Experiencing God

You know what is seriously lacking in contemporary Christianity? The sense of God’s utter holiness. His otherness. And, I get why that is… Roman Catholicism focused nearly exclusively on the mysterium tremendem. With disasterous results. 

My Grandmother had a sense of the numinous– the otherworldly nature of Divinity. But, my Grandmother was also insane. So, I never really took her view of worship seriously. My devoutly Protestant nuclear family had such disdain for her Catholic ideals…

However, I think I get it now. 

Protestantism has neglected the religious experience to such an extent as to deny God’s otherness exists at all. 

Anyone who has had a religious experience can tell you though– God can be terrifying. 

I’ll out myself here. I’ve had terrifying religious experiences. If only they had been hallucinations, I would gladly seek professional help! But they were not that kind of experience. At least, mine haven’t been. 

Mine have always been like a sixth sense. A ‘knowing’ that shakes me to the core of my being. And usually leaves me physically shaken up as well. 

Isaiah touches on the phenomena:

“All these things my hand has made,

    and so all these things are mine,

says the Lord.

But this is the one to whom I will look,

    to the humble and contrite in spirit,

    who trembles at my word.”

Isaiah 66:2 (NRSV)

As does Jeremiah:

“I did not sit in the company of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice; under the weight of your hand I sat alone, for you had filled me with indignation.”

Jeremiah 15:17 (NRSV)

And the New Testament:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.”

1 Peter 5:6 (ESV)

Now, I’m not outing myself here to exalt myself. I’m a Christian. We do not believe that any one sinner is better than another. (And I am most definitely an egregious sinner. No doubt about it.)

I’m opening a discussion here in hopes that others that have fallen under ‘the hand of God’ can know they are not alone. The experience cannot be explained away, and popular contemporary Christian theological ideas tend to overlook individual experience. 

If you haven’t experienced the Holiness of God in this manner, it does not make you less of a Christian, or less-than in anyway. Christianity differs from other religious/spiritual pursuits in this way: God does what He does, and chooses who He chooses.  I didn’t pick God– He picked me. Just wanted to clear that all up;)

Have you had a religious experience? If so, or if not, feel free to comment below:)

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17 thoughts on “Experiencing God

  1. It is true I think the Protestant tradition (In which when I was younger I on my own volition studied firmly and was part of a very conservative branch) gets western philosophy and thought to locked into with God.

    God is something totally mystery in a sense but yet in Christ there is this total intimacy and nearness. Literally having the nature of humanity in the divine life.

    Great post in many ways! 🙂

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    1. Thank you!

      I can freely admit that what I personally find terrifying (and comforting. Strange, eh?) is God’s Sovereignty. Or, in other words, the Divine Will. A combination of rugged American individualism and the egocentricism of Western thought, has led to an incomplete theological understanding of God. We’ve not only white-washed Jesus, we have denied the Father’s Supreme Being.
      As human beings struggle so with paradox, we’ve tried to put Him in a box. And put that box on a shelf to be opened only as we near the end of our human lives. Or, in my own case, until experiencing intense suffering.
      Although I believe the book of Job to be more metaphor than actuality, that story reveals a face of God’s Sovereignty that stands in opposition to a lot of popular Christian ideas of God.

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  2. I think part of my journey is understanding when God is speaking because it’s not a shout, a shake, a thunderstorm. It’s a still small voice. An example for was when I left out bad church, I was sitting in a bible class with my son and the teacher was talking about the prodigal son and how God is waiting for us to come home. It wasn’t a voice, but a thought because at that moment I was feeling rather distraught about us not having a church. I wondered if I was gonna fall off the deep end or lose my faith. I felt this thought rise up in my mind, it reminded me that I would not be abandoned. God was always waiting with arms wide opened. That brought me much peace in a time where I was wondering if I had made the right decision.

    Other times, I can be feeling so angry and love washes over me. Instead of being an angry reactive person in a conflict, I feel this peace and I’m able to react in a calm way. I can only say that is Christ. Without him, I’d lash out like an angry lunatic at most people. He calms me, however he does it is a mystery to me but I know it isn’t me.

