Healing Line

Healing Line

Flying by Instruments

by Michele Perry
Apr/May/Jun 2013

I woke to the moist heat of early spring 2001 in South Asia, the last scenes of my dream flashing before me in vivid color. Rubbing sleep from my eyes, I grabbed a notebook to write the dream so I would not forget.

Two small planes flew into a bank of ominous greenish black clouds.

Winds and torrential rains buffeted both planes' every maneuver. The first plane was thrown off course, losing its orientation and soon fell spiraling out of the sky. The second plane was tossed about in the violent weather, but it eventually flew through to the other side.

As I woke, I heard the loving voice of Jesus whisper, "Beloved, the bad news is you are entering a stormy season. The good news is you are the second plane. It is time to learn how to fly by your instrument panel."

I did not know how stormy the season would be. Or that from the moment I heard that whisper of His, all would go silent and blank for months and months.

At first, I kept doing what I always did, spending time in stillness waiting to hear His voice. After weeks of static and not much else, I began to feel like God might be knitting on the backside of the universe. Or perhaps I had done something wrong to displease Him.

I went through more weeks of trying figure it out. Where did I go wrong?

No matter how hard I tried to see, it was like I had been expertly blindfolded. All I could see were the pages of my Bible, what God had already promised and what I knew to be true.

I tried fasting. I tried rebuking the silence. I tried stomping my foot and having a good old-fashioned tantrum. Nothing relented. (Not that I thought tantrums were the answer. But I was really frustrated. Can you relate at all to feeling like that?) Months dragged by.

Dear reader, do you know how they test instrument-rated pilots? I didn't.

I found out much later that they blindfold them to everything but their instrument panels in the cockpit of their airplane. The only reference point they have is their understanding of the numbers and gauges on the panel in front of them. And only instrument-rated pilots can fly safely in clouds and storms.

Soon that spring and summer had turned to fall, and I was a student in a five-month training school with an international missions organization in India. It was a growing, stretching time that had almost nothing to do with the classes.

Hidden in my room, I cried myself to sleep almost every night. I felt like I had been plunged into an enormous pitch black room, and God might be in the room, but He wasn't letting on where He was. I was the one who kept running her hands over the walls looking for the light switch so I could see Him again.

I clung to my journal and Bible. I immersed myself in Scripture even if I didn't feel anything. I began to orient my life based on what God said, who I knew Him to be, based on His promises. The pitch-blackness began to lighten ever so slightly. I could sense His Presence if only by sheer faith. I started to know I wasn't alone because He said I wasn't. Not only just because I had an encounter.

Midway through this season, I really did wonder if my sanity was in jeopardy. I begged God to tell me how long this silence would last. In His absolute mercy, He told me that this silent time would end two years from the day I first landed in India. He also gave me one promise. I would come up out of this desert wasteland carried by Him. I cherished those few words as if my life depended on them. In the months ahead, it virtually did.

Part of this discipleship school included an outreach portion. I wound up co-leading our small team. The first half of the outreach went wonderfully with only normal bumps in the road. But the second half of our time was an unmitigated disaster.

We arrived at our second destination in late January in the middle of near blizzard conditions. Our hosts had not even prepared the basics for our coming. There was tension from the outset.

Our primary host was a local pastor, who had major issues with both women and foreigners. Our sending leadership failed to adequately discern in advance where this pastor was in his understanding. He had been sent an all-Indian team led by two women foreigners. That, my friend, was a recipe for trouble.

In all fairness to him, it was a bad situation that could have been avoided by a little foresight. Hindsight is usually 20/20, isn't it?

By the third day this man was responding with violent, erratic behavior, threats to turn us in to the government and curses. At one point he had me physically pinned against the wall shouting death threats. We had to pull the team out and make a run for our own safety, only after he stole all our team money.

I held it together, more or less, until we got all our team members safely put on trains to their respective homes for a break while we sorted the mess out. As soon as they were on their way, my thin façade of normality broke apart.

Our host's contorted, rage-filled face kept playing over and over and over again in my head like a broken record. I could feel him grabbing my collar and nearly lifting me off the ground. I could not sleep. I could not eat. I didn't sleep much more than thirty minutes a night for almost the next two weeks.

Soon afterward, because of his ongoing threats to the organization that put on the school, I was put on a plane back to the U.S.A. with less than 24 hours notice. I was exhausted and deeply shaken by it all.

