One night my husband and I were having dinner with a group of friends. There were three couples, and all of our children were there playing together, so it was a pretty full house. The father of one friend was visiting, too.
I had never met my friend's father, and I passed much of the evening without talking; partly because I'm an introvert and tend to get quieter the more people are around, and partly because I had just been going through a difficult season and was feeling particularly weary.
In fact, for some time I had felt as if I were fighting a very hard battle. I don't mind a good fight when I am sure of victory, but lately it seemed like I was constantly losing the battle. And I had started to feel afraid, because the cost of losing was so great.
That's another reason I was quiet that night, really. It was as if whenever I spoke, my words were misheard or misrepresented in some bizarre way that left me baffled. I had reached the verge of not speaking at all.
As our evening wound up and we made our way to our cars, my friend's father approached me. He was hesitant to speak because he didn't know me, and he wasn't sure how I'd respond to what he had to say, but he told me the Lord had just shown him a picture of me in shining armor. He said, “You are a mighty warrior, do not be afraid.”
Whatever concern he may have had about sounding crazy fell away as he spoke those last words with power and authority. It was like being relieved and strengthened at the same time.
About a week later, I got a message from my friend's father. The Lord had shown him one more thing concerning me:
He saw my heart opening like a door on hinges, and many different kinds of birds flew out. Some were strong warrior birds, like hawks and eagles. Others were beautiful song birds. And some were dark, cawing birds. The Lord said not to be afraid of the dark birds, they were being released so my heart could be free of them.
I didn't know what this meant, but I did feel like there were a lot of things trapped inside my heart, and it was definitely closed tight. Some ugly rumors had been circulating in our community about me and my family, and they seemed to grow worse all the time. I was so tired of having to face them every day. I felt like my heart had been locked up for a very long while; if the Lord had a door for that, it was definitely good news to me.
Within a few months, our family had started attending a new church. One night the leader of our s
mall group talked about prayer. At the end he asked us to pair off and pray for each other.
I didn't know the woman I was partnered with; I just asked the Lord what He wanted me to pray for her, then prayed what He put in my heart. When I finished she said, “I just saw your heart opening, and a bird flew out. It was a white dove.”
She had no idea what a powerful image of the Holy Spirit this was to me, or how it connected to what my friend's father had said.
Shortly after that, someone else came to me in church and said that during worship, the Lord had given him a picture of me as a turtle. I put my head out, then drew it back in, put it out, drew it back in. All at once there was this explosion, and the shell broke away to reveal a beautiful songbird. You could see that it was the same head; it had been a song bird all along, it was just trapped in this shell. And I flew everywhere, singing life into people and into situations. When the shell came off, it didn't hurt—I was just released.
At this point, I didn't even care if these people were crazy, it was so lovely to have someone saying nice things to me after all the gossip and judgment we had experienced.
Also, I was starting to get the picture here: The Lord was showing me I had a warrior spirit, and a beautiful, singing spirit, and the Holy Spirit...
So what about the dark, cawing birds?
It was almost a year after the night I met my friend's dad that the dark birds came up. I was listening to a speaker tell a story about his daughter getting stung by a wasp. He said it was crazy how such a little stinger could cause so much pain, but it was all she could focus on until it was removed. He believed there were people there that night who had a stinger of pain in their hearts that the Lord wanted to remove.
Then he shared this image of the Lord asking him to put his heart on the line and send it out to Him. But as he put his heart out there, a big black bird swooped down and landed on it. He got scared, and began reeling his heart back in.
I suddenly remembered the Lord's word to me not to be afraid of the dark, cawing birds; they were coming out so I could be free. I realized that when I closed off my heart, it was because I was afraid—I was afraid of letting out the dark, cawing birds. I was so hurt by the things people had said, people I thought were my friends. What if I opened my heart, and what came out was pain instead of love?
I didn't want to pour that out on anyone, even the people who had caused it. I was afraid that if I opened up at all, it would just spill over and cause them pain, and I didn't want anything to come out of me but Jesus.
But God is so good. He loves us too much to let us suffer more in order to spare other people that suffering—He was showing me how to open my heart and let that pain come out so I could be free of it.
And when I allowed the hurt of false accusation and betrayal to pour out, I found that He had never been disappointed in me for feeling it, for not knowing how to just turn the other cheek and be more like Jesus. He had been grieving with me all along.