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 the right words and made the appropriate responses, confessing faith in Christ, but did not have any idea what it all meant. Then, 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 were 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 (does 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—ask Him to do something! I didn’t know how to pray and didn’t know anyone who did, so my experimental procedure was 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 excellent, awesome titles), I just talked to Him in everyday language like He was hearing me. Talking to God was so natural it quickly became a habit. Share my day and inner feelings with Him 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 told God what a terrible fifth-period teacher I was had. 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—before the explosion. My teacher was loaded to the breaking point before the 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, detached-from-my-spirit mind was praying again, “God, if You’re up there, do something.”
When God Became Real
Then it really happened! As I woke up one morning, I was enveloped by what I can only describe as a golden glow or a golden spiritual light. I felt the most profound sense of peace and well-being I’d ever experienced, and it was no ordinary feeling I’d ever had.
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 onto His mind, which was locked onto mine, 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. Squeezing my leg 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 afraid that the feeling would lift as soon as I moved off the bed, but it didn’t. I ate corn flakes in the presence of God, but surely I could not brush my teeth and be aware of something as unique as this, but I did. I dressed and lingered before leaving the house, thinking that as soon as I stepped over the threshold, His presence would stay 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 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 as proud as the cat who finally caught and swallowed the canary, and I had a joy in my heart unlike any I had known before. I was 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 answered my prayer and filled that empty place inside me with the warm glow of His presence.
When you experience the supernatural presence of God with such peace, you can never be the same. For no experience on earth compares to being immersed in His love.
Still, I didn’t know how to live for God. I hadn’t learned the truth of His Word, the Bible. I didn’t realize I shouldn’t let a girl take His 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 the instructor asked why, but I didn’t know how to explain it. A “subjective” religious experience is of the spirit, which is more profound than the reasoning of 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’m telling you.
My first encounter with God was awesome. It ranks as my number one, life-changing moment. But since then, I’ve experienced other equally unforgettable moments with my heavenly Father, and I treasure those unique, personal times. I’m looking forward to heaven when He has reassured me that we will spend personal, one-on-one, quality time together. And in doing that with me, He will not take time away from anyone else.
God would love nothing more than to introduce Himself to you. But He is a perfect gentleman and has given you free will. He’ll never force Himself on you or violate your free will but patiently waits for you to ask Him, which is vital to know about Him.
Give God an Invitation
You may be wondering, Where is God? Why has this happened, or that? He is a real Person. He loves everyone on the face of the earth enough to answer them if they seek Him with all their heart. But maybe He is asking you, When will you invite Me to come into your life? Why don’t you ask Him as I did at fourteen, God, if you’re up there, do something? Or perhaps, at your level of maturity, you’ll have your way to say it.
If you 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. Change me, help me, heal me, fill me with Your Spirit. Then keep talking to Him every day. And read the Bible, starting with the New Testament book of John. 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? Would you mind taking a moment and sharing your next step or your experience in the comments below?