Imagine a half dozen teenage boys going through a church confirmation class. On second thought, don’t try to imagine that. That was me at fourteen. The class was as exciting as watching the hour hand of a clock. Discussions centered around church stuff, rather than God stuff. We knew so little about God that church stuff didn’t mean anything. My friends and I squirmed and joked around, knowing this was somehow important but struggling to make it relevant to our junior high fidgety selves.
Surviving the class, I went to the service to be baptized by sprinkling and confirmed. Along with the congregation, I prayed all the right words and made the appropriate responses, confessing faith in Christ, but did not have a clue what it all meant. One by one, we were called forward and sprinkled with water. Hands were laid on us by two ministers (one was probably not enough), and prayers spoken aloud over us. Years later, when I knew more, I was baptized again by immersion, realizing I needed all the help I could get.
Returning to my seat, I felt the same, or did I? Powerful new thoughts stirred in my heart. I began to talk to myself, or at least I thought it was me. (Today I’m sure the Lord was behind it.) “Mike, you know what you are? You’re a hypocrite! Here you’ve gone through this religious ceremony, and you don’t even know if you believe in God. You need to figure this out. If God is real, believe in Him. If God is not real, don’t waste your time.” Right then, in church, I had a flash of unexpected brilliance, I conceived “The Plan.” I determined to prove whether God was real or not.
Proving God? I could handle this one. I was an A-student and had just learned the “scientific method” in eighth-grade science. This was how anything and everything was proved in life. Four simple steps: hypothesis, gather evidence, run the experiment, and draw conclusions.
Hypothesis? I had two choices: God is real, or He is not real. I picked, God is real. (Why not go for the gusto?) Gather evidence? I would solicit the opinions of people I respected and see if they believed in God. No point asking anyone my age, because they were like me, they didn’t know anything yet. I asked a few adult men what they thought, neighbors and family friends. These were “smart guys,” been to college, had regular jobs, were respectable and kinda cool. One answered, “Yes, I believe in a Supreme Being, because the laws of science are so regular. Look at the periodic table of the elements (anyone remember that from chemistry?); it’s so consistent and well-designed, it couldn’t have happened by chance.” The evidence pointed to the hypothesis: God is real.
Experimental Procedure? This was the toughy. What kind of experiment do you conduct to prove that God exists? That’s the “sixty-four thousand dollar question” (if you saw that show and still haven’t figured this stuff out, you better get with it—your time is getting short). Well, ask a simpleton and you’ll get a simple answer. There was a way to prove if God was real. As a fourteen-year-old budding scientist, the light bulb went off in my mind—just ask Him to do something! I didn’t know how to pray and didn’t know anyone who did, so my experimental procedure was simply to talk into the air, “God, if You’re up there, do something! so I can know if You’re real.”
That was my prayer. I prayed it morning and evening and sometimes while walking to and from school. Since I hadn’t mastered advanced prayer (where you deepen your voice and call God by amazing, awesome titles), I just talked to Him in everyday language like He was hearing me. In fact, talking to God was so natural it quickly became a habit. Having someone with whom to share my day and inner feelings filled a need in my life. A couple of weeks went by and I even forgot about “the experiment” of asking Him to do something.
The First Evidence
Then it happened! Yes, something happened, but I missed it. I didn’t get it, so this happening became the happening before the real happening. Coming back from school one day, I was telling God what a terrible fifth period teacher I was stuck with. She had blown up in class, turned red in the face, and yelled at one of my friends. I mean, she unloaded!
Deep within my heart, I heard a calm, reasoned, judicial response, “The student brought it on himself.” Hey, I was looking for sympathy here, not wisdom and clear-eyed judgment. Upon instant replay of the incident, the voice was right. The student was the class clown and had been doing what clowns do—clowning—prior to the explosion. Evidently, my teacher was loaded to the breaking point prior to fifth period, and my friend’s last straw broke her down. I admitted, “Yeah, I guess You’re right” and adjusted my attitude about the incident.
But I didn’t get it. What I had prayed for happened. I heard the still, small voice of God in my spirit, but my mind missed it. In my heart I heard from God, but the next day my logical, conscious mind was praying again, “God, if You’re up there, do something.”
When God Became Real
Then it really happened! What I can only describe as a golden glow or a golden spiritual light enveloped me one morning as I was waking up. As I came to out of sleep, the deepest sense of peace and well-being I’d ever experienced surrounded me. This was no ordinary feeling. Putting my feet over the side of the bed, I was aware of God Himself thinking down toward me, and this time my mind got it. God was doing something! He made me aware of Himself, just Him and me. My mind looked up until it locked together with His mind, and we were connected. Not a word was spoken, but now I knew that I knew that I knew. My heart did somersaults inside. God is real! God is real!
I thought to myself, “Maybe this is a dream.” I’d heard that if you pinch yourself and feel it, then it’s not a dream. Pinching my leg really hard, I felt pain. It was no dream. Mom called me to get up, but I didn’t want to leave my room. She called a second time. I was sure as soon as I moved off the bed, the feeling would lift, but it didn’t. I ate corn flakes in the presence of God, but surely I could not brush my teeth and feel something as amazing as this, but I did. I dressed and hated to leave the house, thinking that as soon as I stepped over the threshold, His presence would remain behind. No, God walked to school with me.
As I waited outside for the school bell to ring, I was sure that passing through the door of a junior high school would simply annihilate the presence of God. I reasoned it had to. God and junior high? Completely incompatible—like oil and water, or a dog and a snake. But they weren’t. As I walked down the halls, I felt so alive because I knew God was real. I felt like the cat that swallowed the canary and had a song of joy in my heart. I felt so different and alive inside that I wondered if the other students could see the change on my face. For four hours that morning, I walked in the presence of God. Whenever I thought up to Him, even in French class, I could feel the assurance of His presence there. He had truly answered my prayer, and that empty place inside me was filled with the warm glow of the presence of God.
Still, I didn’t know how to live for God. I didn’t know the truth of God’s Word, the Bible. I didn’t know how not to let a girl take God’s place in my heart. All I knew for sure was that God was real.
Years later, as a college freshman in Western Civilization class, the teacher asked if anyone in the room believed in “the Absolute.” I raised my hand and he asked why, but I didn’t know how to explain it. A “subjective” religious experience is of the spirit, which is deeper than the rational, logical, inquisitive, intellectual, argumentative, philosophical mind. Later, he met with me in private and asked again, quite seriously. I shared with him the story I’ve told you.
My first encounter with God was awesome. It ranks as my number one, life-changing moment. But I still have access to amazing moments with my heavenly Father through the Holy Spirit, and I treasure those special times I share with Him in prayer and in the Word. God will meet with you, too, if you are willing and sincere. But let me advise you, He is a perfect gentleman. He’ll never force Himself on you or violate your free will, but patiently waits to be asked.
Give God an Invitation
People often wonder, Where is God? God is wondering, Where are you? When will you invite me to come into your life? He is real. He loves every human on the face of the earth enough to answer if they will come to Him sincerely. Do you have the courage to ask Him, “God, if you’re up there, do something”?
If you really want to know Him, praying this simple prayer speeds up the process: Lord Jesus, come into my heart. Forgive my sins. Become my Lord and Savior today. Do something. Change me, help me, heal me, fill me with Your Spirit. Then keep talking to Him everyday, and, oh yeah, read the Bible, starting with the New Testament. God is real, and the Bible is His voice.
For more on connecting with your Heavenly Father, please visit Spiritually Connecting with God.
QUESTION: Have you had an encounter with God that changed you? Do you desire to have an experience with God? What steps are you going to take? Please take a moment and share your next step in the comments below.