He Stands Behind Me

13 05 2009

My first memory of feeling that emptiness inside, a longing with no apparent solution, was at the age of four.  It was a gnawing angst that was neither hunger nor thirst, but had something in common with both.  I needed something, but I couldn’t put a name to it.  I asked my mother what it was, and she said it was God, tugging at me, making me aware of my need for him.  I sometimes wonder what life would have been like for me if the answer had not been so readily available.  How does a person satisfy a need for which there is no physical solution?  When people live on a diet that is deficient in a necessary nutrient, the body responds by urging them to eat more food.  Sometimes it urges them even to eat that which is not food, just to satisfy the need.  Many extra calories might be consumed, but the deficiency must be filled.  The same seems to be true for that emptiness within the soul that hungers for God.  People fill that need by saturating themselves with any cure they can get their hands on, seeking pleasure and happiness in excess, that in all of that there might be a little bit of something to fill the gaping void within themselves.  The world is full of vices, and the world is grasping at straws.

I was four years old when I first asked Jesus to save me from my sins, and it was that year in my life that I was baptized.  However, it wasn’t until my early adolescence that I first felt the power of the Holy Spirit come upon me.  Yes, it was a real experience, like a warm cloud or an embrace.  It was a dark night after a campfire service at a religious scouting event.  The speaker asked if anyone wanted to be prayed for to be baptized by the Holy Spirit.  Most of the kids wanted to go play capture the flag out in the woods, and they did.  A few of us came forward, and a few of the ones that came forward apparently were hit by a blast of the supernatural.  I didn’t speak in tongues, prophesy, or do anything particularly astounding, but I do remember the way I was so wrapped up in it that I completely lost all sense of my own body.  It was a moment of worshipping God with everything that I had.  It was an ecstasy like nothing I have ever felt from anything else.  I would like to experience it again, if only for the drug-like effect that it had, but more than that, I want to experience it again because of the passion and the deep desire for God and his righteousness.  The people who were praying for me eventually seemed to think that I could not hold myself up any longer, for they set me down on the ground.  They were probably right.  I was stiff as a board.  This was not the last such experience that I was destined to have, and it was not even the strongest, but it was the first.  It left me wanting more.

I did not come away from it with nothing, though.  There followed me a certain residual effect, like the sunlight in the sky once the sun is no longer visible.  For a time, I was distinctly aware of a presence with me, like when you know that someone is in the room with you, even though you can’t see or hear them.  I had the irresistible urge to look over my shoulder every now and then, just to make certain there wasn’t actually someone standing behind me.  To be precise, it was someone a bit taller than me, standing behind me and a little to the right.  The sensation followed me wherever I went.  A few times, I caught myself talking to someone who had actually been in the room but had left when I wasn’t looking, because I still sensed that there was someone in the room with me, and I thought it was the same person.  It was like having an invisible friend.  I knew that God was always with me.  A few years later, I discovered that quite a few other people have had that exact same experience.  Shortly after accepting Christ, they had that keen awareness that someone was always behind them and off to one side.  I find this remarkable.  I wish the world could know this feeling.

Never underestimate the importance of baptism by the Holy Spirit.  To have communion with God is to have the indwelling of the spirit.  We are living temples, and God abides in us.  Where he lives, no uncleanness can coexist.  Obedience and sacrifice, though they are made to the true God are nothing if not ordained by God.  Faith in God without communion with him is like knowledge without understanding.  If we do not have the Spirit, then we are not living and breathing the life of Christ.  This is life, not a movie.

This is the real thing, not some academic pursuit.  We are not here to play some religious game.