It was not a morning I’d usually choose to rise early.
It had been a hectic weekend, helping my friend, Sarah, with two performances keeping us up late into Friday and Saturday night, and then all the clean up of the rented theater on Sunday. This was Monday, the last day of my ‘vacation’ and I would leave for the airport early the next morning.
Despite the lack of rest, I woke before dawn, grabbed my Bible and journal, and slipped downstairs and out onto my friend’s porch swing. The horizon was glowing through the trees and birds were already singing passionately. The opening song to the weekend’s musical harmonized in my head –
“Twas a fair and glorious morning!”
I could have slept in, but my upbringing had trained me to make morning devotions a priority, even on vacation. Also, ever since the morning Sarah shared her quiet hour with me, I’d been curious to find if I could visit God the way she had—casually and with joy, rather than just as a duty.
I wasn’t quite sure how, or even if I could get into God’s presence without my more practiced and spiritually-mature friend to hold my hand, but I wanted to try. I opened my journal and began to write, the entry transitioning to a prayer, as was my habit. I then opened my Bible (also habit) and began reading the daily Psalms and Proverbs for the day (again, purely habitual).
But this time, something was different. This time the words shimmered with life, and I heard fatherly tones even as I read verses long familiar and usually dry.
That morning, God met me within the confines of my duty-bound routine, and spoke to me like He never had before. I felt His presence as strongly as I had when I had followed Sarah to His throne room in worship the week before. Only this time it was just me and Him. I felt such a thrill that He loved me enough to climb into the Box I’d maintained for Him in my life, and meet with me despite my immature faith and prideful, Pharisaical heart.
His Word spoke so loudly, it overwhelmed the birdsong. Every line seemed to be to becoming straight from His mouth to my heart. I flipped away from Psalms and rushed to Isaiah to see if the same phenomenon would happen there. Yes! Every passage I read was suddenly alive with His Father’s heart toward me and full of wisdom that was custom tailored to the questions and fears I was burdened by even that morning.
I felt as if chains that had bound my person were falling off, shattered. For the first time I felt how my passionate legalism had weighed down my soul, and left me with a foggy view of who God really wanted to be in my life. He did not require me to straighten up or measure up or grow up to be found by Him. He was there as soon as ever I turned to Him as a Father. Never before had I tasted such sweetness, such joy.
There in His presence, as the sun rose through the trees and warmed my skin, I felt His love like I never had before, and I knew I had experienced a miracle. The miracle of being in the presence of a Holy God who loves His children like a Father.
Though it’s been over 10 years, describing that morning has brought me to tears–the feelings are still fresh. For years I have tried to tell what happened that morning, but struggled to find the right words or terms. It was similar to how some people describe their salvation experience, yet I was already saved, right? Was it the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? Depends on your definition (or if you even believe in such a phenomenon!) I usually just end up calling it a Defining Moment in my faith walk, one that left me permanently changed and spoiled for the dry religiosity I had subsisted on until that day.
From that day, I have owned a passionate desire to enter God’s presence whenever possible, having at last experienced what it was that made this whole Christianity thing worth telling the world about. Faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ as Savior is not just another form of religion. It’s a relationship, with so much potential joy and strength and power to change lives, and nothing else compares.
And yet, every one of us knows that the walk of faith contains both mountains and valleys. Today’s post most certainly describes a Mountain-Top Experience. What would happen when I returned from vacation? How would my new relationship with my Father translate into every day life?