Thursday, March 10, 2005


Every true call is a call to obey God; indeed the word obedience comes from the Latin audire, which means to listen. -- from Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community

Okay. I'm ready to share this. Here’s my religious experience story. Some of you will read it and think, "Wow – cool." Others will read it and think, "Got sanity?" Whatever. It happened to me.

This happened to me a couple of months ago. It was maybe 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning when I awoke suddenly. (Usually this is because my little dog is standing on my fanny – his signal to me to let him out – but this time I just woke up.) I opened my eyes; tried to get my bearings; yawned.

Get on your knees and pray.

You know the monkey-mind mental chatter that runs through our heads all day? This wasn’t it. It was a thought from somewhere else, inserting itself into my own thoughts. That's the only way I can describe it.

That’s weird, I remember thinking. This must be one of those lucid dreams. I patted my face; pinched my arm. No; I’m awake; I can’t be dreaming.

Come on. Get on your knees and pray. It wasn’t an imperious, James-Earl-Jonesian/Barbara Jordanesque command...when I thought about it later, it was more like the Gnat in Alice Through the Looking Glass; a quiet, friendly Presence. The Presence almost seemed...amused. Unlike me; at this point I was starting to break into a cold sweat.

Get on your knees and pray. The Presence had an element of tease; as if the next thought might be, I double-dog dare you. Which would have been funny, if I hadn't been so frightened of what was happening inside my head.

"WHY?" I finally addressed the Presence. (I love this part; this is so me.)

Just get on your knees and pray.

So...I did. I knelt down at the side of my bed, like a little kid, my knees quivering. I was certain that I’d finally lost it. Oh, least they’d find me praying and not, say, standing at the edge of the roof, ready to fly off.

"What should I pray about?"

Anything. Pray the way you always do.

So I did, there in the dark, kneeling on the carpet; for "the whole world, the whole Church of God and for all according to their needs," as I do every evening. Except at this point I was overcome by the sense that I was in the midst of something very real and important, that I was always going to remember, to the end of my days.

I finished praying, when it seemed like a good point to finish. A pause.

That’s fine. You can go back to bed now.

I got back under the covers. I was shaking all over.

"What just happened to me?"

I just wanted to see if you would do that if I asked you to.

That’s when I started crying. And laughing. You’ve got to love a God who does things like this.

But, being me, just as a reality check, when I got up later that morning I fired off an e-mail to a charismatic friend of mine, describing this encounter: "Was this God, or was this me?" The response came back quickly, "Honey, you know who it was. Keep listening."

Has this experience changed my life? Yeah; I think it has. In good ways; in ways that have underscored for me the conviction that I am being led, although I’m not quite sure where. The other day I found myself praying, "Thank you for giving me a job, even though I really don’t know what it is."

I wanted to share this story, because I suspect there are other people out there who have had similar experiences, who haven’t felt comfortable sharing them or who haven't gotten much validation from other Christians. If that describes you, and you are reading this: Don’t be afraid. Honey, you know who it is. And keep listening.


Pf2144 said...

Interesting. I have a feeling that if this was God speaking, this experience was the begining and not the end of what God is leading you towards. Please keep us all informed. I'd love to read about any subsequent experiences you have of this nature.

LutheranChik said...

Oh, I'm sure it's only the beginning. LOL Some of the changes I've seen in myself since this encounter:

It made me genuinely take to heart Kierkegaard's observation that there are admirers of Christ and followers of Christ. I want to be a follower, as difficult and, often, as terrifying as that may be. Frankly, I'm not sure that I'd ever seriously embraced that intention before.

It's made me braver in various areas of my life.

I know it was the catalyst in my deciding to take on my lay leadership training. And it's made me reframe my online activity as service to others rather than an exercise in intellectual stimulation.

One worry I had after this happened was that it had upped the ante, as it were, in terms of my needs for spiritual experience, and that my prayer/devotional life after this would be rather a letdown ("When's the next revelation? Come on, it again!"). This hasn't happened. I just feel very gifted and grateful that God chose, for whatever God's reasons, to engage in a little "dramedy" one morning to assist in my continuing values clarification.;-)

Dash said...

Thank you for sharing this. It helps me. I had an encounter with God some years ago that was actually far simpler than yours, but still, it has steadily over the years influenced my approach to faith. I hold onto my little experience and do not allow any skeptical argument to explain it away. It is an act of faith for me to believe in my experience, to accept it for what it was, and to accept what I have learned from it over the years.

You are right; you have received a gift that will never be removed from you: help for your unbelief!

But remember, "Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet believe." There are far more people who are Thomas-before than who are Thomas-after. I'm not sure what I'm saying here, except, well, just "blessed are they." Remember them.

I'm really enjoying what you write. I think blogging is a ministry that suits you well. Even though it has it's limits, keep going with this. Blogging is in its infancy, and so is the community that it creates. Who knows how it will grow! Let's find out!

LutheranChik said...

I'm still usually "Thomas-before." [sheepish grin] Sometimes people wonder how the apostles could live in an intimate way with Jesus, hear him every day, see him in action, be party to all these remarkable acts of God's power made manifest, and still not "get it," over and over again. Well, I think I know. At least in my case, mystical experience doesn't remove all or even most doubt. It doesn't remove fear. It doesn't create virtue. It just...happens; maybe to nudge us from point A to point B. And people being people, maybe some of us wind up slouching back to point A again.;-) I am still in a kind of happy shock over this remarkable gift, but I'm "keeping it real" about God making Godsself known to us primarily in everyday hearing the Word; in the bread and wine and water of the Sacraments; through the words and actions of others, living Christ into the world; in the miracles of the created world itself.

Andy said...

I like the way you described this as "a thought from somewhere else, inserting itself into my own thoughts." I have had a couple of experiences of that nature (though much less interactive than yours), and that description strikes a chord.

Most recently, I was doing lectio divina and reading Mark 7:34 (and thereabouts), and when I got to the words "Be opened" I was overwhelmed with the sense that Jesus was literally speaking those words to me at that moment. I was more than a little dazed by it and was in a stupor for about the next half an hour. I have no idea what it meant, but it sure was powerful.