Opened Eyes

It had been twenty years since Robin had stepped foot on the campus of her alma mater. Now she was about to board the plane heading to her twentieth class reunion. Wow! It didn’t seem like twenty years had passed. It seemed like only yesterday that she was marching across that stage, diploma in hand ready to take on the world. That day Robin achieved a great victory! She was the first in her family to finish college and she was so proud of her accomplishments. Also on that day Robin made the decision to say goodbye to her college sweetheart Michael forever. Robin couldn’t see herself married to a school teacher. She thought she’d wait for the ideal man, one with lots of ambition and of course lots of money.

Robin’s dreams were always big. She grew up in poverty and was determined to have the things her childhood had not afforded her. After getting her M.B.A., Robin was convinced that she was on her way. Her ten year plan was to work in restaurant management for a large chain like McDonald’s, and then become a franchise owner herself. Everything seemed to be going as planned. To most of the world it looked like Robin had everything – a luxury condominium, a brand new Jaguar, etc. At the ripe old age of 40 she owned two restaurants. She was truly what looked to be a success story.

One morning Robin woke up with what seemed like a dark cloud over her head. She thought it was just the “winter blues” and she was sure she would soon shake it. That day at the office nothing seemed to go right. Robin was just in a “funk.” She thought to herself “this will pass soon. I’ve had bad days before, tomorrow will be better”. But tomorrow never came. Instead this cloud stayed around for months. After talking with a colleague about it, Robin decided to see her doctor. The physician recommended that Robin see a therapist for what she thought was depression. Robin had always thought therapy, just like religion, was for weak-minded people. She’d always been able to handle her own problems, she was mentally strong, and so she quickly declined the doctor’s referral.

Another friend suggested that Robin take a vacation. She thought that Robin might be overworked and stressed and that some time in the sun would do her some good. Just the thought of a vacation seemed to perk her up, so she was convinced that a vacation was the answer. Robin contacted her travel agent and arranged to depart as soon as possible for an exotic vacation.

The next week Robin found herself on the sands of Maui. It was such a beautiful and relaxing environment, but after a few days she was once again feeling somewhat dull and depressed. While lying in the bed one morning Robin thought of her sister in Alabama. It had been a long time since she’d seen her or even thought of her for that matter. But this particular day Robin couldn’t get her sister off her mind. While walking along the beach she could almost hear her sister’s soothing and comforting voice. Robin had never made much time for family; she saw most of them as “liabilities.” One brother was an alcoholic, another sister had a lot of children out of wedlock and then there was her sister Rachel in Alabama who Robin viewed as a religious fanatic. While she still saw her parents periodically, overall she limited her family contact to “charitable contributions.” That night Robin was unable to sleep. She had a nagging headache and her mind constantly went to thoughts of seeing her sister Rachel. Maybe it was time to visit her sister, she thought; or maybe she’d see things more clearly in the morning.

When she awoke, Robin didn’t hesitate. She quickly called her travel agent and booked a flight to Greensboro, AL. Greensboro had a population of – well, let’s just say, however many that were in her sister’s husband’s family. At the airport she rented a car and drove the rest of the way to Greensboro. It was a very modest place. Joseph and Rachel didn’t have much, but they never envied what Robin had. One time Robin had tried to help the brother-in-law to expand his farm, but he said that a “corporate” farm was not the will of God for him. Robin could remember laughing thinking, “Easy for God to say, He doesn’t have to live in this dump.”

As she walked up to the door she saw her brother-in-law’s tall, lanky frame approaching the door. The first thing he did was to chuckle as he saw Robin struggling with all of her Gucci bags. He gave her a great big hug and called to Rachel that there was a surprise at the door.

After dinner Robin and Rachel went for a walk. Robin began the conversation as she always did. She talked about her restaurants and civic activities, but she quickly became frustrated when Rachel didn’t show much interest. A little voice in Robin’s head told her that her sister was jealous of her, and she quickly decided that this had to be the truth.

Later that night Joseph and Rachel invited Robin to have prayer and bible study with them. No thank you she thought, I want no part of that. She’d always believed that religion was for those who couldn’t cope in a competitive world and she wasn’t looking for a crutch. Robin gave the excuse that she was tired and pretended to fall asleep. Because their home was so small Robin could hear Joseph and Rachel talking. She heard them praying for her that her eyes might be opened. “Open my eyes to what!” she thought, “they are so weird, I don’t even know why I came here.”

