Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendor all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
When I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of someone speaking.
~ Ezekiel 1:28
Over the years I have heard people talk about the first time that they KNEW that there was a God, and felt God's presence. Sacred encounters are among my favorite stories to listen about because they are special and often life-changing.
Growing up with a grandfather who was the pastor to a small church, and with great grandparents and grandparents that all lived and talked about their faith, I have tried to think of when that first encounter was in my life.
I have been present at revivals where altar calls have lasted for what seemed like hours, and watched as people came forward and announced their belief. I have watched as tears have flowed like rivers, and sweat pronounced a pardon and forgiveness when someone who has confessed and returned home. I always am moved by such expressions of faith, but for some reason, I haven't had one of those encounters personally.
Don't get me wrong, I have had many moments in my faith walk where my encounter with the Holy has literally caused me to stop and fall to my knees, and recognize that I was staring directly into the presence of God.
One of the first early in my life was sitting next to my grandmother and listening to my father and his brothers sing, while my great grandmother looked on and smiled after my great grandfather had died. I was only about seven years old, but there was something very special about that evening, as we gathered, sat in the living room as the big propane gas stove clicked and flames danced, as voices were raised in perfect harmony, while my Papaw Williams also managed to join in every now and then. Even today, nearly fifty years later, I can feel the warmth of the fire, see each family member that was present, the feel of the chair, and each of my uncles looking at one another and us as they sang.
I guess the next sacred moment that reminded me of God's amazing power was the day my sister gave birth to my nephew, Adam. There had been many changes in our family since that night at my great grandmother's home. A lot of sadness and uncertainties as my parents divorced, went their separate ways, and often used my sister and I as weapons to hurt each other, rather than just being our parents. My sister, Laura, was still in high school when she learned she was going to have a baby. She worked tirelessly at several jobs and still managed to attend high school. She and her boyfriend moved from apartment to apartment, and had a small motorcycle, which wasn't the best transportation as winter approached, and her baby as well.
I drove an old Chevy that was dependable and had just recently purchased a new used car so I gave her the Chevy the day before she would deliver her baby. Talk about God's timing!
It would be that morning when my mother would call to share that my sister was on her way to the hospital, and then two hours later call to tell me that if I was going to be present when the baby was born I had better get to the hospital!
I arrived just minutes after Adam was born, and I walked into the room, and saw my mother sitting in a rocking chair with her new grandson. With all that my mother had been through, it was the first time I had witnessed a sense of peace and happiness in her life in over a decade. My sister and I simply watched and I felt the presence of God in an amazing way. It was almost as if I was being told, "It is all okay. I am and always will be with you."
I fully understood that years later when my own daughter was born and I looked into her eyes for the first time, seeing myself, other family members, and that promise being fulfilled laying in my hands.
For any of us, our encounter with God comes in many forms. It may be a time in a worship service when God enters and moves you to stand and walk to the altar, or when you witness love in your arms as you hold a child.
The delicate and powerful presence of God is about recognizing the encounter, and acknowledging that presence. Like Samuel of the Old Testament, when we have those encounters, our response should be, "Speak Lord, you servant is listening," and be ready for an amazing encounter.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2017
Dear Lord, help me to recognize even the small moments when Your presence is undeniable! Amen.
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.