Something happened this morning I can't entirely explain. Or maybe it's that I don't want to explain it for fear of explaining it away. Have you ever had an epiphany, or some kind of movement in your spirit, and you know, you just know, something has changed? But the more you talk about it, the more you feel like you're missing it. It's like the difference between watching a sunset and looking at a photo of one. The more you think back on it, the photo starts to take the place of the real event. I'm afraid of doing that in writing this post. What happened wasn't something I did. It's not something I was even thinking about. It just happened – like a sunset. And the more I meditate on it, the more strange and beautiful it seems to me.
I was playing through the songs for Mass this morning, running through them before it began because, hey, you can never be too prepared to play in front of a bunch of people. And suddenly, but quietly, as though someone had just opened the door and walked into the room, I knew Jesus was real. He was there in front of me. Not that I could see Him. Not that I didn't believe in Him before. But in the same way I know the teller at the bank is in front of me asking me how my day is going, so I knew He was there in the room with me. A veil was pulled up from in front of my eyes and there He was. And it wasn't just a veil separating me from Him now, in the present. I looked back on my life, – all that time I spent before Him in prayer, all those pivotal moments that moved me in one direction or another in life – and I saw Him there, plain and simple.
Maybe that doesn't sound like much? It's not like He magically appeared – like I saw His figure in the wall or something. I think of it like this: imagine you're sitting with old friends, enjoying yourself so much that you lose yourself in the conversation and good time. You hear someone you love tell a joke in just the way he always does, with the quirks you've come to grow fond of, and from your heart, from your gut, you let out a full-throated laugh. And in that self-same moment you realize how incredibly long it's been since you laughed like that. It's been maybe years since you let go of yourself enough to be free in the moment. How long has it been since you felt this loved, this much warmth coming from the people around you and from yourself to them?
From about 7:30 this morning up till now, I've been certain that Jesus is with me and has always been with me and will always be with me. Not with a grasping hope, but with an almost pedestrian certainty. The dirt is dirty, water is wet, and Jesus is Lord. And in that moment, I realized just how full of doubt I've always been. It's like I've lived my life with a curtain in front of me and vague shapes have pushed against it from the other side or shaken it. I took it on faith that I knew who was behind the curtain, but suddenly, this morning, it felt like the curtain got lifted and there stood the one I knew was there all along. I believed. I consider this new feeling a grace, a gift, I don't deserve, but I'm thankful for it. I said in a previous post that I didn't understand how certain people could just believe in God with no doubt whatsoever. I understand now how it feels. And it's not because I've reasoned my way to it or deciphered the code of life (as though anybody could). I just do.
The Old Testament passage for today seems to have a lot to do with how I'm feeling now:
At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah [the prophet] came to a cave where he took shelter. Then the Lord said to him,
"Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by."
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord –
but the Lord was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake –
but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was a fire –
but the Lord was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave." ~1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
Not in the hurricane, not in the powerful earthquake, not in the raging fire, but in the small whisper God came to Elijah. I've gone on retreats and mission trips. I've had all the emotional religious highs you typically think of. But I would trade all of that for this plain, mundane, ordinary sense that God is real.
I don't know what you, as a reader, are supposed to get from all that. I'm wary of publishing this both because it might sound like I'm bragging about my spiritual life (which certainly has it's down's as well as up's), and part of me thinks I didn't write it for you, but for me. More like a journal entry than a post.
But I guess, if I can say anything about moments like these, it is that I want to be thankful for them without trying to hold on to them. They are little graces God gives us along the way that, like those spiritual high's, sometimes stay and sometimes leave and are always undeserved. Tomorrow, I may wake up just as full of faith as I am today or racked with doubt. Like a good friend visiting for the day, I bid this grace goodbye if that's what it has to be. But if that is how this goes down, just the same, thank You, Lord, for the little grace to see You. I look forward to the day the curtain is pulled away for good.
(Pic: Michaela Stejskalova/Shutterstock.com)