Earlier today, I walked with my ten year old son Stephen through the National Gallery of Art here in Washington DC. I was amazed at Stephen's ability to feel the art, and to easily identify which pieces touched him and why. Both of us were mesmerized by a certain painting by Andrew Wyth. It is called "Wind From the Sea." (Your computer screen does not do this masterpiece justice.) This work of art swept us away to another place, and made us feel as if the salty breeze were actually fluttering the curtain. The painting portrays a fresh wind, and this imagery reminded me of my friend Maizah, whose husband Eldat is pastoring a church in the Meratus Mountains of Borneo. She tells one of the most amazing stories I've ever ever heard.
WHEN MAIZAH WAS twenty-one years old, she couldn’t tolerate her boyfriend’s jealous tantrums any longer. She worked up the courage to sever the relationship. Heartbroken, he melted into tears on her doorstep, incessantly begging for her to change her mind. Eventually he dried his eyes and shrank away from her front door. Within days, his internal darkness rose up and replaced his pain with furious rage. After threatening her life in a hot rage, he eventually calmed down and settled for cold revenge. He went to the village shaman and paid him to invoke a demonic spell against her.
Maizah was defenseless against the invasion. The horde slithered into her soul, infecting every aspect of her consciousness. The demons carried her down through the shadow layers of cynicism into unimaginable despair. Her soul felt asthmatic, as if it were wheezing for oxygen. Days and nights were filled with thoughts of suicide. Maizah languished under this cloud of depression for three years. She repeatedly went to her religious leader for help. His only answer was that she should wash herself with the ceremonial water in the basement of the mosque, then turn in the direction of a distant city and pray five times every day. Maizah discovered that the rituals of religion were useless to her.
One day, a man walked into the salon where Maizah was working as a stylist. As her scissors snipped his hair, he talked excitedly about something going on at his church later that night. Then he turned around to face her and invited her to come. Maizah had never been inside a church. When she spent time with joyful, smiling friends she almost always found her heart seething with hatred—and she detested those who called themselves Christians. She had walked past churches and found herself loathing the singing that she heard. Their freedom of spirit was nauseous. Around Christians, Maizah felt like the walking dead.
Now she was desperate. That evening, Maizah went straight from work to the address the man had written down. Trying not to be noticed, she gingerly walked in and found an empty chair in the back row. As she watched the people in front of her, her heart swung back and forth. One moment she was sure it was all fake and this was just another empty religion that was powerless to help her. The next minute she felt mysteriously drawn in.
Suddenly she saw a man walking down the center aisle of the church directly toward her. She looked around nervously and tried not to panic. She felt the urge to get up and run out of the door. Before she could decide what to do he was standing next to her. He said, “For over three years now you have been under the spell of a shaman. Christ will set you free tonight.” Suddenly she felt as if she were the only person in the room.
“I don’t believe you.”
He spoke gently, “Let me pray for you. Christ will set you free.”
She answered again, “I don’t believe you.”
“He invites you to believe in him. He wants to wash your soul clean and set you free. He wants you to follow him and him only.” By then the man’s wife was standing next to Maizah and she reached out her right hand and touched Maizah’s head. She folded her left hand around Maizah’s shoulder and gave her a gentle hug. The woman then began to pray that the Spirit of God would enter Maizah’s soul and set her free.
Maizah’s thoughts swam. Everything around her was spinning. After a few minutes, she groaned, “God, please help me!” Then she suddenly gasped. The gates of her heart were swinging wide open, letting in a refreshing breeze. The breath of life swept through her soul. She blacked out and began falling, then moments later she opened her eyes. The man and his wife were helping her up. Maizah began to weep loudly.
All the way home, she wept. Even as she collapsed into her bed, she continued weeping until she cried herself to sleep. The next morning when Maizah woke up, she could see beauty for the first time. The world around her was filled with joyful, radiant colors. She could hardly open her eyes without weeping. Every few minutes, Maizah broke down into tears, and this continued for three more days. At her salon, the four other stylists Maizah worked with were taken by surprise. Amazed by the sudden changes in her life, each of them surrendered her soul to Christ within the week.
The sparkling tears in Maizah’s eyes as she shared her story with me was a refreshing reminder that the Creator lives! To this day, Maizah’s life is undeniably and miraculously transformed. The same Spirit who once hovered over the primordial abyss spoke words of life into the void in her soul, filling her with light and transforming her into a new creation. Maizah avows that she is a completely new person today, thanks to our Creator who is passionate about making all things new. His compassions are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:23) He puts a new song in our mouths. (Psalm 40:3) He has made a new covenant and written a New Testament. He offers us a new birth and he calls us into a new hope. (I Peter 1:3) He is the maker of a new and living way. (Hebrews 10:20) “The old has gone; the new has come!” (II Cor. 5:17) In the new Heavens and the new Earth, Jesus will sit on his throne and still proclaim, “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:5)