I have been attending West Hills for something like eight years now. During my early years here, I remember that one or more of Mike’s messages involved Jesus appearing in the form of a stranger at the door, speaking directly. I have also heard others stand up to give First Word or messages where they have clearly heard the voice of God speaking to them. The Bible is full of stories of God appearing or speaking clearly. Yet for me, I always feel a twinge of sadness or longing when I hear these parts of their stories. God doesn’t present himself to me like that, as much as I may will it or want to experience it.
I have had a different experience of the Spirit in my life—an image or feeling that came to me five or six years ago. I began to experience the Spirit as a fleeting, transient presence, somehow there, but not “catch-able”, for lack of a better way to describe it. Rather than a concrete appearance at my door or voice of an angel, I felt a rustling movement, as if there was a spirit in my house moving across the hallway from one room to another; but when I would whirl around to look, I could only catch the disappearance of a ghost, the fleeting wisp of a garment.
I felt that I wasn’t just dreaming it, though—that the Spirit’s presence was there. For those of you with children, you’ll understand this analogy to my experience. When your children are tucked into their beds at night and you’re sitting in your kitchen, you don’t have to see them to know that they’re there, to feel their presence. You just FEEL it. The same way you feel the emptiness when they’re away for the evening. My feeling of the Spirit was like that—a fleeting presence, one that I could sense but not quite see or touch or hear.
After this had been going on for a while, I started getting called to share that image as a First Word of my experience. And calls. And nudges. This went on a few years. But that was a number of years ago already. For though I felt nudged to share this image, I sat with it silently. I’d get a nudge, and think “maybe it’s time to speak it.” But I didn’t.
And then, sometime during the past year or two, that presence, that feeling—it silently went absent. It felt as though God had gone away on an extended business trip, leaving me sitting in a quiet, empty house. I had recently begun to wonder if She was even coming back, would ever appear at my door like in stories, actually speak clearly to me, or simply return as that fleeting ethereal presence. I was starting to question what faith really meant to me, if I couldn’t hear any clear voice or feel any presence anymore. I felt like I had missed my opportunity, and failed.
In April of this year, we had two successive messages that cited the same passage from Luke:
“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to me, and hears my sayings, and does them, I will show you whom he is like. He is like a man which built a house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock. He that heareth and doeth not, is like a man without a foundation.”
The very first week, that passage grabbed me firmly and shook me. It said plainly that what I must do to share the state of my spiritual experience. This is the action that I was being called to take, in order to be authentic and respond to the calling. I was simply to be brave and stand here and share this image of how the Spirit once moved in my life and has been quiet of late. When I heard the same passage cited again the very next week, well, that was it. I told Mike that I wanted to give a First Word. I didn’t have the words formed, but I needed to make the commitment to bring it.
As I prepared and recognized the call to speak, I wryly realized the humor in this—that this call to speak is an actual concrete message after all. So here I am, finally, not just hearing but responding to something perhaps bigger than just a nudge to email or call someone. Perhaps in actually voicing my experience here, doing so may open my way to something more. I don’t know. We’ll see where this goes.
Anyhow . . . this is how God has moved thru my life, and gone quiet, and perhaps returns. Maybe next time there will be a knock at my door, I’ll open it to finally find Jesus standing there asking to come in and sit down. What will I have to say to Him? What will I have to ask Him when he does? I don’t know yet. But I’m working on it. And waiting and listening for that knock.