Monday, March 4, 2013

Experiencing the Holy Spirit

There is a lot I can't explain about faith, about God, about Christ, about religion.

I don't have all the answers and I certainly have questions.

I've also had experiences in my life that, for me, cement my faith in God.

Spirituality, faith, religion - these are deeply personal, intimate topics.

Sunday morning, I experienced the Holy Spirit in a deep, intimate, and overwhelming way at church.

When I woke up, God was immediately on my mind and in my heart.  I'd had some important conversations the day before - some in a big church setting and some in an intimate one on one setting.

There were plenty of little things not going right in my day.  My hair was not cooperating.  I got a run in my pantyhose.  I couldn't find the skirt I wanted to wear.  A nervous energy settled into me... like anxiety but different.

Sunday mornings aren't just about going to church for me.  I go to church to serve others.  I'm part of our Worship Team and I want to lead others to experiencing a closer relationship with God through worship.  I lead a small group of kids in learning about singing praises to God in between services.  I open myself to be a funnel - I pray for God to use me to reach others, to be open to what He wants from me.

Second service began.  First service had been fine.  Choir with the kids had been fine.  Second service was starting out just fine.

Then we started the third song.  Great I Am.  And it started.  The music filled me.  And I was suddenly overwhelmed by... not emotions.  But it was emotional.  It was joyful, it was this sudden awareness of how blessed I am, how much joy is in my life, how loved I am by God.  But not just loved by God.  Loved by the people that God has put in my life who are filled with His love.  Love that doesn't have a human definition.  I was almost numb but also on fire when the song ended.

The way our church works, we sing, we meet and greet (walk around and say hello and shake hands and hug), the kids have small talk (children's sermon), and this week - offertory, sermon, communion, close with another song.

Meet and greet is one of my favorite times - I love seeing people, saying hello, getting hugs.  This time, it felt like an intrusion.  I was still feeling electric from the experience I'd just had.  I greeted some people and quietly exited the sanctuary - I just needed some time to gather my thoughts.  I ran into a friend in the sanctuary and she's a friend I can very openly talk about these God things with and I shared with her and cried with her... happy, joyful tears.  We spoke about the amazing things we are both seeing God doing as He works through people in our church.

Suddenly, I heard the music for Offertory.  I was supposed to be in there, on the platform, singing with Worship Team.  I'd never missed like this - and I had a part in the song that was just mine.  I rushed into the back of the sanctuary... feeling horrible, feeling like I'd let down my commitment to the team.  For 3 verses, I felt this hot, awful dread and disappointment.  And then the fourth verse started.  And a young woman that i love dearly covered my part.  And the beauty of her voice, this team... it overwhelmed me all over again and I cried again and was overcome by the love I have for others and the love they have for me and the work that God is doing in our lives.

I sat alone in the cry room during the sermon.  I'd grabbed my notebook and pen and was just writing.  I didn't listen to much of the sermon - but enough of it to hear messages about grace and comfort and getting uncomfortable for God.  And I've been realizing more and more lately that all of the hardships of last year were preparing me for something.  That God was with me through it all but that the reason I had to go through it was to realize what God wants from me, where my focus needs to be, and how to grow past my comfort zone into the areas He needs me to be in.

Then came Communion and I cried more - but, again, happy tears.  And happy isn't even the right word because it's too human of a word.  I was overcome, overwhelmed.

Time to sing the last song.  Live Like That.  And this time... I wanna live like that.  And give it all I have.  So that everything I say and do points to You.  If love is who I am, then this is where I stand.  Recklessly abandoned, never holding back.

If love is who I am.

And love is who I am.  Love defines me, fills me, flows through me.  And as I sang these words, and as my heart continued to be filled with the experiences and feelings of the morning... I couldn't sing.  I wept.  I put down my microphone and I stepped back and I raised my hands in the air - Father, I am reaching for You, hold me, lift me, embrace me, guide me.  The song ended and I went to the altar and knelt at the base of our church's cross.  And I cried.

And every tear was an expression of joy, of blessing, of love.

I wiped my eyes and my face and stood and some of my church family had come to embrace me.

One of my favorite people held me and told me that she had wanted to run up and just grab onto me.  Another friend hugged me and said I could talk to him or his wife any time about what I had experienced as I have had open conversations with them about their own worship experiences recently.  And one of my favorite kids was standing there, wanting to make sure I was ok... and I was able to hug her and tell her that my tears were happy tears, joyful tears.  And more of my church family came to make sure I was ok, that there wasn't something wrong.  And some knew that I was experiencing something powerful and positive and overwhelming.

Some of you reading this might have experienced this same sort of thing.  Some of you haven't but have seen it.  Some of you believe I had gas or some unaddressed emotional issue or have some other logical explanation.

But I know that the Holy Spirit was doing something through me, in me.  I don't know what.  I don't know why.  But I know what was going on.  In all the ways I've had experiences with God that have cemented that foundation of my faith... this was a new one, an intense one.

1-2 By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.  3-5 There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!   Romans 5:1-5 (The Message)

And hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need because the Holy Spirit that was given to us has flooded our hearts with God’s love.  Romans 5:5 (The Voice)

The Holy Spirit has flooded my heart with God's love.

That is what happened to me on Sunday morning during worship in my church home.  I was flooded by the love that God has for me, that God has put in my life, that God has put in me for others.



Tracy said...

I know how you feel about a song just washing the Holy Spirit over you. Great I Am can do that to me.

Jules said...

I love those God moments, I too get very emotional, but it shows me I am deep in my faith and on the right path.

C. Beth said...

That is awesome. It's a true gift from God to experience him in that way!

Unknown said...

Dear Liz,

This post is well written. I liked it. It deserves a greater audience. You may like to submit it to another blog that has a very wide readership. Check out A Deeper Story, as they are accepting submissions from new writers on that have something to say about faith.