There I stood, staring into eyes I had known all my life, but today I didn’t recognize them. Where once life had been vibrant and a smile always danced, now there was only sadness. What had become of me? Where was the Chelsea I’d once been? The one with passion and zeal, who celebrated life and was probably a little crazy?
“You’ve killed her.”
The thought hit me hard, reminding me of a dream I’d had only months before. In the dream, I was leading someone into a field to kill them. I was torn, not wanting to do it, but feeling forced to do so. I dug a hole and the person willingly got in and laid down. When I looked into the hole, I saw myself looking up at me. I started weeping as I began shoveling dirt back into the hole. I awoke with tears soaking my face and a disturbed feeling that this was somehow more than just a creepy dream.
And now, there I was, staring in a mirror at a version of myself I didn’t know. I’d made choices following my return from Africa that had led me here, to this moment, to these questions, and I knew there was no one to blame but myself. I also knew that I was the only one who could get me out, but I was never going to be able to do it alone.
I went for my phone and reached out to some friends who had been my youth leaders when I was younger and were now youth pastors at the church I attended. They knew me well and had watched as I’d taken this path of self-destruction. I told them I couldn’t do this anymore, that I needed their help, and they graciously offered to walk with me towards change.
I began looking at God’s place in my life. Who was He to me now? I had fallen so far, how could I ever recover? The enemy was throwing lies at me, saying “Once you’ve tasted and seen and walked away, there’s no coming back. You’re damned. You might make it to heaven, but you’ve derailed God’s plan for you. There’s no coming back from this. It’s one thing to be an ignorant sinner, but you knew better. God won’t take you back.” I would hear sermons and teachings on the forgiveness of God and the enemy would whisper lies all throughout, telling me that the forgiveness they were talking about was only for those who hadn’t known Jesus before. He used scripture and twisted it, convincing me that what he was saying was true.
It was in the midst of this wrestling, this wondering if God would take such damaged goods as myself, that I met a new friend. I was visiting my parents for a long weekend and they told me about a young lady that had been coming to their small group. She had recently been to China and was excited about missions. They told me they’d introduce us that evening at church.
We met and immediately hit it off. I asked her question after question, eating up all she had to say about her time in China and what God was doing there. I had always wanted to go to China to encourage our persecuted brothers and sisters. It was as if we’d known each other for years and we concluded that one night after church to talk just wasn’t enough. We decided we’d meet for coffee in town the next day before I headed home.
She and I talked for three hours in that coffee shop. She asked me to tell her my story and I told her everything. I told her about my struggles the past couple years after returning from Africa, the relationships I’d been in, the mistakes I’d made, and how I was feeling about it all right then. I cried as I told her I didn’t believe God could use me, I was too damaged. She sat and listened to me, not speaking as I bared my heart to this stranger-turned-sister. There wasn’t a hint of judgement or condemnation in her.
When I had finished, she smiled and replied, “I think you should come to China with me in December.”
“OK,” I replied. I didn’t even stop to think about it. I don’t think I really meant it when I said it. I thought it was a nice idea, but I wouldn’t really be going. My friend told me later she wasn’t really sure why she invited a total stranger to come to China either. It was all a little crazy. God works in the crazy…
As I drove home from our coffee date, I cried and yelled at God. “What are You doing?!” I asked, in bewilderment more than anything. I didn’t hear anything in reply and I finished the drive believing that was the end of our conversation. I most certainly wouldn’t be going to China in six months.
God’s plans were a little different than mine, however. Within a few weeks, I was signed up to go to China with a group I’d never met from Idaho. A few weeks after that, my friend was fronting me the money for the plane ticket and I was asking the church for permission to raise funds. I was once again worrying about actually getting the money. I hadn’t so much as $10 to put towards going and I would be leaving in less than two months. A person I barely knew had paid for my plane ticket and I hadn’t a clue how I’d pay her back. The church allowed me and another young lady in our church to fund raise on a Sunday after services, putting up tables near the front door and putting an insert in the bulletin about our respective trips. And on that single Sunday, I had every cent I needed for China.
