It was one of those nights— a night of loneliness, confusion, worry, and despair. I had been in bed for almost three hours, but still, sleep did not come. I tossed and turned, trying to find a comfortable position, but nothing seemed to help bring me peace. My mind spun in circles, contemplating everything from financial worries at the camp I direct to personal decisions for my career that had the potential to effect the rest of my life. I was a bundle of nerves and escalating fear.
It was so quiet in my room that I thought I could scream. The silence was so deafening that I began to wonder if I might be the only one awake in the world— or at lest in my building. I couldn’t take it any longer! In desperation, I flung the covers aside and paced the room. I began to pray out loud, begging and pleading God to give me even just a measure of peace. But as I continued to pace and pray, my agitation grew and I soon became exhausted.
I crossed into my darkened living room and flung myself down into my recliner. Now, I love my recliner; its not oversized and bulky like some recliners I’ve seen, but instead it is almost as it it was made to fit my size. I am short in stature and this chair could not be more perfect for me. I curled up that night in the recliner, wrapping myself cocoon-style in my favorite quilt. And then I lost myself in gut-wrenching tears. Why I was so emotional, desperate, and panic-driven that night I may never know for sure. But what I do know with distinct clarity is what happened next.
When my tears were spent, I was completely exhausted with no more strength to pray. Yet, I felt compelled to say something to Him— something that would communicate the deep emotional strain that still existed in my heart. I recalled a pastor’s sermon I had heard years before which focused on the Holy Spirit. The pastor told the congregation that sometimes there are simply no words to pray, but the Holy Spirit will intercede for us in what we can’t express. Scripture confirms this in Romans 8:26. So curled into my recliner, I simply uttered the name of Jesus over and over: “Jesus… Jesus… Jesus…”
I started to feel a semblance of peace come over me, and then the most incredible thing happened. I distinctly felt warmth all around me and the almost perceptible sensation of a physical touch. It was as if Jesus had come, through the Spirit, and wrapped His arms around me. He was holding me there, and I knew He had come to comfort me. After all, when Jesus told of the Holy Spirit that would come to His people after His death, He often described Him as the Comforter.
There are no other words to adequately expressed what took place that night. In fact, it was such an intimate experience that my eyes well up with tears if I think about it for too long. He was there with me in the purest reality I have ever witnessed.
You might be reading this with a bit of disbelief. You may even be wondering if I just imagined all of this to be. But I’m telling You, the Holy Spirit is present and active today and every day. Have you ever felt His presence in worship? I have been drawn into Spirit led worship on a few occasions, and like my experience in the recliner, it is just as incredible.
I can remember one such occurrence when Vanessa and I were leading worship at FRC on a particularly important Sunday. I was being observed by a committee for a potential opportunity— more or less an interview of sorts. I was nervous, jittery, and far from calm. But Vanessa, always the calm one, helped put everything in perspective. I remember praying that morning and inviting the Holy Spirit to enter into our time of worship and song. And to our utter joy and amazement, He came!
We were singing “Revelation Song” at the top of our voices when I felt it— a Presence that came over the sanctuary without a doubt as do its origin. I felt a a warmth and a chill both at the same time. Although we were singing with great volume, it was almost as if a hush had come over the room as well. There was a sense of expectancy, wholeness, and promise. It is a time and place I will never forget. For a moment, I thought I was the only one to experience it until Vanessa pulled me aside afterward.
“Did you feel it?” she asked me.
I knew exactly what she meant with her words.
“Yes,” I recall saying. “The Spirit was here.”
Now, coming from a conservative Reformed Church background, the Holy Spirit is not something that enters many conversations. Oftentimes, mention of the Holy Spirit conjures images of flaming tongues of fire at the time of the Pentecost with everyone speaking in tongues. But as I have learned in recent years, the Spirit doesn’t have to come in radiant and flamboyant display. Sometimes, He enters worship when two girls are singing humble songs to their Creator. Sometimes, He comes to comfort His child in the middle of the night to simply love and hold her.
Is it “out there”? Does it sound crazy to you? I have to admit, it is nothing of this world, that’s for sure. That’s why its often too difficult to fathom. But I can assure you that the Spirit is active and working among us. We just completed the time of Advent on the church calendar, but that doesn’t mean that Christmas is over. Christmas is meant to be celebrated all year-round. Christ came to be born as a baby and later die for our sins so that the Promise of His Spirit could be fulfilled. He is here today just as He was here more than two thousand years ago.
He is here. Will you welcome him in?