September 12, 2012
(although this is a lengthy article, please read carefully, and in its entirety)
As you may know, we are in the depths of an election season here in the United States. Those who have known me in the past have known that I used to be quite the political ‘junkie’, so to speak. At the time, I was convinced that God's main mission was to bless, save, and change the United States of America. I was also convinced that one major way He was going to accomplish this mission was through the political realm. Those who know me now, however, know that I no longer believe this.
From Deep Hatred To Deep Love
In today’s post, I would like to share my journey out of deep hatred into deep love. It is such an unlikely story that I have a hard time comprehending it. Simply recalling these events as I write brings back a flood of emotions that are difficult for me to contain. This particular story begins back in December of 2009, in the basement of the home of my family.
A Moment Of Laughter- December 2009
I remember this moment like it was yesterday. It had been a busy & difficult few months, and I was back home visiting family for the holidays. One day in particular, I sensed the need to get away and think in solitude. As a result, I retreated to the basement to quiet my spirit and spend some time in solitude. As soon as I sat down, I sensed an inner dialogue occurring in the depths of my heart with God. What I sensed caught me completely off guard, however, and seemed utterly ridiculous. Here is a paraphrase of the conversation that was happening in me:
ME: I am tired and I need your strength. This situation (referring to a situation that occurred that past year) has been so difficult and I don’t know what else to do. Please take care of everything.
FATHER: I have something that I would like to communicate to Barack Obama.
FATHER: I have a message for Barack Obama and I am entrusting a message for him to you.
ME: (Laughter) Ok, I must really be tired…Is this really you Lord? Do you know who I am? I don’t exactly run in circles that would give me an audience with the President of the United States. Plus, I can’t stand him. I have a lot of things that I can think to say to him, but I’m fairly confident none of those things would be very nice.
Until that point, that was the most ridiculous thing I had ever sensed God saying to me. I have discovered that when it truly is God speaking to me, however, I am not able to forget it. His thoughts seem to stay burned into my heart and mind. As crazy as it sounds, these thoughts about Barack Obama seemed to be like this. They simply would not go away. At the most odd times, I would think about him and what I sensed I heard that day in my family's basement.
As you can imagine, I didn’t say a word about this to anyone. Most people already concluded that I went off the ‘deep end’, and I didn’t want to add to their perception. Thoughts like this, however, made me wonder whether they were right. After a bit of time, I did muster up the courage to tell someone about what I thought I heard. She laughed at me. I promptly reassured her that I had not planned on, nor did I anticipate, mentioning this to anyone.
A One Second Heart Transplant
About six months later, I was spending the afternoon in the home of a friend from Pakistan. He is a former Muslim who has quite a miraculous story about how his eyes were opened to Christ. He has suffered tremendously as a result of His vision of Christ, but that is another subject for another day. Nonetheless, it was at my friend’s gathering in his home that I received a completely new heart for Barack Obama.
The gathering was winding down, and several folks in the other room were engaged in a conversation about a fictional film that portrayed a U.S. President. Although the film had nothing to do with Barack Obama, and I was not apart of their conversation about the movie, he came to mind when I heard them talking about the film. What happened next was unlike anything I have ever experienced.
In an instant, I saw Barack Obama’s face in my mind. I instantly became aware of the fact that my heart, that was usually angry & cold toward the thought of him, was completely gone. In what seemed like a fraction of a second, I noticed that I had an entirely new heart for Barack Obama. The mere thought of him caused me to feel an ocean of affection toward him in the same way that one would have when they see their own child for the first time.
It was more than I could contain. I wanted to burst into tears, but that would have been very awkward since it was a joyous and lighthearted gathering and I was simply standing in a room getting ready to leave. How would I explain that? I regained my composure, but my life has not been the same since that divine moment.
I have never experienced such a profound change of heart toward someone so quickly. This new heart did not see Barack Obama as a President, however. Anytime I heard his voice or saw him on television after that, my heart melted the same way it does when I see a little child. It is difficult to explain with words. For months after this, this picture of Obama would come to mind during times of prayer and contemplation.
Because of my past political beliefs and preoccupation with right wing politics, this heart transplant was clearly a divine intervention. Please understand, this deep love for him had nothing to do with his political office or his policies. Again, I no longer saw him as ‘President’ or politician. I now viewed him the same way that I view my own daughter; with pure love. For me, that has been a miracle of epic proportions. The love that I was experiencing for him was clearly originating from a place far beyond my previous understanding.
