I had the privilege of crossing paths with a woman seven years ago who would greatly shake the foundation of my belief system. I was unaware of her strong determination and passionate approach toward God because she stands at 4 feet something and has a “little” demeanor, obviously because she is so petite. The very thought of her seeming quiet or passive is almost laughable now that our journeys have intersected again, and I hear the power in her spirit resonate through peace. I was most definitely at a different place in my life when we met through a business networking group, and had changed even more by the time I sought her for financial wisdom five years ago as I was walking through a separation that ended in divorce. My, my how I have changed. I no longer assume that everyone needs to pursue Daddy God like I have and come through it looking just as I do. Nor will I mistake one being private about her relationship with God, as not being passionate for Him. And I can admit that having discernment for a few things doesn’t mean I have wisdom in all. This small framed woman was a friend you always pick up with from where you left off. It seems my short visit to Maryland to redeem money troubles was multi-faceted and truly about affirming love in a person first so God can be known. I knew she could help me from a financial standpoint but I had no idea her quest for Pastorship would bless me. Did I know Reverend Johanna Dolan was seeking truth, absolutely. Did I believe it was opposite to the same truth I was seeking years ago, absolutely. Has she loved me so personally now that I felt the tangible presence of Holy Spirit who both opened my eyes to her depth, and want to lay down a self-deprecating thought life, absolutely. It has all been a set-up from Daddy God Himself.
I went to her church the morning following this year’s first big snow in Maryland and was amazed to hear a poignant message about accepting suffering, one I wish I would have heard years ago when much confusion entered my personal life as preaching erupted on American soil of the devil being behind every bad thing and God being good. The foundation from what I knew at salvation about using struggle for my betterment was confused when I applied the mantra of “God only being able to give good things from heaven, therefore anything else was bad”. I couldn’t make sense of hardship because I expected Daddy to whisk me out of it and hope was deferred if He didn’t. I sought the miraculous and found it, often praying for healing and seeing it occur right before my eyes. But what about the expectation for healing that didn’t happen on the spot, and why did I feel jipped and sad for the person walking away unhealed, two people not understanding why God didn’t back up me up? I get that Daddy can only release blessing and love but a systematic approach to using Him for instant prayer request quickly became disappointing. The church I was attending in a small town in Md. dwindled because we did not know how to face tribulation due to being commanded to perform great exploits. Somehow, seeking miracles became a distraction to dealing with the emotional disruption it brought if my passionate prayers weren’t answered. Most of us were encouraged to keep chasing after the supernatural and friends from other religious points of view thought I was turning God into a vending machine. Today, I see both pursuits are correct, but one focuses on teetering on the crazy side for personal validation of being spiritual, and the other totally denouncing the spiritual power of God today.
Rev. Dolan has studied meta-physics and lives it through her Christianity in a way that brings acceptance to God’s timing and patience while waiting for it to manifest. I was equally as blessed by her seeking relationships with people who didn’t think as she did, but to love them anyway. Her preaching was a perfect step-by-step teaching approach to life. She wasn’t offended by the opinions of others, nor did she have to convince her congregation to think she like she did. I believe that her welcoming such a vast array of beliefs under one roof was the Holy Spirits leading to touch me in a gentle way where accusation was absent. My boyfriend and I met up with her at a bakery following the service for financial advice, but Daddy had something far richer to extend to us. In her matter of fact approach, she questioned us as a couple of goals and then addressed my heart. Like an arrow, she pierced it and streams of tears poured down my face as she described my fear of the future being far greater than money. When I traced the steps of our leaving one state to embark on a spiritual journey in another and how my disappointments far outweighed the expectations, I knew she saw an area in my soul that wanted answers. She was candid and I found myself laughing at her synopsis of my depravity and anger that I had used as a shield to make demands on people for feeling out of control. She blatantly said that my choices didn’t have to be summed up as being wrong because that was a lie. The way I do things may seem backward to many people, but that doesn’t make me wrong. She shifted the focus from lacks to what prospers and she re-iterated what my therapist has said for years, “get back to you”. I needed life instruction and she gave it to me simply. Pursue the Lord because I ground myself in Him first and then observe without judgment how my boyfriend decides to better himself. If I accelerate at what I’m supposed to do and he accelerates at what he needs to do, then I will have my answer and peace through God will unite us.
She removed the responsibility for two people off of my shoulders and reminded me that I have the knowledge of my needs; I just need to put them back into motion. She looked at Dylan and began sharing with him what needs of mine weren’t being met and how my intense personality will seek them elsewhere should he fall short. This was not an assault against him or I, but a challenge for him decide where he was going to take his own walk with Christ. This was the part that I was most amazed at. I hadn’t gone into my life story but she remembered our conversations from all those years ago. She became my voice and pointed out to him that I am ready to move past victimization and run into my future with anticipation of greatness in God. My life had dealt me hard blows and I didn’t have time to pick up a person who wasn’t ready to do the necessary introspection into his. His response was a relief for he recognized his own weaknesses and accepted her requirements to pursue Daddy for Himself. She looked him square in the eye and spoke from her stance of masculinity and the importance of seeking that identity so passiveness can be eroded. She is not shamed by her homosexual lifestyle and I was appreciative of her joking about her maleness to relate to him. Equally as important she described the female side to him because of living her own life through hormones that can conjure up emotions. In a way that only God could do, He used every aspect of Johanna’s lifestyle to be an instrument of his voice, speaking truth of what men and women need based on her unlikely candidacy of knowledge. It was like Daddy strategically planned our trip into Maryland for this encounter alone because it met me at a most desperate time.