The next morning Robin found herself unable to even get out of bed. There was such a dark cloud hanging over her that she felt desperately ill. When her sister walked in the room, one glance at Robin, told her that something was wrong. She called Joseph into the room and they began to pray for Robin. Although Robin felt better after they prayed, she kept fighting resentment toward Rachel and Joseph because they’d asked that she be “delivered.” “I don’t have some kind of evil spirit in me” she thought – “these folks are crazy,” but she couldn’t dismiss the fact that she was feeling better than she’d felt in quite a while.

That evening as Robin prepared for bed, Joseph invited her again to have prayer and bible study with him and Rachel. Robin told Joseph that she meant no disrespect but she’d studied religion in college and quite frankly she just didn’t buy it. Just as the night before, she pretended to be asleep but listened attentively as both Joseph and Rachel talked to a God they couldn’t see. What puzzled Robin was that they talked to him as if he were right there. Robin had flipped through the television channels one night and had laughed until her stomach hurt as she watched a television preacher scream and jump around hysterically and frantically. But when Rachel and Joseph talked to God it seemed different. It was as if they were having an intimate, private conversation with a lover or dear friend. Periodically Rachel or Joseph would read or quote a scripture saying that God had “spoken to them.” Although Robin respected their commitment and steadfastness, she still insisted in her heart that Joseph and Rachel used this “God” as a crutch because they were poor and weak minded.

The next day was Sunday and Robin got up expecting to have to make an excuse to bail out of going to church. To her surprise, Joseph informed her that they were spending the day at his parents’ home. That was weird for “Christians” she thought, “seems like they’d be going to church on Sunday.” Although she was puzzled, she couldn’t help but be relieved not to have to tell a little lie. Arriving at Joseph’s parents’ home she noticed a few relatives and neighbors, and others she’d never met. It was about 20 or so adults and many children. Somebody had even brought their dog over. She assumed this was some sort of picnic and she sat down determined to try and enjoy herself. After about a half hour Joseph’s dad beckoned everyone to gather around the oak tree. “He must be one of those old storytellers” she thought, “I’ll just have to sit through it”. Instead, he began to pray and following his prayer others prayed. Even some of the children prayed and Robin was somewhat moved by everyone’s sincerity. Soon people were standing and sharing experiences from the week, and what some called “revelations” or “prophecies” from God. At the end, a young woman approached Robin and introduced herself. As she looked at Robin she began to assure Robin that God loved her and that God was sensitive to the “problems” she had been having. Robin wanted to tell this lady off, but there was such sincerity and gentleness about her, that Robin was in awe and totally speechless. Soon another young lady came over and they both began to pray for Robin. They prayed that she would stop trying to understand God in her mind, and just as Rachel and Joseph had prayed, they asked God to open Robin’s eyes. The one lady prayed asking that God’s joy would dismiss the darkness that had been hanging over Robin’s mind. Had Rachel told these ladies about Robin’s problem? She’d been spending practically all day with Rachel and knew she had called no one the phone. Joseph had been working on the farm all day so he couldn’t have called anyone. With tears in her eyes the one woman said to Robin “God knows the desires of your heart. He’s going to give you a chance to have what your really want.”

That night Robin pondered their words in her heart. Did she have a hidden desire? Was she really happy? Once again Joseph asked Robin to join them for prayer and bible study. This time Robin felt compelled to say yes. Robin was surprised at how vulnerable and insecure she suddenly felt. She had always been in control of meetings and never feared anything or anyone. But in this moment, Robin felt like a little child in need of direction. Joseph began with a prayer that God would open everyone’s heart and their understanding to hear what He (God) would speak to them that night. As they prayed together Robin began to see the emptiness in her life. Suddenly the words of her deceased grandmother came to her mind, in her heart she could hear her say, “Honey, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?” Had she become what grandma was speaking of? Had she gained everything materialistically but was really a lost soul? Was she one of the wise fools that the bible spoke of?

Although God was knocking at the door of Robin’s heart and many seeds had been planted, once Robin returned home it was like the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. Robin went back to her routine and quickly forgot about God, but God didn’t forget about her. After several weeks of being home Robin once again woke up feeling so blue that she could barely move her limbs. What was wrong she thought? I thought I was over this. As she struggled to try to get up for a shower Robin could hear her sister and brother-in-law praying asking God to deliver Robin. She also remembered the lady telling her that God was going to remove the darkness from her life. As she reclined back on the bed Robin sobbed for the first time in many, many years. The last time she’d cried had been as a child when her grandmother passed away. “God” she said, “Do I really have darkness in my life?” “Are you really real?” She babbled on for hours. She found herself talking to what she had in the past called an “invisible God”. She shared information with Him about her childhood, her emptiness, her loneliness, her fears, and even about Michael the man that her heart had secretly longed for since her college years. And then out of nowhere Robin remembered that Joseph and Rachel had given her a bible. She thought she’d never read it, but she opened the book and read from the gospel of John, “He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and smoothed it over my eyes and told me, Go to the pool of Siloam and wash off the mud. I went and washed, and now I can see!” (John 9:11) Robin closed the book and jumped back. All she could think about was how many in Alabama had prayed that her eyes would be opened and now she’d opened the scriptures to a story about a blind man. Suddenly Robin realized that she had been blind, not physically but spiritually. She had closed her eyes to God because she could not see or feel him, and in her intellect, an invisible God just didn’t make sense. But now Robin found herself asking God to open her eyes.

