so confused. People I thought were friends have said awful things about me, and worse, I believe them. Can you please show me if they’re right? What do you see when you look at me?” I reached up and touched the hand on my shoulder to let Ian know I was done.
“Good, now we meditate in silence for as long as it takes for the Lord to move,” he said. He sat down across from me. “Just close your eyes again, and listen for God’s voice.”
I did as instructed, feeling ridiculous. Nothing happened. What was I expecting, a ray of light to beam down from the clouds and a choir of angels heralding the answer?
I began to formulate a way to gracefully exit the situation without hurting Ian’s feelings or looking like a heathen. I knew he would want me to share God’s answer, and I had to come up with something plausible. What would God be likely to say?
Before I could concoct anything, I heard it.
Giselle Gottlieb, my precious daughter, I love you more than you can know.
A warm tingle spread from my scalp down to my shoulders. Where did that come from? Did I invent it?
Before I could analyze further, a series of images flashed on my mind’s eye. A small girl ran to the arms of a large man with a full, dark beard. “Daddy!” the child cried with delight. The man swept the girl into a bear hug, and all at once, I was the girl. Arms wrapped around me tightly, rocking me back and forth.
My heart filled with an intense emotion beyond description. I wept.
The vision subsided, and I opened my eyes. I still sat in the cold gray woods. Doubts crept in instantly. Had that been real or just a product of an overactive imagination? Perhaps my subconscious generated the pictures to help ease the pain of the truth?
Ian appeared to be studying me. “It looks like God answered your prayer. If you don’t mind sharing, what did He say?”
“He said … well, it’s not like I heard an actual voice.” Why did I hesitate to repeat the words I had been given? “I saw a man hugging a girl, and then I felt like maybe I was the girl being hugged. I don’t know. Honestly, it feels like I just imagined the whole thing.”
“Don’t be so hasty to say that, Gigi. Think about how you felt when you saw that man hugging the girl. What did it mean to you?”
“It really touched me to see how happy he was to see her, and she him. I’ve never seen such a joyful reunion.”
“Maybe that could have been God showing His heart for you. He does long to spend time with us, you know. And he calls us his children. I want you to keep praying about it this week to get confirmation from the Lord, but it sounds to me like He wanted to give you a powerful experience of His love.”
It didn’t make sense. I fell so short of everyone’s expectations, especially my own. Could God really love me that much?