A Dinner Of Courage
As I mentioned, God would seem to bring these thoughts to mind at the most random times. About six months later, I was passing through North Carolina on my way back home from a long trip. I decided to stop and have dinner with a friend who lived in the area I was passing through. As we were wrapping up dinner, I sensed God speaking to my heart while my friend was talking with me about something completely unrelated. Here is a paraphrase of how the conversation went:
FATHER: Why have you not told anyone about what I shared with you regarding Barack Obama?
ME: Well…Because they will think I am crazy.
FATHER: No, maybe it’s because you don’t trust me.
ME: Yes, that’s true. But I’m also afraid that I didn’t hear you accurately, and I’m concerned about my own image. (I guess that is a trust issue)
FATHER: I want you to tell Dan about what I spoke to you regarding Barack Obama before you finish dinner tonight. I want you to ask him to pray for you about this situation.
ME: You can’t be serious. This has nothing to do with the conversation we are having, plus he will laugh at me.
After this exchange was over, I tuned back into the conversation that I was having with my friend Dan. I’ll never forget the look on his face when I shared with him what I sensed God was communicating to me about this situation. As I predicted, he laughed at me. He did, however, promise to pray about this situation and I knew he meant it. What happened next, however, completely stunned me.
After dinner was finished and I got back into the car for the long drive home, I decided to check my email on my phone. One email in particular caught my eye. I was intrigued by a personal email invitation to a small gathering in Washington D.C. Apparently, about 50 people were invited to attend a two day gathering in the nation’s capitol to discuss the future of the American church and the impact that the church may have on society and public policy. This was an invitation only gathering.
One of the people organizing this gathering came across an article I wrote about the church, and he felt that I should be apart of the conversation. As I read the details of the agenda of the two day gathering, I noticed that participants of this gathering would need to be cleared by the Secret Service because a part of the meeting would actually be held on White House grounds with Obama administration officials, and possibly Obama himself!
Obviously, this email had my full attention as it’s not everyday that one gets invited to the White House. I was astounded that I received the email about ten minutes after I felt led to speak to my friend Dan about this. Can you believe it? I immediately began to become aware of another conversation happening in my spirit as I drove home. Here is a paraphrase of the conversation my spirit was having with God:
FATHER: Do you believe me now?
ME: It really was you after all…I’m not crazy!
FATHER: No, you’re not.
ME: If I see Obama on this visit to the White House, I will probably only have a minute to speak with him. I have no idea what to say to him. Now that I’m taking this seriously, what do you want me to say?
I received the invitation a few months before the gathering, so I thought I had plenty of time to discover the message for Barack Obama. The only problem was the fact that God didn’t seem to be working on my timetable. I wanted the message now, but I was getting nothing. I didn’t want to make this up. I knew that whatever the message was, it had to be important.
The few months went by quickly. When I left for the conference, I still had absolutely no idea what the message was, or why I was being sent to this conference and the White House. The pattern of my life has been to do things last minute, and this seemed to be no exception. The conference was two and a half days long. We would arrive at a small retreat center in Washington on a Wednesday evening, have discussions all day Thursday, and go to the White House for a meeting on Friday morning.
When I arrived at the gathering, I observed the unique assortment of people that were there. Many of them were well known individuals in Evangelical circles, and others were heads of large religious organizations. Then there was me. God truly has a sense of humor:) I am pretty sure some of them wondered who I was and why I was there.
As I sat through the discussions on Thursday, I thought some of the conversations were interesting and insightful. I was mostly distracted, however. I knew that we were going to the White House the following day, and I desperately wanted to know what this important message was. I was still drawing blanks as to what I might share with Barack Obama if we indeed did have the opportunity to speak with him personally. By the time the discussions were over for the evening on Thursday, and even after speaking with an official from his administration who had been attending the meeting that day, I still had zero insight about what I was supposed to communicate to him.
As I was walking up to my room for the evening, I gave up hope of hearing anything before going to the White House the following morning. It was just then that I sensed this tender voice say:
FATHER: I just want to be his Dad.
ME: That’s it?
ME: That’s your message for him? How am I supposed to tell the President of The United States this?
To be honest, I wasn’t at all sure I correctly heard. It was all I had to go on, however. I decided to stop stressing myself out about it, and go to bed for the evening. The morning was coming quickly, and I wanted to be fresh for whatever the Lord wanted to do at the White House.
When I woke up the following morning, I had a strange peace about the day. I remembered what I sensed the Lord say the night before about desiring to be Barack’s dad, but I still was very unsure about that. The Lord being his ‘Dad’ just didn’t seem that grandiose and important.
After breakfast, we headed over to the White House grounds for the meeting. After we went through security and were cleared by the Secret Service, we were led into the Executive Office Building on the White House grounds.
