Face buried in my hands, I was feeling broken, torn open to the core … but it was good. The setting was a much-awaited youth conference for which I’d saved money and attended during my junior year of high school. Thoughts about that season of my youth conjure memories of grappling for meaning in life and an all-out search for God. But at that moment, I was wrecked -- but in a good way. Have you ever felt internally exposed and loved all at the same time? Though prior to the event, I’d surrendered as much of my dreams and aspirations to align myself to what I perceived to be God’s will, I’d never felt so unworthy, so convicted about who I was in my heart, so sorry for oversights with people, or oddly, so purely loved all at the same time.
Jonathan Martin, a pastor, summarized the experience well with this quote: "To encounter God is to discover both how small we are and how beloved we are, and we are not prepared either to be so insignificant or so desperately loved. Both revelations are unnerving."
Now, with more years of life under my belt, I’m often amazed at how that event, etched vividly enough to recall, has become a reference point -- a “true north” experience about my relationship to God and other people, and understanding my existence. Awe-inducing reverence of a holy God was the result. It marked me enough to know that I was sick and sinful in HIS presence, but He was LOVE with no limits, so powerful that, though I never wanted to leave the presence I was feeling, it was potent enough to consume me.
This divine appointment humbled me, purified me, empowered me to love in deeper measure, and helped me to see my own selfishness and self-centered sinfulness in the “good works” of my “sacrificial” offerings to God. At the time of the experience, I was confident of no greater joy or contentment on earth. In confession, since then, there have been seasons where I’ve failed and not maintained my sensitivity to God’s inner voice and desired to go my own way. And, LIFE within me has died. But I always have that experience of reference where God tangibly showed up. He continues to from time to time, and it brings about renewal in my sensitivity to Him again.
Have you had an experience like this? If so, what you sensed at the specific encounter and the change in your life that followed couldn’t happen without divine assistance. Is it all God, or are you and I involved in such a happenstance? For me, it was certainly a season marked by a deep search for God and sense of fulfillment and meaning in my own journey. But for others -- they’d say it just happened. This I know: we all NEED a God encounter. As a Christian, I believe I encounter God through the person and divinity of Jesus. It is a God-encounter that changed me internally, purified my motives, and set my desires on a course to please God more than boss, friend, or even a spouse.
How do you have a God encounter? I think the encounters come in all shapes, sizes, and any way that God chooses, but it seems to start with a desire. It probably involves another person who makes you desire Him more in your life. And if there is no desire, I guess we need to turn to God and ask for the hunger. “God give us a desire and people around us that will inspire us to know You.”
Jeremiah 29: 13 NIV, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Isaiah 6: 5 NIV, "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."