Incredulous laughter bubbled up within me as I listened to my friend Martha describing her dream of the night before. Her dark eyes shone and her brow furrowed as she tried to explain it.
English is not her first language, and she did not know the word for fighting with a sword.
"I was wearing the special clothes," she said, "I had the thing on my head and I was using a sword."
"Fencing;" I said, "You were fencing and that was the mask over your face. It's so amazing that you were dreaming about fencing."
She looked puzzled; smiled, shook her head of dark curls and went on excitedly.
"I went all the way until my opponent was on the floor, his sword was across his body and he was totally defeated. It was so easy; just a case of moving forward. There was no effort."
She paused then, and took a deep breath, looking at me curiously.
I told her that just the night before, I had told a true story in a blog post, about an elderly woman who had fenced in her youth. She too, had no difficulty beating any of her opponents and in fact her instructor ran out of people who could challenge her. That she should dream about a sport that is hardly common, the same night that it also appeared in a story I had written, made me wonder. Was God trying to show me something?
In my story, the woman had pulled back from an opportunity to pursue her sport at a higher level of competition. Nearly 70 years later, she told a younger woman seeking the wisdom an older woman might want to pass on, "If you choose not to do something, always ask yourself what is it that is holding you back?"
When I thought of Martha's dream of effortlessly fighting her opponent, and it being emphasized by the parallel story of the woman who beat every challenger easily, it seemed to be driving home what Paul and I have been learning from the book of Watchman Nee's teachings on the book of Ephesians, Sit, Walk, Stand.
Pastor Nee's teachings have opened my eyes to the fact that the work that has been done by God through Christ's atoning death on the cross is complete and finished. All I must do is understand that he is the Giver, the Doer, the Worker, the Saviour, the One who died for my weakness and my sin. He accomplished my salvation and healing. But I must accept it.
I have realized that often I strive and work, trying by my own effort to overcome my weaknesses, but that in essence negates the finished work that Christ has accomplished. I need to learn to rest by faith in the fact that it has been done already.
My first glimmer of understanding has been growing into a beam of joyous radiance!
Suddenly I see. The fruits of the Spirit are the fruits of the Spirit, not the fruits of self effort. He must grow them in me. They are his life lived through me.
My prayers have changed. I no longer strive in prayer but let him lead and entrust the requests to him. I know that he hears, cares and responds.
Truly, his yoke is easy and his burden is light!
Ephesians 6:14-17 (New International Version)
14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.