Robin did not leave her condominium all day. Instead she read and prayed all day and she felt like a new person. She knew that she had been saved and delivered as the women said that she would be. That night she called her sister Rachel to share her testimony with her. Rachel, Joseph and Robin all praised God together on the phone. Then Robin asked what she should do now that she was a believer. Joseph gave her a surprising answer, he said, “just continue to seek God and He will direct you.” Robin followed Joseph’s instructions and over the next few months Robin talked with God and studied the Word daily. At the end of each day Robin looked forward to getting home and being alone so that she could talk to her new friend – God. After a while Robin began to lose interest in all of the civic and social activities she’d become involved in. Many in her “circle” became concerned that possibly Robin was having an early “mid-life” crisis and others thought that maybe she’d met a man! Although the rumor mill never stopped turning, Robin didn’t let any of the talk bother her. She’d found a peace and a joy that no one and nothing could take from her.

Suddenly Robin was awakened from her thoughts by a screaming toddler tired of being restrained in the airport. As she sat there she wondered if she would have the opportunity to share her newly found faith at the class reunion. People were probably expecting her to arrive in a limousine and spend half the night talking about her accomplishments. They wouldn’t want to hear about Jesus, especially not from her! Robin reached in her bag for her cell phone. She was so glad to hear her sister’s voice on the other end. “Rachel” she said, “I’m nervous about going to this reunion. Maybe it was a bad idea after all.” “I assure you, Robin, that God wants you to go to this reunion. Just trust him. Remember, you don’t lead, you just follow.” As Robin hung up she thought about what Rachel had said. Robin was so used to having a plan, and being in control. Now, she needed to lean on God and trust the leading of His Spirit. As she prepared to board the plane she remembered how clearly she’d heard the voice of God telling her to make this trip.

It was on a normal day. Robin woke up for an early workout, spent some time in prayer and then headed off to the office. She had several scheduled meetings and planned to review some advertising proposals. At the close of the day, one of the managers paid her a surprise visit. “Bob, this is a pleasant surprise. What can I do for you?” she said. “Robin, everyone is talking about how different you are. You know how you’ve changed and all. You know people are saying some pretty crazy things about you.” “I know,” Robin answered. “But I don’t care about what others say. I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life.” Bob sat silent for quite a while and then he said, “I need to find that happiness Robin.” Right there in her office he began to sob uncontrollably. He told Robin about the recent passing of his sister and the young child she’d left behind. Bob wanted to help but what could he do? He was a single man who worked over 60 hours a week and his elderly parents were doing their best to care for this young child. Robin’s heart welled up inside of her. In the past she would have thought Bob to be a weakling to fall apart, but now she felt nothing but compassion for him. To her own surprise, Robin asked Bob if he wanted to pray about it. He said yes if she thought it would help. She responded, “Bob, I don’t think it will help. I know it will help.” Robin shared the Gospel with Bob that day and encouraged him to seek God for himself. She even told Joseph about Bob and he began to e-mail Bob regularly and they developed quite a friendship. Bob soon gave his life to Christ.

Although Robin was gaining so much through her studies and private time with the Lord, she longed for friendship and fellowship, so she pondered another visit to Alabama. Later that week she called her sister Rachel and told her she wanted to pay them another visit. “I really want to learn more sis and I know that you and Joseph can really help me. I’ll take a couple of weeks off and I can spend some more time with you and the folks from your Sunday fellowship,” she said. When Joseph came to the phone Robin was hurt by his lack of excitement. “Don’t you want me to come see you?” she asked. “Yes, of course” Joseph said, “but God wants to use you right where you are Robin. Let me pray about this and I’ll call you back.” Robin hung up confused as to what Joseph was talking about.

The next morning, very early Joseph called Robin. He told her that Bob had been on his heart and that he felt a need to see him. At that very moment Robin saw God’s plan. Joseph told Robin that the fellowship had collected money to send both Rachel and Joseph to Chicago to spend time with Robin and Bob. He asked if that would be okay. “Okay?” that would be wonderful!” Robin exclaimed. “But I insist on paying for your travels so tell the fellowship to save their money for another missionary trip” she chuckled.

