DaRT: World of Colors

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Contributed by Julie Atwood

Back and forth. Forth and back.

Every evening Robert paces the downtown Dallas parking lot, a restless lean shadow against the purpling dusk. From time to time he pauses, props himself against the Dumpster that shields the metal shed he’s made his home. There he flicks his fingers and mumbles to himself, lost within his world of black and white.

Robert has no idea that in several weeks to come, his world will be transformed into colors by a dream.

The dream of a woman he doesn’t yet know . . . planted within her mind by a God he’s not sure he wants to meet.

And he has no idea that in several weeks to come, God will use his transformation to light a spark of faith and purpose in the heart of another woman he doesn’t know.

Week One.

Robert is approached by a man, the first to stride forward from a trio of smiling strangers. “Hi, how you doing?” the guy asks, after introducing himself as Gerald and his female companions as Brandy and Julie. “You need prayer for anything?”

“Naw, naw.” Robert backs off quickly, fanning two nervous palms against the beaming strangers as he flashes a polite answering smile. “I’m good. I’m doin’ just fine.” He watches with relief as the three folks stroll on past him—Gerald and Brandy chatting while Julie, like a human third wheel, slinks behind them in head-bent silence. But soon his stomach knots as he watches the strangers stop only several feet away from him. As the two women link hands in apparent prayer . . . while that bold Gerald dude about-faces and comes striding straight back to him.

Again offering to pray for him.

Not once. Not twice. But three times in a row . . . while the two ladies with him, who are still standing several feet away, link hands and bow their heads.

The third time Gerald offers prayer, he also offers Robert money for permission.

Robert rolls his eyes and shakes his head at the dude. “You just don’t give up, do you?”

In the meantime, while linking hands with Brandy, Julie feels a dead weight in her gut . . . the weight of being the third wheel. The tongue-tied, clueless one who never speaks to strangers. The last one to see Robert lurking in the shadows. And the one who sensed nothing when, almost as one person, Gerald and Brandy pointed out the pacing homeless man and told each other, “I sense he’s the one the Holy Spirit’s led us to tonight. Don’t you?”

But now, while Brandy intercedes aloud for Gerald’s interaction with the stranger, Julie does feel something after all. A warm Presence, a gentle thrill of peace. It’s just the faintest twinge. But when Gerald returns to report Robert’s complaint about them not giving up, Brandy says, “Let’s pray he sees from this that God isn’t giving up on him either.”

And for the first time that evening, Julie feels hope that God also isn’t giving up on her.

Week Two.

Well, it’s actually Week Three . . . but it’s only the second time for Julie to see Robert. She chose to skip the train ride to Dallas the week before, begging for a break from the trauma of meeting strangers for whom she still senses almost nothing. But warmed by the encouragement of her friends—“We need back-up intercessors too”—she’s promised to return the following week.

Tonight her traveling companions are two completely different people—Brandy’s quiet husband Dustin and lively Natalie. Well, Henry, Cheryl, and Abbie are also in the party. But, just as they did the last week Julie joined the group, these three take off to offer prayer and loving friendship to the Hindu and Buddhist proprieters of a nearby pizza shop. Dustin and Natalie, with Julie once more scurrying behind, are tonight the ones to seek out Robert.

Natalie’s had a dream about him.

“I saw him locked outside in a world of black and white,” she tells her praying companions. “I lived inside a world of colors. But as I watched, the Lord pulled Robert in with me to also live inside my world of colors.”

Tonight Robert winces as he once again spots a smiling trio headed straight for him. No—he more than winces; he sets off pacing back and forth across the parking lot. Back and forth, forth and back, in rapid wild-eyed frenzy. As he strides his long fingers flick frantic warnings, warding off the group as he bursts out chanting words only he—and perhaps those within the spirit realm—can understand.

This time the person approaching him with boldness is a woman.

Natalie. Bent upon sharing with him her dream.

Whether he wants to hear it or not.

Back and forth, forth and back, Natalie keeps rapid pace with Robert as they talk. She in English, he at first in what sounds like some exotic foreign language.

As she did the time before, Julie remains behind to pray in silence—this time while Dustin intercedes aloud. He intercedes with gentleness. Yet this time, the thrill coursing through her proves far from gentle.

And far more than a twinge.

This time, Julie finds herself zapped. Ignited by an inner white-hot flame. A thrill of power, of love and joy, sets her hands shaking as she’s lifted from her weight of feeling like a useless lump and freed to share in the Love that now pervades the parking lot.

