Just as in earthly life lovers long for the moment when they are able to breathe forth their love for each other, to let their souls blend in a soft whisper, so the mystic longs for the moment when in prayer he can, as it were, creep into God.Soren Kierkegaard
Every so often — yet not often enough — I’m overwhelmed by what I’d describe as “magic.” I’ve been high on fentanyl many times, have wept during numerous worship services, and have been in love … yet nothing compares to the intensity of tasting heaven.
Sometimes it lasts seconds, sometimes hours. Sometimes it’s sparked by prayer, sometimes I’m simply going about the duties of my day.
This “magic” manifests as a blossoming love that blows open every assumption about reality I’ve held. In those sacred moments, “love” is too shallow of a word, all things feel connected, radical compassion seems easy, God is closer than close.
It’s the type of moment in which God becomes more than theology, strangers become brothers and sisters, and forgiveness isn’t a concept but a felt reality. It’s the type of moment that keeps me faithful even when I observe and feel the sorrow and suffering in the world, when my critical mind rebels against faith.
It’s a moment in which all things become clear and yet I’m also left feeling a whole lot of confused: Why did I have that encounter and what do I “do” with it? I’ve gone as far as researching whether these could be manifestations of mania (the mental health diagnosis variety), but mystics perfectly describe these encounters with the Spirit, and they simply label them a gift from someone who loves them.
I didn’t grow up in an environment that taught mystic or charismatic thought, so I figured these encounters must mean I need to move, do something, go. I’d search for “answers” on how I must propel myself into action, vibrating with energy and looking about frantically for some sign. Surely the Spirit fills me only to equip me for bold action, right?
All churches have their spiritual gifts, and those of my upbringing were especially gifted in missional living. Being a poor listener when sermons are involved, I interpreted missional living as being only about giving my all to others and sidelining my own relationship with God.
Just the other day I told my pastor that I worked relentlessly in high school and college to share the gospel, yet hadn’t really known it for myself. Silly, huh? For years I treated God’s love for me as only a belief to be shared rather than something to be felt.
I thought my life served only as a launchpad to set others off in search of God. But scripture describes God in search of man, reaching out to man in the same way a mother hugs her baby tightly.
Scripture describes an exhausted, frightened Elijah being told to eat and drink. Then, Elijah is told to stay put while God prepared to come near. God was not found in the wind or fire or earthquake like other gods of the day. No, he was found in a silent, sacred moment. He came as a gentle whisper: “What are you doing here, Elijah?“
Elijah didn’t ask to encounter God and yet God knew it was exactly what the fierce prophet needed — soul care in the presence of his creator. Action wasn’t needed, nor an answer. Elijah needed only to rest, reorient his heart, and know he was not alone — he never was.
Today, I nearly fell to my knees while cleaning my house, overwhelmed by the presence of God. No, there wasn’t a great shining light or a fire or a miracle — only the sacred air and the blooming love in my heart. For the first time, I didn’t wonder what I was supposed to “do” in that moment. I released myself to what stirred inside me and simply thanked God.
If there was a whisper, I think it’d say, “What are you doing here, Bradley?”
“Simply loving you loving me, Abba.”