I arrived back in the U.S. bewildered, emotionally frazzled and possibly with a bit of post-traumatic stress. The dreams I had for India were shattered beyond recognition. All I had to hold on to was the promise of Jesus and His word. He did not rescue me out of that season, but He did walk with me through it.

Almost five months later, I was on my way to move to Colorado to start a new chapter in my life. My routing took me through Kansas City, where I spent several days at the International House of Prayer visiting friends there.

My friends were on the night watch, which is like the night shift of worshiping pray-ers who pray through the hours of midnight to six o'clock. The first two nights I joined them and spent the time reading my Bible and drinking coffee to stay awake. Again I felt and saw nothing except my own raw brokenness.

This silent, dark season had been going on for well over a year at that point. The third night I almost stayed home. I had a severe headache. But I felt a very faint tug on my heart that for some reason I needed to be there. So I decided to go, headache and all.

Throughout the night there were calls for those who wanted prayer to raise their hands. I felt so low I did not even want anyone to pray for me. I just wanted to hide. Six in the morning rolled around. And the leaders issued the last call of the night for prayer. One of the first things I heard in months was Jesus saying, "Put your hand up."

"But I don't want to put my hand up."

"Put it up."

"Okay."

A small group of people I had never met gathered round me. I told them I had a headache. They told me I had been called, "Beloved by my Father in heaven, and the desert time was over. Now the season changes." They saw me coming up out of the wasteland being carried by Jesus. Remember His promise to me from months before? I began to weep with the intensity of His love that wrapped around me.

These people could have no idea what the words they shared with me meant. Soon the weight of His Presence grew so heavy, I could not put words together or sit up without someone holding me in place. It was as if Jesus came and bear-hugged me. I could not walk or talk for over twelve hours. I was carried out of the wasteland in more ways than one.

When this experience began to lift, I realized the date and time. He came not two years to the day I had landed India, but two years to the hour I landed in India, given the time difference. It was as if Jesus had been counting the minutes until He would rush in to engulf me once again in His tangible presence. This season may just have been as hard or harder for Him than it was for me. It still brings tears of gratitude to my eyes even ten years later.

You, sweet friend, have just read of my first experience of what St. John of the Cross and other early Church writers call the soul's dark night.

What exactly is the dark night of the soul?

It is a time when our experience of God's presence is either cut off completely or is greatly diminished. It is a time we must walk by faith and not by sight. It is a time of very little outward feeling and very little to no dramatic outward encounters. It is often wrought with challenges and difficulty.

And all the while it can feel like God is silently knitting on the backside of the universe a few thousand light years away.

But these dry times are the times we learn how to fly by our instrument panels. And they are some of the most important growing experiences in our spiritual journeys with Jesus. They bring the preparation of desperation that creates in us a platform for His demonstration through us.

If we keep walking onward with God, these seasons will come usually more than once. But they do not have to be discouraging or defeating times. They can become springboards into the deepest places of intimacy we have known yet, if we embrace Jesus within them and allow Him to do His work in our hearts.

In these hidden seasons God withdraws much of His tangible touch in the arenas of our soul and the physical world in order to draw us deeper into the realm of the spirit. He is not at all absent, regardless of what we feel or don't feel. He is just present with us interacting in a different way.

What about you friend? Have you too had these times when it felt like God was silent and hidden from your sight? What an encouragement to know He is still present with you; He is simply presenting Himself differently.

The hidden seasons for me ebb and flow much like the tide. But they have become precious intimate times when God cements internally in me that which He desires to do externally around me.

They are times of my faith deepening in the experience of just knowing He is and He is with me regardless of the experience of my faith. Wilderness seasons do not have to be barren seasons. They can be desert places filled with beauty and wonder and burning bushes.

When God withholds the external place of visitation, it is only to build in us an internal place of habitation that cannot be moved no matter how fiercely the storm winds blow. May I pray for you?

Papa, I ask You right now to show this dear one reading this Your nearness... In the places You are hidden, restore the adventure of seeking, knowing You are longing to be found. In the places that are dry, I pray that the outrageous beauty of the desert might be seen. I ask the peace of knowing when sight is cut off, it is a time to learn to fly by what You have already given, so that no cloud, no storm may ever derail Your promise in our lives. Help this amazing friend of mine see all that You are doing in every season of this supernatural journey with You. Amen.





This article is adapted from an excerpt of Chapter 6 of, An Invitation to the Supernatural Life, written by Michel Perry, Chosen Books.

Michele Perry Apr/May/Jun 2013 Issue
Michele Perry is an author, speaker, artist, and founder of Iris Ministries Base Camp, Sudan.