I Felt God Last Night for About Seven Seconds

Posted on November 28, 2011

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I felt God last night for about seven seconds.

I was lying in my bed, chilled under cold sheets. Caryn was still doing whatever she does to unwind after I’ve gone to bed. God’s presence lasted the time it took me to breathe in and breathe out again. It was the goodness of a house full of sleeping children. It was the goodness of a soft bed. It was the goodness of the simple and the profound. It was even the goodness of my own stumbling attempts at being a better person.

Then the it all slipped away and I was lost in thought about all the tragic ways life could shatter apart. I was tired and I couldn’t sustain the moment. I feel asleep.

I think this is what C.S. Lewis calls Joy. The following is from Lewis’ autobiography, but it might as well be written as part of mine.

The reader who finds these episodes of no interest need read this book no further, for in a sense the central story of my life is about nothing else. For those who are still disposed to proceed I will only underline the quality common to the three experiences; it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished from both Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and only one, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that, and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.

-C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (18)

The sentence that jumps out at me from this is “it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.”

I have often felt a kind of discontent with life, but I might have to begin to see this discontent as a kind of grace, an unsatisfied desire which does not have a satisfaction. In my search for God I am like a dog chasing a car, I doubt I would know what to do if I actually caught it. I am seeking something that is beyond my understanding, but still I wait by the window and bark, because what is the alternative? Give up? Seek after pleasure? Eat, drink, and be merry?

If I would add up the time that I have felt God’s pure presence, including church services, my children’s birth’s, experiences in nature, gifts given me, and events that were too magical to be coincidental, I estimate that it would be somewhere between 3 hours and one day. Even assuming the high-end, that is only one day in 32 years. But so powerful are those moments that I hunger for them. But, like Lewis’ says, “Joy is never in our power”. I cannot force God to show up. All I can do is open all my senses and tear down my defenses and wait.

And when God does show up (or at least I guess it might be God), I can share the story with other searchers. I can invite them to share their stories with me.

When have you felt God’s presence in your life?

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