Gosh, I have so many stories to tell. I love that my life is an open book. No longer are the pages written and kept tucked away from prying eyes. No longer do I wrap a string around the cover of my heart and tie it tightly in a knot so no one else can see what’s written there. I’ve learned that the best stories I have to tell are the ones when I let the finger of God hold the pen and write the words. It becomes His book and He can do what He wants with it. I’ve found myself over the last couple of decades with my heart laid bare, out in the open for all the world to see. A friend told me once that I’m easy to read. I consider that a compliment considering how far I’ve come. If God says He wants others to read what’s written in my life’s story then who am I to say “No” to the Author of Life?
I have a story to tell that’s inspired by another story, one written centuries ago. A story that has stood the passage of time. A story preserved for all mankind. A story straight from God’s heart to mine and hopefully yours.
Several years ago, God gave me a message to speak to a small group of women at my church. I had been reading from the book of Acts, chapter 3. My heart skipped a few beats when I read the passage of the crippled man who begged at the gate called Beautiful. Why would God want us to know this man begged at the Beautiful Gate? What was so special about this particular gate? Since I have an active imagination I like to wonder sometimes why God is so purposeful in the way He speaks to my heart, why He stirs it to stop and ponder certain passages. There were two words that made my heart jump, “beg” and “Beautiful.”
“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer–at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.” Acts 3:1-2
Some people might say that I’m spiritualizing this passage, but that’s okay. God speaks to each of us in a way that we can relate to Him. Somehow I knew I identified with this beggar. I was deeply affected by the picture in my mind of this man, unable to walk, unable to support himself, unable to protect himself and provide for himself. Every day he was carried and placed beside a gate known for its physical beauty. And there he begged. I couldn’t ignore the contrast because my life at one time had been a picture just like this one.
The beggar doesn’t always know what she needs (or he), but there’s an instinct within her that automatically reaches out. As a young girl, I reached out to my family. As a teenager, I reached out to my friends. As a young woman, I reached out to my husband. Some beggars sit in church hoping to find healing, but they don’t find the Healer. Some sit by the roadside, but they don’t find the Helper. Some sit by gateways where people come and go, holding out their hands, reaching out for someone or something to lift them up, to fill them up.
And all the time the Beautiful Gate is right there.
Therefore, Jesus said again, ‘I tell you the truth, I AM the Gate for the sheep….I AM the Gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” John 10: 7, 9
I believe with all my heart I was born again at the age of eight. I didn’t always live like it. I didn’t always act like it, but in my heart I believed God gave me salvation through Jesus Christ and freed me from sin. I just didn’t understand that He also wanted to save me from “Me.” I’m my own worst enemy. I didn’t protect myself from me very well. I couldn’t provide my own healing. I looked to others to make me strong while the Beautiful Gate watched over me in all His healing, all His grace, all His sufficiency, all His splendor just waiting for me to let Him give me what I truly needed. How it must have broken His heart to see me turn to everyone but Him.
I was a beggar who settled for less than God’s best for me. I asked for handouts. I asked for other people’s leftovers. Not intentionally, not literally, but emotionally and mentally. I didn’t think I was good enough for God’s best. I didn’t think I was deserving enough, worthy enough, important enough. I was weak in my physical limitations, but more toxic to me and to those closest to me was the crippling of my heart.
“Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention expecting to get something from them.’ Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ “
Like the crippled beggar, there came a time when I was tired of dragging myself to the same place every single day with a longing that never seemed to be satisfied. I was so weary of begging that I sat at the Gate one last time. I looked up, gave Jesus my full attention and cried out in expectation: I want to be healed, I beg You! For the first time I wanted something only Jesus could give me and that’s when He set me on my feet to walk with strength and courage of heart.
There’s only one way to true delight. Only one way to know the desire of your heart.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
When I made God my heart’s delight I didn’t even want physical healing anymore. God took that desire away from me. Instead, He has used my physical limitations in a far greater way than He would have if He had given me physical restoration.
Every day, people sit at the Beautiful Gate and beg, not realizing that it’s Jesus standing right there beside them. Watching over them. Waiting patiently for them to get sick and tired of begging. Until we learn to stop begging for what we want and start asking for what He wants we’ll always be beggars. We’ll always be cripple. We won’t ever know true delight, an expression of pure and perfect enjoyment in being God’s child.
Begging isn’t such a bad thing when we know what to beg for. I find myself begging these days for different things than I used to…to search God’s heart, to hear His voice, to know His will. I don’t want to just sit at the Beautiful Gate, though. I want to walk through open doors on this earth with confidence because I know one day I’ll walk through gates of splendor and take my Savior’s hand for all eternity. I can picture those pearly gates of heaven in my mind, even though I know not even my active imagination can capture the true glory and beauty of all that heaven contains. What a beautiful, glorious day that will be, but for now, I’ll keep giving Jesus my full attention because I am but a sheep and I long to hear my Shepherd’s voice.
And this is the story of how I found myself at the Beautiful Gate. This is the story of a beggar made beautiful. This is the story of a cripple made complete. This is Jesus’ purpose and mission…to reach out His hand to all who look up…to save those who are crushed in spirit…to bring hope and healing to those who plead.
“When all the people saw him (the crippled beggar) walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what happened to him.”
And I just want you to know…on the day this beggar let Jesus take her hand and lift her up, she has never been the same.
- The Beautiful Gate (olatundeeleanor.wordpress.com)