I was so appreciative for her own seeking of revelation to have brought her as far as it has. I was even more appreciative of the way God relates to us in relationship, regardless of what religious stance or opinions certain Christians may hold in regard to my obtaining insight from a gay pastor. I couldn’t have been more grateful to Daddy for giving me an opportunity to listen to the love from this woman that many would right off because of her sexual orientation. It was a Holy opportunity that He used to share a piece of empathy and compassion as we humans seek relationship with one another. I did not need to take offense of her lifestyle nor did I see it as harmful towards me should she speak into mine. When she shared from her own struggles and trying to make sense of life my spiritual eyes were opened to Jesus’ approval of her pursuit because He has no doubt that she will find truth in Him. He is especially fond of her commitment to finding answers to life’s questions and would hope that many heed her example. Her recommendation of getting help at Celebrate Recovery came from her own need to gain structure after addiction. She bridged the gap that few can even look at, by noting that abuse in childhood causes chemical and physiological disruption in our brains and manifests through behavior, life choices, and physical as well as mental illness. She got me. I knew exactly what she was talking about due to my study of spiritual depravity and it being the basis for our problems.
It was like I was playing the character of Mac from the book , “The Shack”, as I listened to her depth that only comes from seeing God in everything, understanding the pain each of us has endured and responding the best way for us to receive from him personally . I felt no judgment or confusion when she openly admitted her need to seek wholeness in relationships. She was a true student of the word, applying it to her life consistently and constantly, ready to embark on personal change however Holy Spirit leads. In many aspects she is more in tune with love than her Christian brothers and sisters who judge her based on their beliefs of heterosexually being immune to sin. Judgment of any kind always blocks the love that could be felt from God through another. I was blessed by her openness and thankful for an opportunity that religion would most likely miss out on.
What Rev. Johanna Dolan gave me was a gift to accept myself according to the image of Christ that I am. Her soft tones enveloped me as my tears dried up and I felt acceptance, no doubt she felt that same acceptance from us. She asked me how I felt when others needed to correct me, put me down to make themselves feel better or dismiss my requests for fellowship. “What need does this fill for me?” She eloquently explained that what others label as “drama” is simply a void of worth and boundaries. To remain in an atmosphere where I treat others better than I treat me perpetuates a cycle of striving, the very crux of religious judgment. I had sought truth for so long that victimization wasn’t working anymore but others still saw me as weaker because my strength is threatening. I joked at how I would boast in my weaknesses as the Apostle Paul did so I did not seem threatening. She quietly redirected me to my Savior; “He did not suffer with false humility nor was He weak at all, to be like Jesus is to recognize that He never denied His strength”. The fact that He was human and only gained His miraculous power when doing what the Father said, suddenly clicked. I had heard these references before but in a context of seeking recognition or ministry, somehow this was music to my ears, and made my heart dance.
One special gift that Daddy gave me through Johanna’s words was grace. He addressed the biggest issue that I had wrestled since my first date with Dylan who is significantly younger. She said, “The reason why judging people look into your life and feel compelled to help you is because you share hostility only when it’s heightened after being vulnerable in hopes of being understood. The world sees an older woman who has a strong personality and deems you a cougar. A cougar however, is an older woman who preys on a young man to use him for selfish gain and then discard him afterward. This is a dominating aggressive type who needs to use what testosterone she has to tap into so she can ward off emotional connection. You are way too feminine and driven by intimacy to be looking through cougar eyes. Let others sit with their own judgment and start drawing boundaries over your mouth and who you let in”. Wow, wow, wow. If I had a dollar for all the people who insinuated something must be wrong with me for dating a man whose brain hasn’t even fully developed, I could start my own religious non-profit. Needless to say, I breathed a large sigh of relief. After all, I knew plenty of 23 year olds who have married 23 year olds and caution isn’t being sent out to them about not being ready for a relationship, in fact most have always been blessed for finding their “godly mate”.
So on top of being affirmed in my life choices for both the good and bad consequences they have brought, Johanna spoke the words to Dylan and myself of self-care. I had heard these same themes for the past 2 months from Daddy during my quiet time but it’s so amusing that He confirmed them only after returning to my hometown. Johanna said, “Sometimes you have to return home to find what you needed when you left”. I just sat there with peace as I let the last tidbits of discernment in which to move forward in wisdom gently cover me. There wasn’t a need to address finances because in fact everything hopeful stems from a foundation of relationship with Daddy God. I felt confident in approaching money and relationship through God first and trusting He will answer our questions. It was a conclusive confirmation of recent revelation that I had heard from Daddy God but lacked belief for. I had wanted to be heard and understood, loved and accepted and walked away from this reunion thankful for finding it even if it meant weathering a snow storm back in Maryland. I know it was a perfect set-up for my return home to the South.