In the wee hours of the early morning, I found myself unable to sleep, and a memory came to me that I had not thought of in quite some time. There was a bluish tint to the light, and it reminded me of when I was in youth group, and the color blue had a special significance for me.
Growing up in a pentecostal or charismatic tradition can certainly have some weirdness, and I am not sure how I feel about some of the things I saw, heard, and was taught. I do remember, though, that I became incredibly focused on God, engulfed by my own passion for Christ, and I craved any sign of God’s presence.
In the circles of teachings brought to my church and my youth group, a mystic experience was sometimes talked about – actually seeing the presence of God. The presence of God was described as a blue mist or blue smoke hovering in a room. I desperately wanted that experience. I wanted so much to see the God I loved, and sometimes I would awaken in the middle of the night wondering if I might catch a glimpse – much like children dream of catching a glimpse of Santa Clause in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve.
I read books on “being saturated in God’s presence” (Tommy Tenney) and even over the first part of my twenties, I sought an encounter with God.
After being part of a church which was spiritually abusive, things started to change, and over the years since then, I have gone through a crisis and subsequently a growth of my faith.
Now, when I woke up this morning, I thought on that period in my life, when I was looking for blue smoke, and I realized something very important:
I have seen God.
I saw God when my grandmother died suddenly, and my friends held me while I cried, visited the funeral home, surrounded me with love, and supported me.
I saw God when I stood with my family in the freezing cold one night, watching meteors shoot across the sky at my uncle’s house on the mountain.
I saw God when I first came out to a few people, and I was loved – not loved anyway, but just loved.
I saw God when I married D, and when our friends and family surrounded us with prayers, flowers, and love.
I saw God when D and I had difficulty with conceiving, and friends, family, and strangers supported us.
I saw God when we saw our daughter on a screen, secure in my womb.
And this morning, as I am growing more and more awake, I realize another truth:
I still see God.
When my wife looks at me with love.
When I see my belly leap up with the baby’s kicks and rolls.
When I look out the window and see the frost on the ground.
In the changing leaves of Autumn.
In the stillness of the night and brightness of the moon.
We are surrounded and inundated by God. Emmanuel – God with us.
I only recently discovered Pema Chodron, and I have listened to a couple of interviews with her now. She talks about the Buddhist idea that we have the power to wake up.
I find that idea very encouraging and applicable, no matter what religion or way of life we are part of.
We do have the power to wake up.
I find myself waking up more and more, as I am learning what battles to fight and what battles not to. (A true challenge, though, with current pregnancy hormones!) I am finding myself growing in tune with love, and with life and goodness. More and more, I want to shut out the noise and just be.
Maybe if we all started to wake up, it would offer us some clarity in understanding and in relating to one another.
One of my favorite prayers is the “Breastplate” prayer of St. Patrick. There is a particular stanza that seems most appropriate while I am reflecting this morning:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
And as I arise, and as we all arise, let’s wake up.