SOLD, Inktense pencil, Colored Pencil on Watercolor Paper
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)
This drawing depicts a dream I had, which I call my “Crucifixion Dream”. The dream was a ‘sequel’ to my “Gethsemane Dream” because it began exactly where the Gethsemane dream left off. These dreams were prophetic of a journey upon which God was going to take me in which he would teach me how to worship him acceptably as a living sacrifice.
One year prior to the onset of this journey, during the Easter holiday, I had my “Gethsemane Dream”:
I observed Christ on the cross extremely close up to his face (about 1 foot away). He was in excruciating pain and was gasping for breath very erratically because the pain was so intense. Though he was dying, he was still alive. He was a bloodied pulp, truly disfigured and marred beyond the likeness of any man (Isaiah 52:14). His suffering was so intense and so near to me that it completely overwhelmed me. All I wanted to do was leave the scene because I could not bear the intensity of the graphic horror in my face. It was too agonizing and troubling to be that close to Christ’s suffering. I then moved on from this vision in my dream.
In the next scene of my dream I was sentenced to die the next day. In that fleeting time before my execution I had to absolutely surrender EVERYTHING–my marriage, my ministry, my life–to God in worship. I begged God to take the cup of sorrow and death and suffering away from me and spare my life. I was terrified to die, and I thought it was a terrible tragedy that my life would be snuffed out prematurely at 31 years of age. At the end of the dream, when my execution was at hand, I was terrified and in the depths of grief, and all my strength was gone.
Throughout the entire dream I was pleading with God to spare my life. I couldn’t understand why I had to be executed, and I certainly didn’t believe God would want me to be cut off from the land of the living in the prime of my life. Certainly he would want to use me for another 50 years. I tried to fling myself toward God to save me, but I only collapsed to the ground, for I had no strength left.
Then God my Father spoke to me saying, “Why don’t you just let go and trust me?” I realized then that it was God’s perfect will for me to die, and I had been resisting it this whole time! By his grace alone, he brought me into absolute surrender to his perfect will. I woke up right before my execution.
This dream haunted me, and I didn’t understand it. Then exactly one year later, on the night of Good Friday, God set the gears in motion in real life to fulfil this prophetic dream. God was going to teach me how to worship him as a living sacrifice. God was going to ‘execute’ me. He was going to teach me what it really means to die to self (Luke 9:23-25). I thought I knew, but I really didn’t, and I still have much to learn. He was going to lead me through my own personal Gethsemane and Calvary. I don’t expect anyone to understand what I’m saying. The apostle Paul explains it in Philippians 3:7-4:1, a passage which is far deeper than what we often realize.
About two years later, God gave me a sequel to my “Gethsemane Dream”, my “Crucifixion Dream”.
I did not want to do a piece of artwork about my Crucifixion dream, mainly because I felt like people wouldn’t be able to understand it (even though it made perfect sense to me, and it was actually the greatest comfort to me). I also worried that people would be prone to misinterpret it and come to all sorts of wrong conclusions about God, his character and his ways of working, especially those who aren’t very familiar with Christianity or those who are newer in their walk with Jesus. However, I felt like God kept urging me to do a piece of artwork, so I eventually did. I am doing it in faith that he will use it as he intends, and I will do my best to explain it so people will not misunderstand or misinterpret it.
My “Crucifixion Dream”:
So far as events go, my Crucifixion Dream began where my Gethsemane Dream left off.
I was about to be executed. It was all dark. My hands were free, but then I felt someone putting them together behind my back to bind them with rope.
It was my husband, but it was not my husband. Though it was my husband it was actually Jesus. Jesus, my husband, was situating my hands exactly how he wanted them in order to bind them with rope and lead me away to be crucified. He fidgeted with my hands for a moment, putting them into the exact position he wanted them to be in in order to bind them. I did not resist but wholly surrendered to how he positioned them. Then he bound them with rope.