Robert’s frenzied chants have quieted, switched to English. He’s no longer chanting, no longer flicking fingers. No longer warding off Natalie’s bold, persistent prayers or attempts to reach him through conversation. Instead, he’s speaking back to her . . . in a calm and quiet voice. Sharing with her a segment of his world. Their frantic pace has slowed to the easy stroll of two friendly companions.

And then, the final miracle.

Natalie calls the others over to greet Robert. He’s beaming now—this time a genuine smile, filled with light—as he pumps the hands of all three folks who prayed for him.

Two weeks later.

Once again Julie finds herself stumbling through the crowds of downtown Dallas, tagging along as the clumsy third member of a trio. Since this time her companions are a married couple—Brandy and Dustin together—she feels at first more than ever like a third wheel. But again affirmed and encouraged by her friends, she’s eager to again find and see the transformed Robert.

Tonight it’s Dustin’s turn to pray with him.

This time, when Robert once more spots a smiling trio heading for him, he doesn’t ward them off with outthrust palms or flicking fingers. Nor does he pace, chant, or even call out a tense, “Naw. I’m good, I’m fine.”

Instead he greets them warmly, welcoming the soft-spoken dude who tonight engages him in conversation. As she stays behind to pray in her usual wordless way, while Brandy intercedes aloud, Julie once again feels touched by the Spirit.

This time, like the first time she ever prayed for Robert, the touch is one of peace and calm. Gentle as the dialogue she hears taking place between Dustin and Robert, who have launched into a profound theological discussion. She overhears them sharing ideas in a mutual exchange of reason and compassion. And this time Robert proves unmarred by frenzy, by retreat into a parallel realm of black and white.

“I’m pretty sure he’s a Christian,” Dustin reports of Robert after their conversation. “He knows the Lord. He just processes information in a different way, thinks and talks differently from most other people.”

Julie smiles at that. She thinks, He’s different. Just like me.

Yet different as he is, Robert’s been allowed to enter Natalie’s world of colors.

Another two weeks. Tonight Julie finds herself again with Natalie . . . and surprised to find her bold friend worried she’s put poor Robert off by her persistent prayers. Doesn’t she believe the miracle God’s worked in him through her?

“Let’s go check him out so you can see for yourself.” That’s not Julie speaking, but tonight’s third companion—good-natured, outspoken Abbie.

Again Julie trails behind two much bolder folks as they scout the parking lot, then stroll up to Robert for a follow-up chat. This time he shakes his head and rolls his eyes a little, as if to say, Not you folks again. I don’t believe this. But he pumps the hands of all three ladies and greets them with good cheer, his eyes still calm and sane as he props himself with nonchalance against the battered Dumpster.

Natalie’s convinced. God has indeed used her to draw Robert into her world of colors.

Abbie, in tonight’s absence of Henry and Cheryl—the friends who usually accompany her to the pizza shop—is eager to take Natalie and Julie there instead. Introduce them to the friends she’s made who run the shop. Hindu Ravi and Buddhist Lan, who’ve found these Christian visitors different from most. Folks who don’t preach at them or shove tracts in their faces, but who show them the love of their Lord through simple friendship. Who relate to them as Jesus would have done while He walked the earth.

As always, Julie hangs back to watch as Natalie joins Abbie in conversing with the men. How loving they are . . . and yet how bold. All the folks she’s traveled with thus far—Gerald, Brandy, Dustin, Natalie, Abbie, Henry, and Cheryl—amaze her with their boldness no less than with their love.

She does not yet envision such boldness for herself. In fact, when touring downtown Dallas, she’d rather enjoy colors and lights than human beings. Lose herself in the neon signs that ignite the dusk . . . flashes of red and green and gold, of blue and purple and shining silver.

But she’s learning she can also enjoy human colors. The colors of the locals drifting past her on the streets, dark as shadows emerging from the dusk. The cinnamon and saffron faces of Ravi and Lan, the black-coffee face of Robert . . . contrasting with the moonlight-pale faces of those in her own group. She can enjoy the varied colors of her companions’ hair . . . ranging from Henry’s drifts of snow to Brandy’s russet flames to the others’ assorted hues of chestnut, chocolate, and licorice.

And she can also enjoy the inner colors of her friends . . . which vary in subtle undertones of gentleness and passion, brashness and sensitivity, laid-back friendly chitchat and profound theological discussion. But pervading all she still sees their golden light of boldness . . . a shared brilliance against which her softer blue of back-up intercession feels quite different.

And yet they’ve reassured her that different is okay. That back-up intercession has a purpose and a place.

Like Robert, she may process information differently . . . think and talk and behave a little differently from most. Yet like this resident of a Dallas parking lot, she’s still been invited to join the world of colors.

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