Robin was so excited to see her sister and brother-in-law. They were also excited to see her and to hear more about what God had done in her life. That night was just wonderful for Robin. She talked to God along with Rachel and Joseph and God spoke to all of them collectively. Robin through this experience began to see what it must have been like for the early church as written in the book of Acts. She thought how wonderful it would be to have such fellowship all of the time.

The next night Robin invited Bob over and they all ate and fellowshipped together. The following night Bob brought his parents and his nephew Ronnie over. He had been sharing Christ with them, but being a new convert himself, he felt inadequate. Rachel and Joseph stayed with Robin for two weeks and almost every night of those two weeks Bob and his parents stopped by for fellowship. Eventually both of Bob’s parents made a commitment to Christ. Many others also visited that small condominium during this time for fellowship and to hear of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

The last night of his visit, Joseph urged Robin, Bob, and his parents to continue meeting regularly to encourage one another in faith. Even little Ronnie was excited by the idea. That night during prayer God spoke to Robin’s heart. The Word came to her as clear as if someone were standing there speaking to her, she heard “Go to your class reunion.” Robin remembered that Joseph had spoke of confirmation when you are not sure about a Word, so she went to Bob and then to her sister Rachel. Both of them agreed that God wanted Robin to go to this reunion.

Recalling that day gave Robin the assurance she needed and she was so excited to hear the call to board flight 2211 to Nashville. Arriving on campus everything looked so different. As she walked around many memories of her college days came back to her. The first stop for her was a tea at the sorority house. When she walked in the first person she saw was her old friend Donna. It was so good to see her, and then Donna beckoned to many of the other sisters to come over and welcome Robin. Everywhere she went Robin enjoyed seeing familiar faces.

That evening there was a special choir performance. The university choir was always near and dear to Robin’s heart. She’d seen to it that they’d been able to travel to France, Egypt and many places in the United States. She was invited by the choir director to watch from back stage and so she did. About 30 minutes into the performance she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned around and to her astonishment it was Michael. He gave her a firm hug and a gentle kiss on the cheek. All throughout the night she couldn’t help but watch Michael who was also watching her. Robin was different because of Christ, but there also seemed to be something very different about Michael. Could it be that Michael was also a believer? Oh, that would be too good to be true she thought. Plus, as far as she knew, Michael could be a married man. She decided to just leave it alone and to stay focused upon God making sure not to get distracted or to fall into sin.

Robin woke up the next morning looking forward to a good home cooked meal. The local alumni were fixing breakfast for them in the cafeteria so Robin quickly headed over there. Just a year ago Robin would have come to this breakfast in a suit by Anne Klein or Marc Jacobs. But the new Robin was sitting there comfortable in a pair of jeans, a sweater and a pair of simple loafers. She smiled to herself as she enjoyed her breakfast alone. As she looked up she noticed Michael peering from around the corner. He walked over and asked if he could join her. She offered him a seat and they sat there for the longest with neither one saying anything. After what seemed to be forever, Michael asked Robin about her life. Robin and Michael talked for over an hour doing their best to summarize the last twenty years of their lives. Although they talked about family, friends, jobs, homes, etc., the one constant in their conversation was the change that the revelation of knowing Jesus Christ had made for both of them. It was like a dream come true for Robin! How could they have both ended up on the same path? It seemed as though they were going different ways – Robin to financial success and Michael pursuing his dream of being a school teacher. Both had achieved their worldly goals, but had found a bigger reward in knowing Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Although Robin became reacquainted with many classmates, most of her weekend was spent with Michael. It was evident that they still had love for one another. Michael drove Robin to the airport and they agreed to keep in touch. When Robin called Rachel she expected her to be surprised that Michael was also a Christian. “Isn’t that miraculous Rachel, he’s a believer also, this is just flabbergasting?” Still Rachel just chuckled. Robin yelled to Rachel thinking maybe she didn’t understand, but Rachel had understood. You see Rachel and Joseph had been praying for both Robin and Michael for over 22 years. To Rachel and Joseph they were simply seeing the fruit of effectual prayers.

Just a few months later Michael and Robin were married. At the age of 44 Robin was a bride. At the wedding the woman from the Greensboro fellowship came up to her and said, “Remember, He is going to give you the desires of your heart.” Robin wondered what she could be talking about. She looked at Michael and thought, what more could she want or even ask for. At that moment she looked at little three year old Ronnie covered in cake from head to toe. Robin got up and gently began to clean his little dirty face and a love for this child swept over her as if she gave birth to him at that very moment. Later that year Michael and Robin adopted little Ronnie. God had given Robin the desires of her heart – even those desires she’d hidden.

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