Tuesday, 10 August 2010

God Knows

I think it’s all about our awareness of the spirit. In 1981 or 1982, I was very concerned about a friend of mine who was quite ill physically and emotionally in a bad way. One night, in that time between lights out and falling asleep, I found myself saying in my mind, “Dear Lord, you know Margaret – you know her better than I do. Please look after her.” Then I realised that I was praying. At that time and for many years, I had thought and believed that, at least for me, God was not real – there was no God. There was no one to pray to. As soon as I realised that I was praying, I stopped.

Too late. I had already said my prayer. What’s more, in an instant, three other things happened that I had never experienced before. My eyes were closed, the room was unlit and the curtains drawn, but I saw a very bright, soft, white light which filled my gaze. At the same time, there was a huge sense of presence: I was in the presence of someone as vast as outer space, but completely kind, not at all unsafe. At the same time, I also received knowledge, a message, though not in words. To tell anyone else about it, I have to translate it into words. Roughly speaking, I was told, “Message received and understood.” Not, “OK, we will do as you ask,” but “Heard you.”

As I said my prayer to “Dear Lord,” I thought (as much as I thought anything) that I was addressing Jesus, but the response I got was so huge that I then thought, and I still think, that for the first time I was aware of the presence of God. Thinking that, I still did nothing about it for the best part of twenty-five years. I told myself, “I have experienced the presence of God,” and yet I did nothing. I don’t know why I dealt with it as I did, but looking back, I assume that I wasn’t ready to handle it any other way at that time. My friends tell me that these things should not be rushed.

I believe that the significance of that first exchange was not that God should be informed that Margaret was in a bad way. As I said at the time, God knew her better than I did. Nor was it necessary for God to be told that I was worried about her – if God knew her, God also knew what was going on in me. Nor was it about asking God to intercede on her behalf – the response was, “Heard you,” not “Roger, Wilco.” I think the significance of that two-way communion was to let me know I believed in God, when I believed I didn’t. Possibly to open my eyes to the reality of God, but definitely to open my eyes to the fact that I was already a believer. If not, why was I praying? “There you go, Paul, you’re praying to the Lord. Now, what does that tell you about yourself?” It seems “Do you believe in God?” and “Do you know whether you believe in God?” are two different questions.

Which is surprising. I was certainly surprised by what I did that night, as well as by the response I got. But I have thought for some time that surprising discoveries and answers to questions you didn’t know you were asking are rather convincing. To find God after years of conscious schooling and diligent ground-work may be scarcely surprising, but to find out that you are already a believer, against your expectation and rather against your will, seems more compelling. Perhaps that is what is meant when the Bible says that there is more rejoicing in Heaven when one lost soul finds his way than when a procession of virtuous people enter the Kingdom, to paraphrase Matthew 15:7. It may be no bad thing if the way to grace is a bit hairy.

Do I believe that God would take the trouble to send me a personal message just to let me know that, against all expectations, I was a believer? Yes, I do. God is like that.


Craig Barnett said...

Wonderful - and thank you for sharing this experience with us.

Paul Hunt said...

Oops! That Bible reference should be Luke 15:7. Matthew 18:12-23 heads in the same direction with his version of the parable of the lost sheep, but doesn't get to quite the same place.

Paul Hunt

Nadine Wills said...

I love your certainty at the end here Paul. For the longest time, I was convinced that I absolutely was not religious because I don't experience or find that I can't believe in God in this way - although kept thinking this is what I should have - once I was able to let go of that and accept and observe what I do experience, I was able to see myself as spiritual and connected. Not in this way, not in your way, but I am very glad and reassured to find out that this experience does exist for you. It sounds wonderful.

Nadine Wills said...

Hm, I just noticed that both Craig and I used the word "wonderful" to describe this post. Coincidence? :-)