In the next scene of my dream Jesus, my husband, took my left arm and laid it against a cross to crucify me. I noticed that my hand was colored bright blood red, but not with blood. My hands were the same vibrant colors I use in my artwork to depict praise and worship. Praise and worship were bound up within me, and somehow I knew the only way they could be released was through crucifixion.
Jesus, my husband, then took a large nail and placed it upon my wrist, between the bones of my left arm. Then he pounded it through my wrist with a hammer although I was not looking because I could not bear the horror of the sight.
The dream was so real I thought it was actually happening. I physically felt excruciating pain, like lightning, assail my body, and I writhed in agony. Yet, I knew this was the way it had to be and that it was meant to be. I was spared no pain. I felt pain in its fullest measure when the nail was driven through my wrist. However, I was still wholly submitted to the work Jesus was doing in me. I knew the colors of praise and worship that were bound up in my hand were being released through crucifixion.
Amazingly, I had a very deep sense of peace throughout the entire dream. Even though I was writhing in excruciating agony, Jesus was my committed, loving husband, and his constant presence comforted me. He was not crucifying me because his own sacrificial death for my sins was insufficient. My crucifixion had absolutely nothing to do with sin or expiation for sin; it had everything to do with death to self (Luke 9:23-25). Neither was he crucifying me because he was angry with me or punishing me, nor was he being cruel or evil to me. He was not torturing me just for the sake of it, nor did he find some sort of perverted pleasure in it.
Instead, I felt his love and his peace. I fully, fully trusted in him, and though I couldn’t understand what he was doing, I had absolute assurance in my heart that he was perfectly wise and that what he was doing was in accordance with his wisdom and his higher purposes for me, which were far beyond my human comprehension (Isaiah 55:8-9). I had a constant sense of total safety because he was my husband and he knew exactly what he was doing.
I also somehow knew that what he was doing was for the greater good and that it was also for my own good. The full depths of the experience were like a mystery concealed within his wisdom, and I simply had to trust him without having full understanding of what I was going through. Today, I comprehend some of his work, but I do not comprehend it fully. What I do understand I will share with you:
God’s whole purpose in bringing me through this journey has been to teach me what it means to worship as a living sacrifice and what it means to worship in spirit and truth (Romans 12:1, John 4:23-24). My very deep, heartfelt prayer has been that God would make me a true worshiper and that he would bring me into absolute surrender to his perfect will. This journey through “Gethsemane” and “Calvary” is the answer to that prayer. He is teaching me what it means to worship as a living sacrifice, which is my spiritual (or reasonable) act of worship. Though it has been excruciating as crucifixion to my soul, I wouldn’t trade it for the whole world, for God is granting me the desire of my heart.
The greatest act of love we could possibly give to God is to lay down our lives for him in worship. This means far more than just laying down all of our possessions and dreams and desires. It means even more than absolutely surrendering ourselves to do his will. It is something far, far deeper. It is surrendering the very right to our selves to God and becoming, literally, his vessel, to do whatever he pleases with.
I believe this is what Paul spoke about in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead.”
Personally, I do not believe that this verse is speaking about physical death (at least primarily) but rather, the subjective working of the cross upon the soul and what it means to “lose your life” (Matthew 10:38-39) in order that the life lived in the body no longer comes from the human origin of the soul, but rather, the source of God’s Spirit–Jesus’ life exchanged for mine (Galatians 2:20). It is the resurrection life of the Holy Spirit living and working in a jar of clay:
“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Watchman Nee, in his book The Normal Christian Life, does an excellent job explaining this process from about Chapter 12 or 13 onwards (which you cannot fully appreciate unless you’ve read the preceding chapters). I highly recommend that every Christian read this book, and it can be read online for free on Ethereal Library).
For more on my experience of being taught what it means to worship as a living sacrifice, please see the other pieces of artwork directly relating to this Gethsemane and Crucifixion journey. (Chronologically, in terms of the lessons I learned, this piece of artwork fits in between 2 and 3):