The day after Christmas in 2013, my friend and I were heading to the airport to fly to China.
The next two weeks would be a whirlwind of surprises. I would meet people who would become lifelong friends. I would see God move in ways I hadn’t seen before and I would find myself wondering how I was even there. I cannot discuss much of what we did, only that it was incredible work and I am forever grateful to have been a part. We did have the opportunity to meet with and encourage men who were recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. We had the privilege of having hands laid on us and being commissioned by the members of a church in Hong Kong, something I will not soon forget.
Every morning, our group would come together to pray and do a quick bible reading together. Each member of the group was responsible to lead the group on different mornings. It was on such a morning that I was given a prophetic word. I don’t mean a long, specific word. No, I mean, just one…single…word: “Arrow.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“That’s between you and God. I just get the word. He has to tell you what it means,” was his reply. I spent the next several days pondering and trying to figure out what this word could mean.
One day, I became very sick. The night before, I had struggled to sleep because a demon attacked me in the night. I wrestled with it into the early hours of the morning, praying and commanding it to leave, and when it was time to start ministry, I was exhausted. I had intense pain in my stomach and I felt ready to pass out at any moment. We spent the majority of that day touring the city with some students and I tried my best to keep up. Everyone in the group laid hands on me and prayed for my healing but by that evening, I was done.
Finally, I asked some of my group to walk me back to my hotel room because I just couldn’t take the pain anymore. They agreed, and within a few minutes, I was sitting alone in my room in pain and angry. “I came all this way to sit in this room rather than spend time with my brothers and sisters?! Really?!” I decided sulking wasn’t going to do me any good, so I got in the shower to wash off the gunk of the day. I was angry at God for not healing me and didn’t necessarily want to talk to Him but I felt like I needed to pray, so I decided praying in tongues would suffice.
And there I was, praying in tongues in the shower, when I heard Holy Spirit speak to me very clearly.
“Listen to what you are saying,” He whispered.
Now, I can’t explain what happened next. I don’t know if I was speaking English or if Holy Spirit was interpreting what I was saying. All I know is that I understood the words I was speaking but they were not my words. They were promises. I was declaring God’s promises over my life. I vividly remember hearing myself repeating, “You will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” over and over.
In that moment, I knew God had not given up on me. It was as if all of the lies that I had been believing were being dissolved into the present and living, spoken, now-Word of God. I suddenly knew what “arrow” meant. It was one of His names for me, because I was His arrow. I was a weapon in His hand that He would plunge into the heart of the enemy. I was His warrior.
And I slept my first peaceful sleep in months that night.
The next morning, as I entered the room for our morning prayer, it was clear I was different. The encounter I’d had the night before had so changed me, there was physical evidence of it. One of the group said, “Chels, you walked into this hotel one person last night, and I don’t know what happened, but you just walking into this hotel room this morning someone different.”
That was the day I had the opportunity to share my story. I had been pondering what I would say to our persecuted family when I realized, I must tell them what happened last night. As I told the room of the lies I had been believing, the performance mentality I’d been living under, my brothers and sisters began to repent of lies they had been believing and getting free!
Our victories are never just for us. We are here to take vengeance on the enemy for what he’s stolen from us.
Our victories, when shared with others, make him pay for what he’s taken!
I came home with a new sense of purpose and identity. I was beginning to understand who my God is and who I am in Him. My return was only a few days before my 24th birthday, so my friend had prepared a day of surprises for me.
We got in her car and she blurted, “It was supposed to be a surprise when we got there, but I’m getting you a tattoo!”
I was excited and began contemplating what I would get. I had told her before that I wanted a tattoo on my hand, so she’d already booked my appointment with a gentleman who specialized in hand and finger tattoos. “Arrow” came to mind, and I knew it was what I would get. I told my friend the story and she immediately agreed.
I see my arrow tattoo and I think of redemption. There isn’t a single part of my life my Father has not redeemed. He continues to redeem it. I think of my identity in Him and of my Father who will always be speaking identity over me, louder and louder until I have ears to hear.
He speaks over you. Can you hear Him?