Everything (windows, doors, chandeliers, etc…) was ornate, elegant, and very big. We entered a large conference room and were seated around a large & beautiful mahogany wood conference table. An Obama administration official, seated at the head of the table, officially welcomed us to the White House. It seemed like a scene out of a movie for sure. For the next few minutes, we went around the table and introduced ourselves.
After the introductions were finished, the administration official shared something that almost knocked me out of my chair. Here is what he said:
As many of you may know, the President has a deep void in his life that he is very open about sharing. The President has a fatherhood void in his life.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! The official went on to share with us about Obama’s personal family life. He did not have a relationship with, or know his biological father from Kenya. Although his mother remarried, no other person filled that role in his life when he was a growing up. It remains a void to this day.
The official then went on to say that because of the void of a father in his own life, the President recognizes that there is also a fatherhood void across the nation. They wanted to address the issue of fatherlessness with a federal program that they brought us there to tell us more about. To be honest, I tuned the rest of the meeting out at that point. I had already heard what I needed to hear, and I sensed God now speaking to my heart very clearly. Two things became crystal clear to me in that moment.
As a young child, Barack Obama was deprived of fatherhood both physically & spiritually.
Barack’s biological father returned to Kenya and abandoned his family when he was only two years old. He never had a relationship with him. That was only a shadow, however, of a much deeper level of fatherlessness in his life. At a young age, a spiritual assault occurred in Barack’s life. As I sat there pondering this in that room in the White House, I began to remember my own first thoughts about God that I had when I was a small child.
When I was six years old, (during the most formative years of my life), I was taught that God was not a parent. I was taught that viewing God as a parent is a grave sin. I learned this at the Islamic mosque that my dad used to regularly take us to. This is one of the first principles of Islam. This teaching deeply, and negatively affected me in ways that I have not come to understand until the last few years.
In that moment in the White House, I began to see how profound of a void that false understanding of God left in my own life. His remedy for this void in my life was a revelation of fatherhood. As Christ is revealed to me, the unconditional love of a Father is revealed to me as well. The Son reveals the Father, and the Father reveals the Son. All wounds and voids are filled by this revelation.
In that moment in the White House, I also began to see why understanding this is important in regards to Barack Obama’s story. Not only was Barack Obama’s biological father a Muslim, his mother remarried an Indonesian Muslim man during Barack’s most formative years. Barack went to live in Indonesia (a Muslim country) and attended a Muslim school there for a couple of years during this formative time period. I believe this has affected him personally like it has affected me.
We learned that the President was not able to meet with us that day because he was making an unannounced trip to Afghanistan. There in that meeting, I had another conversation with God deep in my inner being. Here is a paraphrase that went something like this:
ME: Why did you bring me here to the White House? Why did you want me to know this about Barack’s life? Why did you tell me that you wanted to be his Dad?
FATHER: Because I love him very much, and I wanted you to experience a bit of just how deep this love really is.
ME: You love him so much that you gave me a heart of compassion for him this past year, and you brought me all the way to the White House just to tell me you love him as Dad? I never knew you could love someone so much that you would go to such great lengths to communicate something that seems so simple. Your love is profound! Thank you for showing me this.
FATHER: As a priest, I want you to know, experience, and carry my love for him in your heart.
The awareness of the love of the Father was so palpable and tangible for me in that room in the White House that day that I thought I would come undone and start weeping uncontrollably. It took supernatural strength for me to not become a glorious basket case in front of all those official people. This experience has left me forever changed.
Why I Am Telling This Story
I already know that many folks reading this article will misunderstand my intentions. Some may be very angry. Please understand, this article is not about politics, public policy, social issues, etc… I have had enough of those kinds of conversations in the past. I have no desire to continue those conversations here.
This article is about a heart of love for one person to another. Much of evangelicalism is distracted and consumed with politics and man made nation building. For those of us who may still be distracted by such things, please consider this story. Before you engage in and spew harsh political rhetoric this election season, please know that this person, Barack Obama, is deeply loved, cherished, and treasured by a Father who also loves you just as deeply. He is loved with a love that is inmeasurable. Just know that before you speak.
As crazy at it may sound, this article is also for Barack Obama personally. I’d like to finally deliver this message that I have been sitting on for the last year and a half. If by some small miraculous chance you come across this article, I wanted you to know this story of how much you are loved by a Father that notices you perfectly. He has not abandoned you. He loves you and desires to reveal Himself to you. You are not alone. You have been adopted into family. You have a dad.
May we truly know His love together,