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    1. Elle,

      I think the single most difficult part of the path we are on is differentiating His voice from all the others. That is something we are setting out to teach our children, after recognizing how little our previous denomination emphasized two-way prayer. I love the emphasis the Quaker tradition puts on listening to God. I had read the biography of George Fox (co-founder of Society of Friends/Quakers) this past year. It was very convicting to read how clearly this man heard God. And how, what he heard, changed absolutely everything about how he saw himself and other human beings. I realized, God was talking to me all the time, I just didn’t listen because what He said challenged my perspectives. I still struggle to listen… I hate that about myself, lol! But, its part of being human. I find that when I turn down the volume on that inner voice, God starts shouting at me through other people. I much prefer hearing the still small voice, rather than the shouting one;)

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      1. I agree! It’s really something I need to pay deeper attention to. I also feel like as I’m in the word, these verses pop in my head. I believe God speaks to us like that too. His word is powerful and if we take the time to really embrace and sit with the word of God, He speaks to us through the scriptures.

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  3. God indeed calls who He will, but I believe He allows us the freedom to follow that call, and the intensity with which we follow it is also our choice. That’s apparent in the parables Jesus taught. The truth is presented, but obfuscated, and it’s on us to search it out, to find God’s face and know Him more. Hearing the voice of God is a skill.

    The American Protestant church has ignored the gifts of the Holy Spirit to its detriment. We have focused for so long on the concept of a personal relationship with God that we have ignored the communal aspect of our faith. God speaks to me through you, and vice versa. I think a lot of God-fearing Christians get nervous when they hear things like prophetic dreams or words of wisdom, because it’s “new revelation.” Sola Scriptura hobbles us in our attempt to follow Jesus.

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    1. Amen, Adam. I couldn’t agree with you more. Its a both/and, not an either/or.
      I still am longing to assemble with the Ekklesia of today. She is hidden, I think. And only God knows where to find her…

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  4. I have never had a “mystical’ experience. But at the time of salvation, I did physically feel something deeply rooted being lifted out of my heart. As a member of a Southern Baptist church I struggle with reconciling any part of my faith that doesn’t line up with the Baptist Faith and Message. Any type of contemplative experience is frowned upon, yet, personally I feel the Lord drawing me in that direction. Just trying to be still, pray, and listen to the still, small voice.

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    1. Oh sweetie, I spent the majority of my childhood faith formation in Baptist churches. If I could tell you one thing I’ve learned over the years in reclaiming my relationship with God, it would be that God is One.
      I had the fear of the devil drilled into me for so long… I didn’t stop to question how the devil could even exist without God having created him.
      When you are ready, there is much that you are longing to learn on the other side of popular American Christian sentiment;)

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  5. I have just stumbled across your wonderful blog… I blog about my BPD and depression, and also struggle to understand and reimagine my Christian faith in the context of a lot of trauma and mental illness. I have definitely experienced the “knowing” you speak of, a sense of deep inner peace that I believe I could not create on my own. I look forward to hearing more about your beliefs and experiences!

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    1. I am so glad you found your way here!
      I am convinced that the children of God — those that have a piece of God’s heart– have the most difficult time in this life. We know — we have SEEN — glimpses of His all surpassing Goodness. His Glory. Then we hear of such terrible tragedy. Or, we live through our own experience of tragedy and/or trauma, and it cuts us to the core of our being.
      I believe God as the Perfect Eternal Parent is the key to making sense of what we see and experience in this life. That being said, those of us with very imperfect parents have a long way to go to understanding fully how God does not parent our souls in the same way.
      I plan to blog more about this in the future, and I will be sure to check out your blog!
      Thanks for stopping by:)

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  6. Whoa! This actually is really helpful to me…knowing God’s love in a new way has been AMAZING..but the more I actually experience Him, truly experience His presence…it CAN be terrifying. I hate reading the “fear God” and the words “terror”..in the OT cause it didn’t jive with God who I have come to know as PURE love…but, the way you explained it makes sense..cause I have def been “afraid” when truly experiencing..it is another sense that once you experience it- it’s terrifying cause it’s nothing like you ever felt (to be honest I felt “terrified” when I first had an orgasm and when I first got high..you just don’t know what the heck to expect!)…hopefully it’s understood what I meant there.

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    1. LOL!
      Yes, I know exactly what you are saying…
      I really wish more women would come right out and say that. Seriously. It makes so much analogous sense. Human beings hate feeling a loss of control. When Sovereign Being opens the gates– it’s scary! We aren’t in charge of that experience any longer!

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